A Note to the Pregnancy Police

Hi Readers — Here’s a great comment that came in response to the blog post, Driven Crazy by Pregnancy Perfectionists. It reminds us of a truth we’ve been encouraged to forget in our “blame the parents” society: We are not in total control, ever. Not of what happens to us, and certainly not of what happens to our children.  A reader writes:

Sorry, there are no guarantees in life.  I followed the rules for the most part, though not to any extreme — probably didn’t eat enough vegetables or get enough exercise (still don’t). But I did have every prenatal test to make sure everything was fine.  It all came out normal.  I felt fine, the pregnancy progressed fine, the birth came early but was otherwise fine –and then my daughter was born with a birth defect.  One that would have killed her in an earlier age; fortunately we’re not in an earlier age, and they fixed it and she is TOTALLY fine now.

And for a while I blamed myself — what did I do??  Was it that glass of wine I had before I knew I was pregnant? Was it one too many baby back ribs from Chili’s?  Was it my shocking avoidance of pregnancy yoga?!?  Then I realized — it was nothing.  It was a misfire during the building process.  A dropped stitch.  No process is foolproof or perfect.  This was a universal truth we all understood a few generations ago.  But we’ve become so accustomed to the illusion of control that modern life gives us that we’ve become responsible for EVERYTHING that happens to us, and that’s just ridiculous.  Little of what’s going on in there is in your hands.  So you may as well relax. — Dahlia


58 Responses to A Note to the Pregnancy Police

  1. Lisa January 27, 2010 at 5:21 am #

    I just wanted to share a totally outrageous pregnancy police story. I was taking a prenatal yoga class, and one day the instructor prattled on about how it was really important to watch not only what we consume physically but also what we consume mentally. Apparently, reading the newspaper and listening to the radio were *bad* for you during pregnancy.

    Then, the zinger. She warned us that it would damage our poor baby for life if we watched any violent movies while the baby was in utero. Seriously. “The child may never recover unless they can come to actively understand what happened to them and work through it as an adult.”

    I couldn’t help but giggle to myself. I have gotten through a very difficult pregnancy by binge-watching The Sopranos, Dexter, and cult horror films. According to Miss Prenatal Yoga, if my poor fetus grows up to be a sociopathic serial killer, I’ll be the one to blame. Yeah, right.

  2. Dot Khan January 27, 2010 at 5:49 am #

    @ Lisa:
    The advice to pay attention to what one watches on TV is more about us than the unborn child. It is one thing to watch something informative or inspirational, but watching the news, Nancy Grace or Jerry Springer just before going to sleep may give you nightmares that terrible stuff will happen to you. That helps explain how helicopter moms believe that the world is far more dangerous than it really is.

  3. Chrystal @ Happy Mothering January 27, 2010 at 5:54 am #

    The pregnancy police had better come after me! With my first daughter I gained 61 pounds, ate what I craved and did have an occasional half glass of wine with dinner. I didn’t get the exercise I needed and was under a lot of stress at work. And guess what? She’s a perfect, smart, intelligent little girl.

    This pregnancy (I’m due in a little over a week) has been much easier. I have eaten better and gotten more exercise. But, I’ve had more complications along the way. Who knows what the outcome of the delivery will be, but I know that nothing I’ve done is extreme enough to harm my baby.

    I really think a lot of the recommendations these days go overboard in order to protect doctor’s from liability. It’s sad, because it makes it so hard to relax and enjoy pregnancy!

  4. Robyn January 27, 2010 at 5:54 am #

    Very good point. I often wonder if people are judging me (very obviously pregnant at 24 weeks) when I drink coffee and other caffeinated beverages in public. What they don’t know is that I have a sleep disorder, and in order to stay awake at all (and not crash my car) I need something to help. The caffeine is necessary because I’m avoiding prescription amphetamines during pregnancy. Speed is definitely worse than coffee for the baby!

    Women also get the message—not just from society and websites, but also from our pill bottles—that antidepressants, antianxiety drugs, etc. are always bad during pregnancy. In reality, the decision to continue these sorts of medications must be made on a case by case basis, considering the very real risks of untreated depression and similar disorders to the baby. Depressed moms don’t eat right, don’t take care of themselves, expose their babies to high levels of stress hormones, and have trouble bonding with their infants.

    Lisa, excessive stress during a pregnacy can have an impact on the fetus… but it’s beyond ridiculous to paint all edgy programming as causing this level of stress! This stuff RELIEVES stress for folks like you and me.

  5. Allison January 27, 2010 at 5:59 am #

    But you know yourself and your own body – and if you know that the show won’t give you nightmares, its ridiculous to avoid it just because the fetus might “hear.” And, even if it *does* scare you and give you nightmares, so what? While chronic sleep deprivation or insomnia would not be so good for a pregnancy, one night being kept up thinking about TV isn’t going to matter.

  6. Jen January 27, 2010 at 6:18 am #

    I got on my husband for his lack of thought in what movies to take me to while I was pregnant. During my first pregnancy, he took me to see Children of Men. I spent the whole thing clutching my belly. During my second pregnancy, he took me to District 9. That just made me want to puke.

    I survived both, though, and have three healthy kids. I see no signs of lasting psycological harm in any of them. 🙂 (Although my twins are only 8 weeks, so who knows what they’re thinking.)

