The Worry: You may have accidentally harmed the fetus before you knew you were pregnant
No doctor would recommend that a woman have a margarita or smoke cigarettes during pregnancy. Still, moms-to-be often do these things before they even realize they're carrying. "Although there is no amount of alcohol that is considered safe for a growing fetus, if you had one or two drinks in the weeks before you knew you'd conceived, it shouldn't affect your baby's organ development," says Dr. O'Brien -- so don't stress out about it.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: Alcohol crosses the placenta to the fetus, and in large quantities it can cause mental retardation and learning, emotional, and behavioral problems as well as birth defects. And women who smoke during pregnancy have a significantly greater chance of miscarrying, giving birth to a stillborn, or losing a newborn due to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) than nonsmokers do. Their infants also tend to be born smaller, more restless, and more likely to develop learning problems as they grow older than those of nonsmoking moms. With all the stress that comes with getting prepped for your little one, giving up smoking might seem especially tough -- but you've likely never had a better reason either. For support and information on ending the habit, visit parentsquitforgood.com.
The Worry: You'll lose it in labor
We won't lie: Labor hurts. But think of all the women who go through it -- and then opt to do it again. Fear of childbirth really has to do with fear of the unknown, so arming yourself with information can help you calm down. "Childbirth classes aren't just about teaching breathing techniques," explains Pamela Berens, M.D., professor of obstetrics and gynecology at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. They're also about showing you what's available for pain relief, how the hospital works, and what will happen if you need a C-section. Knowing what to anticipate can make things a lot less scary.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: Even if you happen to freak out, you won't be the first to do so. Delivery-room staff have seen everything -- so don't be embarrassed if you scream or curse a little (or a lot). "It's very uncommon for us not to be able to calm a woman down," says Dr. Berens. "Just a few deep breaths and talking through the situation can help."
Originally published in the January 2011 issue of Parents magazine.