What Are the Signs You Can’t Get Pregnant?
When you decide you’d like to have a baby, it can take some time to conceive. But knowing how long is too long can be difficult. Some women have a medical condition that may make getting pregnant more difficult, have a partner that may have a fertility issue, or be older than age 35, which can affect the likelihood they will get pregnant. Knowing the potential signs that a woman can’t get pregnant can help you determine if you should seek the advice of a reproductive endocrinologist.
As a general rule, if you have had unprotected sex with your partner for about a year without conceiving, this is a sign you may not be able to get pregnant without additional medical support. However, if a woman is older than age 35, she may wish to seek help from a reproductive endocrinologist after six months of trying to get pregnant. Some of the signs that you may not be able to get pregnant without fertility treatments can include the following:
Being Older Than Age 35
Age can significantly affect fertility in both men and women. In men, being older than age 35, can mean a decreased sperm count. Because there are less available sperm to fertilize the egg, it is less likely that a woman will conceive. However, men are not affected in terms of fertility as quickly as woman are when they turn 35. When a woman is older than age 35, her egg quality and number of eggs is usually affected. Eggs that are of a poorer quality cannot be fertilized as well, nor can the egg mature as effectively. According to Fox News, a woman at age 30 is 20 percent likely to get pregnant each month. These numbers go down as a woman ages.
Women older than age 35 can conceive, but doing so may be more difficult. This is why women older than age 35 often benefit from seeing a reproductive endocrinologist as quickly as possible if they haven’t conceived after six months of trying.
Having Polycystic Ovary Syndrome/Conditions That Affect Ovulation
Polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS is a medical condition that affects a woman’s menstrual cycle and ovulation. Women with PCOS have an increased amount of male hormones, such as testosterone. This can affect her ability to ovulate, which involves releasing an egg for fertilization. Without ovulation, a woman cannot get pregnant. According to Fox News, an estimated 5 to 10 percent of women have PCOS. Some women may be unaware they have PCOS. Symptoms can include:
- Gaining weight unexpectedly
- Having irregular periods or missed periods
- Growing hair in unusual places, such as on the chest, face, back, and stomach
- Having repeated miscarriages
- Experiencing depression or mood swings
Treatments are available to help a woman control PCOS and help her ovulate. If these symptoms sound like something you could be experiencing, contact your gynecologist.
In addition to PCOS, there are other conditions that may affect a woman’s ability to ovulate. Examples of these include being very overweight or underweight. Having a disorder that affects the balance of a woman’s thyroid hormones can also be problematic.
Having a History of Endometriosis
Endometriosis is a medical condition that causes tissue that normally grows only in the uterine cavity to grow in the abdominal cavity as well. The results can be a significant amount of pain. Heavy bleeding and infertility can also occur in anywhere from 30 to 50 percent of women who have endometriosis. Sometimes the growth of irregular tissue can cause a woman’s fallopian tubes to become blocked. As a result, a woman cannot release an egg that will travel to her uterus as a means to become pregnant. If a woman’s Fallopian tubes becomes blocked, a doctor may recommend in vitro fertilization, where a doctor removes an egg or eggs from a woman’s ovaries directly, so the egg does not travel down the fallopian tube. However, if a woman has endometriosis are her fallopian tubes are open, she may benefit from taking a medication called Clomid. This medication helps to ensure ovulation. A doctor may recommend women with endometriosis take this medication and use intrauterine insemination or IUI as a means to conceive. This method involves taking sperm that have been “prepared” to ensure sperm quality and inserted directly into a woman’s uterus to promote greater chances of conceiving.
Other medical conditions can also cause a fallopian tube to be blocked. Examples include a sexually transmitted disease or STD. Chlamydia can especially cause a woman’s fallopian tube to become blocked.
History of Injury or Damage to the Testicles
Male infertility can contribute to difficulty in conceiving just as much as female infertility can. A woman may have difficulty conceiving if her partner has a history of injuries to the testicles or scrotum. This can damage or destroy semen. A man may not even know that his testicles have been damaged to the point of causing infertility until he and his partner are trying to conceive. Men may also experience temporary damage to the testicles due to overheating, such as from wearing underwear that is too tight or taking baths in hot water. Both of these practices should be avoided while a woman is trying to get pregnant.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 35 percent of couples have difficulty conceiving due to male and female factors that affect fertility.
