The Risk of Miscarriage: A Doctor's Perspective
It seems like a disproportionate number of TV heroines miscarry, which may make viewers think that miscarriages occur easily and frequently. An actress falls and she has a miscarriage. A character discovers that her husband is having an affair with her best friend—the stress causes her to lose the pregnancy. Overworking may put her in the hospital for tests that take weeks of daily viewing. Perhaps TV writers draw on the powerful feeling of misfortune that accompanies a miscarriage to reveal the human condition in all its tragedy.
But the truth is your unborn baby is a lot more resilient, and protected within your body, than many of these TV shows would lead you to believe.
Consider this: The human race has survived a big disadvantage in reproduction for centuries. We only have one baby at a time. Usually. The rest of nature guarantees the survival of the species by allowing multiple births.
Yet we humans have not only survived, we’ve thrived. We understand the importance of protecting and raising our children. Our curiosity and compassion have guided the development of better medicines, prevention measures, and treatments for diseases.
I would argue that a woman’s ability to protect and foresee danger extends to the womb—sometimes even without her being fully aware of it. The pregnancy interaction between the body and the baby provides a safe haven. In other words, it would be difficult to hurt your baby accidentally. Certainly babies aren’t invulnerable, and they can be harmed through the actions of a pregnant woman who chooses to drink alcohol, smoke, or take drugs. But thankfully most pregnant women instinctively shun these activities for the sake of their unborn babies.
As far as stress inducing a miscarriage, well, that’s mostly just on the small screen. Stress is a normal part of life.
So rest assured, it really is hard to hurt your baby by accident. Exercise is good during pregnancy, despite the soap opera mentality that pregnant women should merely glide along on an air cushion without so much as a speed bump. All studies have shown, conclusively, that not only is exercise good for you and your baby, but it also decreases the likelihood of a C-section. The only warning is against overheating and dehydration. Aside from that, it seems most exercise is acceptable. If you have any specific questions, ask your healthcare provider. I certainly wouldn’t recommend taking up kickboxing during pregnancy, but low-impact aerobics should be fine.
Many pregnant women and their husbands ask me when they should stop having intercourse. My response: The only time you shouldn’t have intercourse during pregnancy is in the delivery room. Of course, this is advice for a normal pregnancy. High-risk pregnancies complicated by bleeding, premature labor, or infection have a completely different set of criteria. But generally, intimacy is fine the whole nine months. Even an orgasm, which is known to cause contractions of the uterus (womb), seems harmless in normal pregnancies. Having said that, if intercourse becomes at all uncomfortable, you should avoid it and talk to your healthcare provider about your concerns.
I know that so far I’m saying all the things you want to hear, but you also need to hear these things: Intimacy is important in a marriage. Exercise is important to the mother and the baby. On daytime TV drama, a baby is only important if it moves the story line along. Real people don’t have story lines; they have lives. Just because you’re pregnant doesn’t mean you should stop living. The simple joys of life are not only safe for baby, but also good for maternal and marital health.
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