  7. KateNonymous January 27, 2010 at 6:32 am #

    On Thursday I’ll be at 30 weeks. If people are judging me, they’re doing an excellent job of keeping it to themselves! but I have had a surprising number of people ASK me about coffee. Not “how much are you drinking,” but “Did you have to give that up?”

    But after two miscarriages almost exactly a year apart, in both of which cases I did everything “right,” I don’t much care what other people think.

    Then again, most people do a pretty good job of picking up on the fact that I have never taken crap from others, so I think I come with my own protective buffer in that way.

  8. deanne January 27, 2010 at 6:32 am #

    @ Dahlia
    Thank you so much for that post. I couldn’t have said it better. It would be so much easier to be pregnant without the pregnancy police around. (not to mention the breastfeeding police, the babycare police, the “every scrape your toddler gets is your fault” police, etc)!

    Use your common sense, do your best, accept that you’re not in control of everything.

    That’s about all you really need to know.

  9. Aaron January 27, 2010 at 6:47 am #

    You all might enjoy reading the “Ask the Experts” section of the Health Physics Society website.


    Health Physicists are the people who examine the effects of radiation on the human body. Their online Q&A site gets lots of questions from terrified people. They try to calm fears with professional advice, but it is hard to get past the ‘truths’ that people have learned from TV dramas.

    In regards to pregnancy, they usually remind people:

    “You should be aware of the fact that all healthy mothers, without a family history or personal history of reproductive problems, has a 3% risk for birth defects and a 15% risk of miscarriage. That is the background risk for these reproductive problems.”

  10. Kim January 27, 2010 at 7:12 am #

    I was told to read to my son while I was pregnant and the play nice music. Funny thing is, my son was born deaf!

  11. t. allen-mercado January 27, 2010 at 8:17 am #

    I was a paranoid freak with my first pregnancy. I ate healthy stuff I didn’t even like “for the baby”. I had every test, never missed an appointment, exercised regularly and gained the requisite 25lbs. He was born with a birth defect; a congenital heart defect that was immediately caught and repaired. The second pregnancy 8 years later…let’s just say the only thing I did “right” was manage to get pregnant. She’s perfect, and I was (with the exception of being too old by my back’s standards) much happier throughout! I should’ve listened to my grandma the first time, she said relax and trust your gut, people were having babies since Hector was a puppy (I’m cluless) and these doctors were a twinkle in a young boys eye!

  12. Cherish January 27, 2010 at 9:34 am #

    From a strictly biological perspective, I remember hearing a biologist or geneticist (can’t remember which) say that it’s not surprising when things go wrong. In fact, given how complicated the growth and development of a human being is, it’s amazing that it goes right so often!

    We really live in a society that loves to lay the blame on someone, and I think this is just another example.

  13. Mae Mae January 27, 2010 at 10:03 am #

    Oh, Deanne, that should be a post all in itself. The breastfeeding police. What is wrong with those Laleche people or whoever they are? (It was so long ago that I don’t remember the name of the group but I’m sure you guys know who I mean) I was breastfeeding and had questions and they acted like I was a terrible mom who was trying to get out of breastfeeding. There was no help given, just judgement. I regretted calling so much. I had to go on-line and find answers to my questions. I did and nursed both my children successfully.

  14. Jan S January 27, 2010 at 11:24 am #

    I don’t think it’s accurate to say that women in past years didn’t blame themselves for birth defects. There were many superstitions surrounding pregnancy and childbirth. People believed, also, in maleficent spirits, the evil eye, and other potentially harmful influences on the pregnant woman.

    Now we are armed with scientific knowledge and statistics, but we’re still burdened with the same emotional baggage and human frailties that our ancestors also bore.

  15. Uly January 27, 2010 at 11:41 am #

    I just wanted to share a totally outrageous pregnancy police story. I was taking a prenatal yoga class, and one day the instructor prattled on about how it was really important to watch not only what we consume physically but also what we consume mentally. Apparently, reading the newspaper and listening to the radio were *bad* for you during pregnancy.

    People were saying that 150 years ago, but I thought they’d realized since then and now how stupid it is!

    was breastfeeding and had questions and they acted like I was a terrible mom who was trying to get out of breastfeeding. There was no help given, just judgement. I regretted calling so much.

    You know, like every group, the LLL varies in its membership. Some areas have a greater proportion of the asshats of the world, sad to say. Others have too many helpful folks. Sorry you got stuck with the sucky ones.

  16. Tracy Lucas January 27, 2010 at 12:36 pm #

    LOL @Lisa… my pregnancy had some serious troubles and required several months of bedrest… I was watching The Sopranos, Law & Order, and haunting shows the entire time.

    I admit, it was pretty crazy to watch my two-month-old son rocking out to the Sopranos theme song, which he did the very first time it played around him… and I also freely admit that I loved that about him. Hell, that’s an awesome song! 🙂

    Can’t screw them up mentally until they’re outside of us.

  17. Julie January 27, 2010 at 12:41 pm #

    Gosh, I have experienced the pregnancy police AND the feeding my baby police.

    While I avoided caffeine during my first trimester, I did get the okay from my midwife to have the occasional coffee after that. Of course, by that time I was starting to show a little and once when I was in Starbucks they just assumed I must have meant decaf when I ordered. I was annoyed to say the least!!