Having Unhealthy Habits
Women and men who have unhealthy habits, especially smoking, are less likely. Women who smoke or are subject to significant secondhand smoke exposure typically take longer to get pregnant. There are a number of reasons why smoking can contribute to infertility. For example, smoking affects egg maturation in women as well as sperm maturation in men. Smoking can also damage DNA in eggs and sperm and affects hormone production needed to successfully help an embryo grow. Also, women who smoke are more likely to experience an ectopic pregnancy or miscarriage – all good reasons to quit if you want to conceive.
In addition to smoking, unhealthy habits such as heavy abuse of alcohol, taking anabolic steroids, or using illegal drugs can all affect a couple’s abilities to get pregnant. If you or your partner use these substances, talk to your doctor about how to quit. Doing so will not only improve your chances of conceiving, it will promote better health overall for you.
Being Overweight or Underweight
Extra fats releases its own hormones, which can affect a woman’s ovulation. Women who are overweight are more likely to have PCOS as mentioned before. They are also more likely to be insulin-resistant, where their bodies cannot use insulin to process glucose. As a result, a woman’s blood sugar is not only higher, her body may start to release male hormones known as androgens. These hormones do not support ovulation.
Being underweight is problematic if you’re trying to get pregnant as well. Women tend to produce less of the hormone estrogen, a hormone needed to support ovulation. This can cause a condition known as function hypothalamic amenorrhea or FHA. Women can also experience FHA is they exercise excessively or have a lot of stress in their lives. If a woman is underweight, a doctor may recommend a program to gain weight in a healthy manner. As a result, a woman may be more likely to get pregnant.
Sometimes, a doctor may not be able to identify why a woman can’t get pregnant. Doctors call this unexplained infertility. Even when a woman has unexplained infertility, there are still fertility treatments she can use that can help her to conceive. If a couple decides they are going to try to conceive, living as healthy a lifestyle as possible can increase their chances for getting pregnant. This includes refraining from smoking, eating healthy foods, exercising, and trying to limit stress whenever possible. These habits promote a healthy body that can foster the growth of a healthy baby. Treating sexually transmitted diseases may also help to reduce inflammation in the pelvic cavity. Men should also refrain from wearing clothing (especially underwear) that is too tight or exposes the testicles to excessive heat, such as when swimming or bathing.
According to the National Institutes of Health, an estimated 7 percent of men and 11 percent of women in the United States have problems with fertility. If a couple hasn’t gotten pregnant in six months to a year, a doctor can perform blood testing for the presence of certain hormones, such as follicle-stimulating and anti-Mullerian hormones that are vital to fertility. They can also test to ensure that a woman is ovulating. Imaging studies of the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries may also help to identify structural abnormalities that may be keeping a woman from getting pregnant. Men can also undergo testing for the presence of male sex hormones, such as testosterone. A doctor may also measure a sample of the man’s semen to determine the amount and quality of sperm present to ensure enough sperm are present (or if sperm are present at all) for fertilization.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Infertility FAQs
Fox News: Can’t Get Pregnant? 5 Surprising Reasons for Infertility
Mayo Clinic: Infertility
The National Infertility Association: What Is Infertility
National Institutes of Health: About Infertility and Fertility
Planned Parenthood: Infertility
Intrauterine insemination, or IUI, is a common fertility treatment that may help you conceive. One of four types of artificial insemination, IUI is a fairy simple procedure, and IUI side effects are generally minor, although some can be serious. Understanding what IUI is, how it works, and the risks associated with it can help you make the best decision when it’s time to explore your options for fertility treatments.
What Is Artificial Insemination?
Artificial insemination was originally used on livestock, but it’s now one of the most common solutions to infertility for many couples and involves inserting sperm directly into cervix, uterus, or fallopian tubes. Artificial insemination is most commonly used when:
- A couple is unable to have intercourse due to erectile dysfunction or another condition.
- A woman’s cervical mucus doesn’t allow sperm to pass through, or it contains an antibody to sperm, which kills the sperm before they can reach the egg.
- A woman has mild to moderate endometriosis.
- A woman or man has a sperm allergy.
- A man produces too few sperm, or the sperm isn’t mobile enough to reach the egg.
- A same-sex couple wishes to conceive with donor sperm.
- No cause of infertility can be found, but the couple has tried unsuccessfully to conceive.
Four Types of Artificial Insemination
IUI is the most common insemination procedure used today. During IUI, up to one milliliter of sperm from a woman’s partner or a donor are washed in a lab to isolate the sperm from the solution surrounding it. The washed sperm is injected directly into the uterus.
The other three types of artificial insemination are:
- Intracervical insemination, or ICI, which is less expensive than IUI but not quite as effective. The ICI procedure involves placing the semen directly into the cervix.
