Pregnant? 9 Must-Ask Ob-Gyn Questions
From the simple questions ("How much coffee can I drink?") to the more difficult ("Do I need genetic testing?") your ob-gyn is your partner and go-to expert during your nine months of pregnancy.
Make sure to bring a small notebook and pen to each visit with your questions already written down. Remember, nothing is off limits. If you're unsure (or simply curious), it's a good bet that your ob-gyn has heard it before—no matter how bizarre.
Here, nine must-ask questions:
- How do prescription and over-the-counter medications affect my pregnancy? Basically, any medications, vitamins, minerals, and supplements you ingest during pregnancy—even if it's homeopathic—should be brought up with your ob-gyn. "It's an important conversation to have so the risks of continuing versus stopping or switching the medication can be discussed," says Sally Rafie, a board-certified pharmacist and Assistant Clinical Professor of Health Sciences at UCSD Skaggs School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences, in San Diego, California. "This includes both prescription and over-the-counter medications."
- Is there anything off-limits in the sex department? Unless you have"‹ placenta previa or"‹ preterm labor, pretty much anything that both you and your partner are okay with—and which doesn't cause pain or discomfort—is fine, says Clifford J. Goodman, Jr., M.D., an ob-gyn in Chandler, Arizona. However, it's important to practice proper oral hygiene. "Use good, common-sense," he advises. "So, for example, no vaginal penetration after anal penetration." Talk to your ob-gyn openly about your sex life to see if there's anything she thinks you should abstain from.
- Should I get genetic testing? Prenatal testing is a way to check to see if your "‹baby might carry certain genetic abnormalities, such as chromosomal or neural tube defects. However, chances are you're fine. "Only 3 to 5 percentof all pregnancies have a birth defect or genetic condition," says Kiana Siefkas, a licensed and certified genetic counselor at Seattle Children's Prenatal Diagnosis and Treatment Program. Many ob-gyns recommend testing if you fall into a high-risk category. According to Alysha Kirkwood, M.D., an ob-gyn at Spectrum Health Medical Group in Holland, Michigan, this includes women older than 35, those with a history of medical abnormalities in a previous pregnancy, and those who are carriers for specific genetic conditions.
- Is it okay to exercise? At one time, women were told to take it easy during pregnancy, and this extended to exercise. However, not only are pregnant women encouraged to keep active today, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists explains that there are"‹ many benefits to exercise—including a reduction in backaches, constipation, bloating, and stress. Still talk to your doctor about what's right for you. "You should avoid overheating during pregnancy and not go over a pulse of 140," says Alyssa Dweck, M.D., an ob-gyn at the Mount Kisco Medical Group in Westchester County, New York. ""‹Some exercises should be avoided as pregnancy progresses, since your center of gravity changes, plus your joints may be looser." Workouts like swimming and walking are particularly good, while downhill skiing, contact sports (like basketball, soccer, and hockey), and scuba diving should be avoided.
- How does stress affect my pregnancy? Let's face it: We all have stress in our lives, and pregnant women are hardly exempt. "The "‹stress question is the hardest question asked today," says Dr. Goodman. "Occasional mild-to-moderate stress probably does not affect the pregnancy, but big issues affect every part of your life." Have a candid conversation with your ob-gyn and tell her about some of the big stressors in your life (problems with your spouse, a big move, or job issues). She may be able to recommend a good therapist or a support group.
- Do I have to cut out coffee? The coffee question comes up a lot, with "‹people taking different viewpoints. According to Yvonne Bohn, M.D., a California-based ob-gyn and co-author of The Mommy Docs' Ultimate Guide to Pregnancy and Birth, "Limited amounts of caffeine, up to 200 milligramsdaily, are safe in pregnancy." However, she cautions that many women are unaware of just how many foods and beverages contain caffeine, including soda, tea, and chocolate. Read labels, and make sure you're not getting more than your daily allotment. Also, talk to your ob-gyn on what she feels is a good amount.
- When should I call the doctor? For many pregnant women, the big question is what's normal, and what's not. At one of your first appointments, you should ask your ob-gyn what constitutes an office call. "Any "‹bleeding during pregnancy, particularly if it's associated with cramps, warrants a phone call. Most of the time it is harmless, but your provider can help determine if there's a problem," says Dr. Goodman. He also adds that any of these symptoms—unusual pain or pain that won't go away, leakage of water or other discharge from your vagina—should be followed up with a doctor's visit. But the fact of the matter is, if you're ever worried about a pregnancy symptom you're experiencing, you should feel comfortable giving your ob-gyn a call.
- How does my weight affect my pregnancy? Ideally, you're at a ehalthy weight before you even get pregnant. Once you're expecting, you want to "‹keep within a certain range. "A major concerning trend that I'm seeing is that many women are overweight going into the pregnancy, which puts them at a higher risk for gestational diabetes," says Dorothy Mitchell-Leef, M.D., an ob-gyn at Reproductive Biology Associates in Atlanta. "Dietary discussions before achieving a pregnancy are extremely important, but often don't take place." It's doubly important, then, to talk to your doctor about the proper weight gain for you.
- What foods are off-limits? There are a lot of myths and old wives tales about what to eat and what to avoid during pregnancy, but this is a question you should broach with your ob-gyn. "Uncooked beef such as steak tartare and carpaccio can contain the organism toxoplasmosis, which can cause birth defects," says Dr. Bohn. "Soft cheeses that are unpasteurized can carry an organism called Listeria, which, if a mother gets infected with it during pregnancy, can cause a serious illness that could cause still birth." Check with your ob-gyn and see if she can give you a list of"‹ unsafe foods to avoid.
- "‹RELATED: "‹What Pregnant Women Really Eat