    Then there is feeding my baby…and I’ve gotten crud from both camps. The breastfeeding camp thinks I didn’t try hard enough to get my baby to nurse, and the bottle camp thinks I am insane to still be pumping all my baby’s milk when he’s 6 1/2 months old!! But with all the complications we had at the beginning, he just never got the hang of it…yet I still wanted him to have the good stuff I could give him.

  18. LindaLou January 27, 2010 at 12:45 pm #

    I wouldn’t have managed to breastfeed my first child if not for the help I received from my local LLL chapter.

  19. Nok January 27, 2010 at 1:32 pm #

    Then, the zinger. She warned us that it would damage our poor baby for life if we watched any violent movies while the baby was in utero. Seriously. “The child may never recover unless they can come to actively understand what happened to them and work through it as an adult.”

    I watched 300 while I was pregnant with our second child and he is the most caring and empathetic one of all three of our current children. Today he brought a doll with us out to lunch, he brought a separate sippy cup for the baby (real one, not for dolls). He is only two and very keen on being a Daddy already.

  20. SKL January 27, 2010 at 3:06 pm #

    I think I would have been one of those obsessive pregnant ladies. What straightened me out was adopting. Had no control whatsoever over anything that happened until my kids were beginning to talk. Nevertheless, my kids are perfect just like everyone else’s. Magic amaze-o. Chill, moms! God is taking care.

    Of course we will (and should) still make choices based on what we feel is right. But think of it this way. You could eat nothing but organic oatmeal for the next 5 years, and would it make you grow one centimeter? Would it change the color of your skin or protect you from a genetic tendency to baldness? I think not. You might feel great and lose weight, but you’d still have the body God gave you. Why do people think it’s so different with unborn babies?

  21. Marion January 27, 2010 at 7:41 pm #

    Because, SKL, your environment and the things you consume *can* influence you’re baby’s development. If you ingest a sufficient amount of lead during pregnancy, you could abort or the baby could be born with serious damage. Nowadays, however, with the rigorous legislation on lead, it’s highly unlikely American moms could ingest such high levels of lead needed.
    If you were exposed to high levels of radiation, it could damage your baby’s genes. Again, unless you live next to a nuclear reactor or in a fallout zone, it’s highly unlikely.
    If your doctor gives you medication which turns out to be detrimental to a devoloping foetus, your baby could be born without arms and legs (such as was the case with ‘softenon’ in 1960)
    Why, however, expecting moms are told to lay off coffee and/or the occasional glass of wine..?

    It’s typical. They take something that is rare or only true in specific cases (such as ‘if you drink more than eight units of alcohol a day’- which would make you an alcoholic instead of a regular person enjoying the occasional glass of wine – or ‘one in tenthousand pregnant women had difficulties during pregnancy when eating X’ – which only means that ninehundred and ninetynine women were absolutely fine eating X) and then extropolate (sp?) it to make it an absolutism. ‘Better safe than sorry’, etc. Ugh. What happened to good old common sense?

  22. Jen January 27, 2010 at 8:10 pm #

    I managed to avoid the pregnancy police this time around by keeping close to friends and family and not inviting any comments. I gave birth to my son at home and things were wonderful; the human body is well designed for this. The response I had after at my choice ranged from surprise to horror so I am glad that I was able to surround myself with positive energy before his birth. Best of luck to you pregnant mamas.
    As for those La Leche League ladies I would say not to let one bad experience turn you off from checking the group in your area. I can say that the organization has some truly wonderful women who will help you whether you want to breastfeed for 3 days or 3 years.

  23. RobynHeud January 27, 2010 at 8:18 pm #

    I was really grateful for this post. I just had my first child about two months ago. He came early after my last prenatal appt where it turned out I was pre-eclamptic. I also had gestational diabetes so I was being pretty cautious with my diet. Then, when my doctor had the nurse take my blood pressure again and it was once again about 170/130, the nurse made the comment that I should have taken better care of myself. That one comment made me reflect in my whole pregnancy – Did I not exercise enough, should I have eaten better, was that day when a friend cut and dyed my hair what caused it? What did I do wrong? But then, the next morning, when our son Xavier was born, a little worse for the journey here, but otherwise perfect, I realized I didn’t do anything wrong and although I still get a little angry and upset when I think about that insensitive nurse, all I have to do is look at our son to know that she’s the one who has no idea what she’s talking about.

  24. Kirsten January 27, 2010 at 8:44 pm #

    @Marlon – same with deli meats and soft cheeses. Nowadays you are told to avoid them completely (unless the deli meat is heated but really, who, regularly, heats their turkey/ham/whatever before adding it to a sandwich). Most foods won’t hurt you but there’s a slight chance they could so they go on a banned list. So now if I pregnant woman wants to enjoy a ham sandwich they run a higher risk of being scolded than actually getting sick.

    I’m 24-weeks pregnant with my second. This time I’m SO much more relaxed and enjoying it even more. I didn’t obsess with my first but COMPLETELY avoided caffeine, only ate sandwiches from Firehouse subs (they steam the meat) but would eat soft cheeses I knew were pasteurized. This time I have an almost-2-year-old running around so the occasional Diet Coke is a must! As my toddler says, “Mommy tired”!

    Yes, taking reasonable caution is a great thing to do but as we’ve seen time and time again on this blog ‘reasonable caution’ is a foreign concept to most – especially the more litigious amongst us.