- Intratubal insemination, or ITI, during which washed sperm are injected directly into the fallopian tube or near the entrance. ITI is more invasive than IUI, and its success rate isn’t much higher, making it the least-used method of artificial insemination.
- Intravaginal insemination, or IVI, which is also known as self-insemination because it can be done by couples trying to conceive. During IVI, semen is injected into the vaginal canal near the cervix. This method is far less effective than IUI, but it’s virtually free.
A Closer Look at IUI
An IUI is scheduled just after ovulation, when you’re the most fertile. If you have a 28-day menstrual cycle, this will be around day 14. If your menstrual cycle is irregular, you’ll probably use an ovulation prediction kit that detects hormones in the saliva or urine and accurately predicts when you’ll ovulate.
If donor sperm is used for the IUI, it will be obtained from the sperm bank and tested for transmittable diseases. If your partner’s sperm will be used, the sperm sample will be collected through masturbation. If your partner is unable to ejaculate due to a medical condition, the sperm will be surgically removed directly from the testicles or epididymis. The sperm is washed to separate them from the fluid that surrounds them. The fastest, healthiest sperm are then collected for the IUI.
During the procedure, a speculum is used to open the vaginal walls and expose the cervix. A catheter is inserted through the cervix and into the uterus, and the sperm are injected through the catheter.
After the procedure, you’ll rest for a short time and then go home and wait six to fourteen days before taking a home pregnancy test, which should be followed up by a blood test to confirm the results either way.
Intrauterine Tuboperitoneal Insemination
Intrauterine tuboperitoneal insemination, or IUTPI, is a newer method of IUI that uses a larger quantity of prepared sperm. The larger volume fills up the uterus and forces it into the fallopian tube as it overflows. During an IUTPI, a special device known as a double-nut bivalve, or DNB, speculum is used to clamp the cervix closed to prevent the excess sperm from flowing back out.
IUTPI has a higher success rate than IUI, according to a study published in the journal Sterility and Fertility, but it’s more expensive.
IUI Side Effects
The side effects of the IUI procedure itself are minimal. Some women report mild cramping during and after the IUI, but many report little to no pain during the procedure. In some cases, a vaginal infection may occur due to the introduction of bacteria. This may cause burning or itching, discharge, and a foul odor. In rare cases, bleeding or spotting may occur if the cervix is injured during the procedure.
Fertility Drugs and IUI
In some cases, such as when the cause of infertility is unknown, fertility drugs may be used along with IUI to increase the chances of success by stimulating your ovaries to produce more eggs, a process known as “superovulation.” The most common fertility drugs used with IUI include:
- Clomid, or clomipene citrate, which is an oral drug that works by blocking estrogen receptors in the brain, stimulating the release of follicle simulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) to promote egg development.
- Gonadotropins like hMG, which is administered daily by injection for a week or two to promote the development of eggs in fluid-filled sacs known as ovarian follicles. Blood tests and ultrasounds monitor their development, and when the follicles are big enough, a shot of hCG triggers the follicles to release the eggs into the fallopian tubes.
- Aromatase inhibitors, such as letrozole, which inhibit the enzyme aromatase to suppress estrogen levels and increase the output of FSH.
While IUI side effects are typically mild, the side effects of the fertility drugs can be more intense.
Common side effects of Clomid include:
- Hot flashes
- Breast tenderness
- Mood swings
Serious side effects that require a call to your doctor include vision problems, yellowed skin or eyes, bloating, and stomach or pelvic pain.
Common side effects of gonadotropins include irritation at the injection site, headaches, and fatigue. Serious side effects include vomiting, breathing difficulties, and abdominal swelling.
Common side effects of letrozole include nausea and hot flashes, but negative effects are unusual due to the speed with which this drug is cleared from the body.
All three of these drugs increase your risk of a multiple pregnancy, although letrozole carries the lowest risk of multiples.
IUI and Multiple Births
If you’re not taking fertility drugs in conjunction with your IUI, your chances of having multiples are the same as if you conceived naturally. But most women who undergo IUI do take fertility drugs, and depending on the drug, this increases your chances of having twins, triplets, or other multiples. Around 10 percent of women taking clomid or letrozole and 30 percent of those taking gonadotropins will become pregnant with multiples.
While multiple pregnancies are a cause for celebration for couples struggling with infertility, multiple pregnancies increase the risk of complications, including:
Premature birth. Most single pregnancies last 39 weeks, while most twin pregnancies last 36 weeks and triplet pregnancies last 32 weeks. Nearly 60 percent of twins are born prematurely, while nearly 90 percent of triplets are delivered pre-term, according to the March of Dimes.