  25. erika January 27, 2010 at 8:46 pm #

    what a wonderful post. i look at it from a different angle- when i became pregnant with spontaneous identical twin daughters, i did everything right. i ate the right foods, went to the best doctors, had the best care, and took incredible care of myself. and then they died anyway. and i look around at people who are in so many ways undeserving of children and i wonder- why did THEY get to raise their children while two of mine died?

    and what it comes down to- you’re right- is that it just worked out that way. no fault. no judgment. no control. it’s a hard thing to swallow. but it’s freeing, too.



  26. Jean January 27, 2010 at 9:05 pm #

    Actually, I am giving up the news for a while. I just heard a story on NPR last night about a new bio-weapons threat, and woke up at 4am from a bad dream about it. My pregnancy causes my dreams to be wacky anyway and I don’t need my mind making it any worse. I figure no news, no worries. There’s nothing I could do about it anyway. But I’m doing this so I don’t go crazy with fear, not because I think it’s making the baby worry.

    Pregnancy police have taken a lot of the joy out of my pregnancy regardless. It’s my personality to fret and worry, and all the warnings, books, etc. just make it worse. I’m trying very hard to relax and listen to my body right now.

  27. Shay January 27, 2010 at 9:19 pm #

    The amount of judgment given to women regarding pregnancy is stunning. My first child was stillborn in late pregnancy, due to multiple birth defects resulting from a chromosomal anomaly. I’m pretty open about my loss, which has led to a number of comments, from friends, family, and strangers, all boiling down to “What did you do?” So many people just assume that if a pregnancy ends badly, it must be the mom’s fault. I’ve seen losses blamed on fertility drugs, lifting boxes, drinking soda, taking baths, you name it. Pregnant moms, and moms who have experienced pregnancy/infant loss, put enough guilt and worry on themselves … maybe the rest of society could start lightening up, giving them the benefit of the doubt, and learn that sometimes, bad things happen despite all your best efforts.

  28. Marie January 27, 2010 at 9:26 pm #

    This is a fantastic post. I wish I had of seen this kind of support when I was pregnant. Even well meaning friends said stuff that left me in tears so often. From criticizing by cup of “coffee” (it was hot water with lemon), to telling me that the way I sneezed was going to pop the baby out. Yelling at me for finding out the sex of my baby before she was born (then why’d you ask if I had found out?), to telling me I needed to stop eating like a pig because I looked like I was having twins (I gained 12 pounds). I did everything the doctor said, and was even more restrictive than my doctor said was necessary. She told me I could drink wine, but I didn’t drink any alcohol or caffeine. My theory was that if something went wrong, I didn’t want to have done something that I could blame myself for. Well, my daughter was born 6 weeks premature, and her 4 weeks in the NICU had me blaming myself daily for not protecting her. Fortunately for me, my daughter is happy and healthy, and almost 2!

    The last thing a pregnant woman needs is more people laying blame and judgment. Reading about pregnancy and realized how many things have to go just right for it to work makes me realize just what a miracle it is that so many healthy babies are born each year. Most of the things that go wrong in pregnancy aren’t really caused by something the mother is doing, it just happens. As much as we blame ourselves when it happens to us, we don’t need the pregnancy police pitching in!

    As for the feeding your baby in public police – ugh!!! You can’t do anything right. If you are bottle feeding then people approach you and ask why you’re not breast feeding, and if you’re breastfeeding (completely covered mind you), people stare and make disgusted faces and tell you to go to the bathroom (the place I was at was an outdoor event, which made a bottle of breastmilk tough, and I’m not feeding my baby in a porta-potty). I hid as much as I could to avoid all the comments, but it’s so rude!

    As a mother if there is one thing I’ve learned is that you can never be right in everyone’s eyes, no matter what you do, so all you can do is your best and ignore all the stupid people in the world.

    @Jen – I think it’s fantastic that you delivered your baby at home! Most of my friends are very interested in doing that themselves, and I think that everyone deserves to try for the birth experience they want, be it at home, with an epidural in a hospital, or anywhere in the middle. Unfortunately, baby doesn’t always cooperate!

  29. Sammi January 27, 2010 at 9:35 pm #

    You know what I saw in the bookstore the other day? “What to Eat While You’re Expecting.” An entire book devoted to “every bite counts.”

    As I said to my boyfriend while rolling my eyes, “You know, if you eat just one cupcake during pregnancy, your child won’t get into Harvard.”

  30. catgirl January 27, 2010 at 10:08 pm #

    My mom smoked when she was pregnant with me. She shouldn’t have, but it’s hard to quit. Well, she was lucky and I turned out just fine. I was born right on time and at a healthy weight. However, when I was a kid, I was worried for years that it somehow affected me and I’d get a surprise of some horrible disease just because of it. I’d spend too much time trying to figure out what was wrong with me because my mom smoked. I have one toe that is a little shorter than it seems it should be, and I blamed that on my mother’s smoking. I was so worried that in elementary school, I asked a teacher what dreadful illness I could expect to develop later in life. When I was a little older and looked at the facts, I learned that smoking increases the risk of premature birth and low birth weight. I was so relieved to realize that complications are not guaranteed from smoking during pregnancy, and that since I was born healthy, I probably don’t have much to worry about. Yes, my mom shouldn’t have smoked, but it’s not so bad that it inevitably causes terrible problems for every pregnancy. FWIW, she did manage to quit when I was about 8, and I’m proud of her for doing it.

  31. Melissa January 27, 2010 at 10:36 pm #

    Dahlia hit the nail on the head. I’m so glad her daughter was able to get the medical help she needed, too. That is something for which to be grateful.

    I completely agree that all the hovering and policing of our children and pregnancies is at it’s root a way to feel that we are in control. It’s practically a national passtime.

    The older I get the more confident I am in my God-given abilities to be a good mother even if I don’t read Parents magazine or enroll my little guy in preschool. In my mind I keep going back to the foundation laid by my own mother and grandmother: lots of play, hugs, veggies, kisses, homemade cookies and bed time stories. Childhood is too short to micro-manage the fun right out of it.

    Thanks to Dahlia for sharing her experience. She’s right on!

  32. KBF January 27, 2010 at 10:49 pm #

    I couldn’t avoid negative and weird stuff when I was pregnant with my first child. I did phone assessments with people seriously mentally ill. I remembered thinking it would be interesting how my son’s personality developed with him “hearing” me ask people about suicidal thoughts, self mutilating behaviors, and voices in their heads for eight hours every day. Should have been way worse than watching a few hours a week of Sopranos. But my child (now 12) has a very calm and considerate personality. Go figure.

  33. Lola January 27, 2010 at 11:08 pm #

    @ catgirl: As I said somewhere else, I have (gasp!) smoked during my four pregnancies. Not a lot (actually, about 3-5 cigarrettes per day), but still too much. When I asked my gynecologist about this, he said something like “well, it’s certainly not good for the kid, but all that it’s proved to cause is small birthweight. Anyway, whether the baby weighs 5 kg or 2, it’s going to come out of the same orifice, so… up to you”.
    And then I read somewhere that the stress of giving up smoking can be worse for the foetus than smoking itself. I clung to that study and ranted about it at anyone who started to criticise me.
    BTW, have any of you taken advantage of your situation? If someone bothers you, you can start to cry your eyes out and blame it on the hormones. Or fake nausea. They immediately run away; never fails… A friend of mine passed an oral exam just because she was really big and the professor was terrified at the idea of her giving birth in his office.

  34. Jen Connelly January 27, 2010 at 11:39 pm #

    Luckily I’ve only ever encountered the pregnancy police online. People in real life never bug me about what I’m doing while pregnant and I’ve learned to just not mention stuff online for the most part.
    The other day I was reading something at a parenting site where one women said she has absolutely no respect for a woman that drinks (even one drop of alcohol), smokes, drinks caffeine or eats lunch meat because they are just selfish and aren’t thinking of the baby first.
    I just rolled my eyes and took another bite of my salami sandwich and washed it down with a sip of iced tea.
    This is my 5th baby (6th pregnancy, my 5th one ended in miscarriage at 12 weeks) and I really don’t care what the experts or the pregnancy police say. I’m just trying to make it through and I need my caffeine. I haven’t really been drinking much because I haven’t had a taste for pop and tea (I don’t drink coffee) and I’ve been so tired I can barely keep my eyes open all day and I have a 3yo at home to take care of. Not to mention the caffeine keeps my migraines in check. When I don’t drink it the headaches start up and I can’t get rid of them. Not fun.
    I still sleep with my heating pad on my back (been doing that since I was a teen) otherwise I wake up so sore I can’t move. I still take super hot showers because it’s not worth it to me if the water isn’t scalding. I don’t take vitamins because they either make me ill or I forget. I basically just live my life as I did before I was pregnant…just with more sleeping and my husband being a lot nicer to me and offering me to help with things he normally doesn’t (a nice perk).

  35. BMS January 28, 2010 at 12:07 am #

    I am so glad I outsourced the whole pregnancy thing.
    Adoptive parents get a whole other set of nosy questions:

    “Why did his birthparents give him up?”
    “Don’t they know about birth control in Guatemala?”
    “Don’t adopted kids have attachment issues?”
    “How can you tell if they have any inherited diseases?”

    On and on. There is just a large subset of the population that lacks a critical filter, thus causing them to spout any stupid thing that comes into their head. I’ve learned to nod, smile, and walk away.

  36. Andy January 28, 2010 at 12:33 am #

    I didn’t drink coffee during pregnancy because even the smell of would make me want to vomit –so instead I switched to tea for my morning caffeine. Why are doctors limiting coffee? I remember a study that said that women that naturally avoid coffee (like me) are less likely to miscarry, but I only saw the one article. As for unpasteurized cheese, cold cuts and sushi– the cheese is hard to find, and the other two products are harmful only as how much likely you are to get “food poisoning” from it, or a parasite. At least here is the US, it is EXTREMELY rare to get a parasite from properly prepared cold cuts and saltwater fish. (There are more parasites in fresh water fish, so cook that well, but that goes for everyone).

    Are pregnant women really that more susceptible to parasites and food poisoning? My sushi chef told me that in Japan, women get cravings for tuna sushi/sashimi –I rather get those than our culturally expected pickles and ice cream 😉

    Oh, and I blame watching “Alias” while pregnant on my daughter’s liking to do puzzles and climb everything she sees LOL

  37. Eric the Read January 28, 2010 at 12:34 am #

    My first daughter was born with a congenital heart defect that meant open-heart surgery when she was just over a year old. Thankfully, we had no pregnancy police to tell us it was our fault, but I swear, if anybody had ever said anything to my wife or me about it, I would have been up on assault charges SO FAST….

    Just thinking about it makes me angry.

    Fortunately, we live in the future, where “we’re going to stop your daughter’s heart with an injection” is a perfectly rational response to this sort of situation, and she’s all better now. 😀

  38. Myranda January 28, 2010 at 12:50 am #

    Oh, gods, the pregnancy books. I hate those damned pregnancy books. To be really, really honest about their contents they ought to be titled ‘Your Pregnancy Day by Day And All The Random Horrible Things That Could Happen If You So Much As Look At That Cup of Coffee And Why Aren’t You Drinking Three Folic Acid Milkshakes A Day, You Unworthy Cow.’ When one of my friends announced her intent to try for a baby, the advice I gave her was, “No books. RESIST THE TEMPTATION. They will only make you neurotic.”

    For me? I got pregnant with my first about two weeks before I went to DragonCon and didn’t find out I was pregnant until two weeks after DragonCon was over. During that week at DragonCon, I primarily consumed caffeine in cardiac-problem-inducing dosages, ate nothing but junk food, and slept approximately four hours a day. Once I found out I was pregnant, I freaked out and completely altered my diet, including cutting out all caffeine, and spent weeks with skullcrushing withdrawal symptoms. I spent most of the pregnancy until the 20 week ultrasound paranoid that my rampant caffeine consumption had caused my baby to form without a skull or a spine, only to discover that not only was he perfect, he was a he. An exhibitionist he — he flashed the ultrasound technician at least three times. Frankly, I blame the libertine atmosphere he was exposed to in utero. I experienced pre-term labor a week after the ultrasound, spent some time on bedrest, and gave birth three days late to a perfect little boy who is now almost six and healthy as a horse.

    My second pregnancy I was less paranoid, stopped being afraid that everything I put in my mouth would cause my unborn child to spontaneously mutate, and had a largely problem-free pregnancy. Sprogling the Second turned two in December and is a terrifying mutant anyway, as he figured out how to escape his playpen by virtue of pulling up the pad and working at the bottom seam until it gave way and he could crawl out…at the age of ten months.

  39. Into The Wild! January 28, 2010 at 2:34 am #

    Ah, yes, I remember them well. The pregnancy police. Their a cake walk. Try having susperstitious relatives (both sides) while your pregnant. With my first child, if I even mentioned or smelled any kind of food, they immediately had to get some and made me eat it or the baby would be born with problems. My husband warned me ahead of time, so I kept my mouth shut so I wouldn’t expand like a balloon. I did develop a craving for, get this: beer foam. Not the actual liquid, just the foam on the top. And mustard, LOTS of mustard. Doctor said cravings are just your body telling you your missing a vitamin or nutrient, and you’ll get it anyway you can. He said at least I wasn’t looking to eat clay or dirt, which some women have actually tried to consume and which will cause some pretty serious problems, like miscarriage or death of the fetus. My doctor did actually prescribe that I drink a small glass of red (not white) wine every other day during my last trimester, as I was getting anemic and that was a more natural way to increase red blood cells. Most of the time I didn’t because the smell of alcohol easily set me off into gagging mode. Boy, smells and tastes really get thrown out of wack when you get pregnant.

    As to smoking, my mother smoked throughout all her pregnancies (5 kids) and all through our growing years. Back then (the 60’s and 70’s) from what she says, they really never told women to stop. She still smokes today at 70. I know it hurt us, at least after we were born. All of us have severe allergies and migraines, one with asthma. My dad died from emphysema, nasty way to go, so I’ve always avoided smoking or people who do, whether I was pregnant or not.

    My daughter was born very healthy (listened to rock & roll, and read Shakespear while carrying her), her scores were all 10s AND she scared the bejesus out of the nurses the second day. The day nurse thought she was being watched, so she turned around. My daughter had grabbed the sides of the bassinet, lifted her head over the edge and was staring at her. The nurse said she almost fainted, because she knew she was a newborn and that had never happened before. Her pediatrician was called and said it’s been know to happen with some babies, they’re just in a hurry to get moving, which is why I wasn’t surprised when she started walking at 8 months and talking in complete sentences at 1 year. Her brother, on the other hand, was like most boys, and still is. He’s in no hurry to do anything, unless of course he’s on fire. My listening to country western music and reading Louis Lamour novels while carrying him did not help, and he came out with a samurai haircut. I carried him with a placenta-praevia (low lying placenta) which required bed rest and fluids to prevent bleeding and complications during delivery (which there was), but all and all, he’s turned into a great kid.

    My mother-in-law had the nerve (THE NERVE!) to buy me the Dr. Spock book and presented it to us like it was the Holy Grail. We burned it in the fireplace after she left. No regrets. My advice? Talk to your husband/partner, talk to your doctor, talk to your closest, dearest friends; then decide for yourself what is right for you and your child. Unless your living in a cave and eating bark from a tree, most women can make the right decision about their health needs. And their kids turn out just fine. Besides, do you want to be Angelina Jolie, or (god forbid) the Octomom and have your life judged in the public forum? It might as well be, with all the close-and-personal do-gooders telling you what’s what.

  40. Lindsey January 28, 2010 at 2:34 am #

    You have to wonder how humanity has made it this far through the centuries through all the hardship and war, natural disasters and all the other challenges life throws in the way of pregnant women. Bladdy people and their silly bladdy opinions!

  41. Nok January 28, 2010 at 3:15 am #

    I am on my fourth pregnancy (three kids so far) and have never read a single pregnancy book.

    I have Gestational diabetes (get it every time), I told the nurse flat out that I would refuse insulin, and I eat what I want. I did the diet thing with my first child and they ended up putting me on bed rest after doing an ultrasound and seeing that he was too small! This after months of watching what I ate. Every pregnancy I gain a ton of weight (40 – 60 pounds!) and I lose it every time in 4- 6 months. With my first I lost it in two, I was still in the Military then.

    I also have ADHD and refuse “conventional medication” for it. I self medicate with caffeine, one to two cups of tea a day. Which for the record, I have not ever had any medical practitioner tell me I cannot do so. They recommend that you do not have more than two, but no literature I have ever seen says none at all.

    With this pregnancy I have not visited any pregnancy sites, I drove myself nuts with it last time. It was my first girl, and there was a lot going on in our household. I would have been less stressed if I had just avoided going to those message boards.

  42. ira January 28, 2010 at 4:43 am #

    When I just found out I was pregnant with my first I walked onto my OBGYN’s office and asked “what should I do now?”. God bless him, he told me to listen to my body and stay off the internet and pregnancy books. He reminded me that women have been having babies for thousand’s of years and just to relax.
    I ate everything I wanted including sushi, non-pasteurized cheese and had an occasional glass of wine. My kids were born beautiful and healthy.

  43. Alexicographer January 28, 2010 at 5:06 am #

    This is a wonderful post. There is so much that we cannot control, and so many non-risks or small risks that are so overblown.

    Many do have a grain of truth in them; for those wondering about the non-pasteurized cheeses and deli meats, both carry a (small) risk of a bug called listeria which, while rare, does in fact fairly seriously increase the risk (if contracted while pregnant) of miscarriage and stillbirth. Personally, I’d much rather know that than be told that I shouldn’t eat “any” soft cheeses since, as has been noted, the vast majority of cheese sold in the US is pasteurized and thus safe.

    Though not as complete as one might hope, this site: http://www.motherisk.org/women/index.jsp also has good information for, e.g., women looking for information about the safety of various classes of antidepressants during pregnancy.

    @catgirl, in a sort of similar vein my mother used to say that she drank so much at a particular party she and my dad used to attend every summer when she was pregnant with me, that it was amazing I was born normal & healthy (this back in the days before many considered all alcohol verboten in pregnancy). I never gave it any thought, to be honest … for one, I was always clear she was (mostly) exaggerating. But then again, perhaps there’s a reason I haven’t won a Nobel yet. Darn it!

  44. Dave January 28, 2010 at 6:26 am #

    The last line sums it up for me in more than just pregnancy. “You might as well relax.” Here here.

  45. ebohlman January 28, 2010 at 7:25 am #

    Cherish: Considerably less than half of all conceptions lead to a full-term pregnancy (most failed conceptions occur very early on, so much so that the mother isn’t even aware of anything happening or just gets her period a day or too late). What we see in live births is actually the result of almost everything that could go wrong not going wrong.

    Note that if you insist that life begins at conception, no country has a life expectancy over 40.

    Myranda: Under a strict interpretation of today’s laws, that ultrasound technician was producing child pornography and if you have “keepsakes” you’d get a lighter sentence if you replaced them with some anthrax or polonium-210 (you probably don’t have to worry unless your DA has an autographed photo of Mike Nifong on his wall).

    All: Is this paranoia worse in the US than elsewhere? Our system of financing healthcare puts a premium (pun maybe intended) on being able to assign blame for everything that requires medical care in order to determine the appropriate funding source; that can lead to a peculiar attitude toward risk (other financing systems are still vulnerable to this, but there’s less of a “hot potato” aspect).

  46. Lisa January 28, 2010 at 8:19 am #

    @Andy There was a study that showed that women who drank three or more cups of coffee each day had a somewhat higher risk of miscarriage than women who drank less coffee. (I couldn’t locate the study quickly, but I do know I found it on Medline before.)

    But OMG, the amount of caffeine you’d get from three or more cups of coffee is quite high–certainly not enough to scare women into giving up a cup of tea or two (or even a cup of coffee during pregnancy).

    There was another study that showed a greater risk of stillbirth and death during the first year, but that was only for women who drank EIGHT or more cups of coffee each day. EIGHT CUPS.

    Here’s the link: http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/326/7386/420

    My first doc was very anti-caffeine. She told me “no” even to green tea, which has a trivial amount of caffeine compared to coffee and black tea. I quickly switched doctors. If someone prefers to scare me rather than discuss moderation, they are the wrong doctor for me.

    And really, how many women can stomach 8–or even 3–cups of coffee daily during pregnancy??? The most I can handle is a mini sample cup of coffee from Trader Joes once or twice each month. Otherwise, it’s one or two cups of black tea each day for me.

  47. Li January 28, 2010 at 9:53 am #

    To all the mothers who lost children during pregnancy, I’m so sorry. It’s a terrible thing to lose a child. To have to deal with idiots implying it was your fault must be almost unbearable. You have my deepest sympathy.

  48. Gail January 28, 2010 at 10:42 am #

    @ebohlman – I think it’s generally bad in English speaking countries but possibly worst in the U.S. I can tell you that in Canada it’s just as bad and all the other police listed in various posts above are fully active. Though, I’m formulating a new theory as I write: I think maybe it’s English speaking parents, not matter where they live, who have gone insane. My sister is living in a non-English country in Europe (okay, I guess that could be anywhere but the British Isles LOL) and she and her English-speaking friends have gone just as nuts.

    @all: regarding caffeine and in defense of “What to Expect …” , one thing I clearly remember from that book, before I gave up on it in disgust, was the statement that caffeine didn’t need to be eliminated but should be consumed in moderate quantities. They then listed, in mg, precisely what that meant and how much a given caffeinated drink would contribute. I looked it over, calculated that I would have to quadruple my intake to make moderate, and relaxed about the whole thing.

  49. pinkhairedloli January 28, 2010 at 8:47 pm #

    I’m so glad FRK is the only mommyblog I keep up with. Sane threads like this! I have a pretty good idea what my list of concerns will be when I go find a midwife. Caffeine is on there but more as a side effect of being on a schedule that swaps between nights and days on a monthly basis.

    All the fearmongering over tunafish put me on a tuna and crackers kick recently. And I had grocery store sushi for lunch one day last week!

  50. MITBeta @ Don't Feed the Alligators January 28, 2010 at 11:58 pm #

    There are some sound points here for not being overly cautious, but there’s also some dangerous talk about throwing all caution to the wind.

    I always here people say that they didn’t wear seatbelts as kids and they survived. Well, guess what: not all kids did.

    So my point here is that precautions are good: helmets on bikes, etc. but that they can be taken to extremes: knee pads for crawling babies, and we shouldn’t throw out all caution simply because some are ridiculous.

  51. Maggie January 28, 2010 at 11:59 pm #

    @Marion- I wouldn’t even be the least bit concerned living near a nuke plant. I was a nuke mechanic in the Navy for 5 years, on the oldest and most contaminated nuclear-powered carrier in the fleet, and my monthly exposure at its highest levels was only 20% of the legal exposure limit for pregnant workers. I remained on board for the first half of my first pregnancy, and that child is in perfect health. My husband is also a nuke, and I know many other couples who are/were both nukes, yet there’s not a single genetic mutation or birth defect among any of our children.

  52. Erin January 29, 2010 at 3:22 am #

    Oh, I love this post… so true. We are NEVER totally in control, and society has us slipping and sliding into the mentality that we can control pregnancy completely (that we can control everything completely!)… and I would suggest that began with birth control. No matter what we do to try to “control” our fertility, nature/God will always find a way. Reminds me of that line from Jurassic Park, hee hee.

  53. Emaloo January 29, 2010 at 3:48 pm #

    I have pre-pregnancy police in my life right now. I am not pregnant. I have no intention of becoming so for at least the next 4 years, if at all. From my mom, mom-in-law, aunts, and grandparents I’ve been getting the “no caffeine, no cheese, no sushi” warnings since I got married a year ago, along with “your fertility decreases and the chance of birth defects increases so much after 30, you know, dear.” I’m 25. My mom thinks I should break my caffeine habit now, so I’ll be ready.

  54. B. Durbin January 31, 2010 at 2:26 pm #

    I recently just missed being diagnosed with gestational diabetes, so I’ve cut the candy off. (Candy is my only vice, and I’m the personality type that can handle “cold turkey” better than trying to calculate what little amount I can have.) In recompense, I’ve gone back to sandwiches, but I figured out how to do it without bringing the pregnancy police on my head:

    Don’t nuke the meat, make a melt.*

    I love my toaster oven.

    Anyway. The risk of listeria, as with all food-borne illnesses, is dependent upon the hygienic practices of all involved. The reason they freak out about it is because you don’t know who in the chain might have let the meat get up to room temperature, or done an accidental cross-contamination. It’s a small risk, but a lot of women aren’t willing to take it, so… panini instead of cold sub. Or as I said, a melt.

    But really, don’t freak out about every little thing. You’ll do enough of that after the baby is born, trust me.

    *This is not to tell people they MUST do this, just my solution to the conundrum of “I want a deli sandwich but this worries me.”

    On pregnancy dreams being wacky, my dreams aren’t any crazier than normal. But I remember more of them, and I think that the reason is I’m not going into deep sleep as much and I’m waking up more during them. I wonder if most people who have “wacky pregnancy dreams” usually have dreams that weird, but they just don’t remember them?

  55. Dee Hall January 31, 2010 at 11:21 pm #

    I was GD during my pregnancy, and a lunch meat sandwich, with lettuce and tomato, on wheat bread, was the RECOMMENDED lunch on the GD diet sheet that the dietitian gave me. She basically told me that you’d hear these warnings out there about not eating/heating lunch meat, and her recommendation was to check the expiry date . . . and only heat your lunch meat if you liked hot lunch meat. Oh, yeah, and my prescribed mid-morning snack was half a peanut butter sandwich.

    But I’d already thrown the pregnancy police out the window anyhow–I learned early on that the best way to settle my stomach in the morning was a nice cup of English Breakfast tea. 15 minutes after drinking that, I could eat without throwing up my toenails.

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