Low birth weight. Babies who are less than 5.5 pounds are considered to have low birth weight, which increases the risk of a range of problems, including vision and hearing loss and developmental problems.
Intrauterine growth restriction. The growth rate of multiples begins to slow around 30 weeks for twins, 27 weeks for triplets, and 25 weeks for quadruplets. This may either be due to the inability of the placenta to grow any larger or to the babies competing for nutrients.
Preeclampsia, a complication that can cause high blood pressure, damage to the kidneys, and seizures.
Gestational diabetes. A multiple pregnancy increases your risk of gestational diabetes, which can lead to high blood pressure and pre-term birth or stillbirth. Gestational diabetes also puts your babies at risk for breathing problems, jaundice, childhood obesity, and diabetes later on in life.
Placental abruption, a serious condition in which the placenta separates completely or partially from the uterus, potentially depriving the baby of oxygen and nutrients and causing severe bleeding that can dangerous to both you and your baby.
Birth defects. According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, multiple-birth babies are at twice the risk of birth defects like spina bifida and heart abnormalities.
Cesarean birth. While twins are often delivered vaginally, triplets and larger numbers of multiples are more often delivered by cesarean section.
Twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome, or TTTS. This condition occurs in about 15 percent of twins who share a placenta, and treating it requires surgery or early delivery. In TTTS, the blood vessels that connect in the placenta sends blood from one of the babies to the other, and over time, the recipient baby may receive too much blood.
Bed rest. In some cases of multiple pregnancies, bed rest is needed to stabilize the mother or the babies. Bed rest can help reduce or prevent stress on your heart, kidneys, and other organs, and it increases the flow of blood to the uterus and improves the delivery of nutrients to the babies. It can also help prevent early contractions by taking the pressure off the cervix.
Birth complications. Complications at birth may include cord entanglement, where the babies’ umbilical cords get tangled, and postpartum hemorrhage of the mother due to the over-distended uterus and the large placental area.
Each additional baby you carry increases your risk of complications. Your doctor will monitor your pregnancy closely and take steps to prevent or immediately treat these problems to help ensure a safe, healthy pregnancy and delivery.
Factors Affecting IUI Success
A study published in the Journal of Human Reproductive Sciences found that the pregnancy rates per IUI cycle range from eight to 22 percent. Researchers cite a number of factors affect the success of IUI cycles:
- The IUI success rate in women over 40 is as low as 1.4 percent, according to the study.
- Duration of infertility. The longer the duration of infertility, the less effective an IUI may be.
- Type of infertility. The study found the success rate slightly higher in unexplained fertility cases than in endometriosis and male-factor infertility cases.
- Endometrial thickness. With endometrial thickness of 6 millimeters and greater, the success rate was higher, but not significantly so.
- Total motile fraction, or TMF, of sperm. When the TMF, or the number of “good” sperm in a sample, was in the range of 10 to 20 million, the success rate was highest, at a little over 18 percent. When the TMF was between five and 10 million, the pregnancy rate was a little over five percent. A motility rate of less than five million was associated with a 2.7 percent success rate.
- Number of dominant follicles. A higher number of preovulatory follicles is associated with higher success rates. When fertility drugs are used to promote superovulation, the success rate is as high as 33 percent.
What if IUI Doesn’t Work?
Most doctors recommend three to six cycles of IUI. If you still haven’t become pregnant after six cycles, your doctor will likely recommend an alternative fertility treatment like in-vitro fertilization, or IVF. During IVF, eggs are extracted from the woman and fertilized manually with the male’s sperm in a laboratory dish. The resulting embryo is transferred into the uterus.
Infertility can be stressful. It takes a toll on your body, mind, and spirit, and getting plenty of support and keeping your stress levels down is important for your wellbeing and, according to many experts, for helping you conceive.
While you’re undergoing artificial insemination and other infertility procedures, spend time nurturing your relationship with your spouse or significant other. Engage in hobbies and other enjoyable activities to help you stay active and engaged with other areas of your life. Join a support group to help you maintain good mental health and keep you feeling positive and hopeful for the future. Remember that the majority of couples struggling with infertility will eventually conceive, and those who don’t have other options available, including surrogacy and adoption.
Diet, medications, and cosmetics – there are more changes in pregnancy than just your growing belly. Because your baby doesn’t have the same protections that adults do, there are many products that could be potentially harmful to your baby if applied to your skin. The products are intended to penetrate your skin and have their desired activity on the skin. As a result, they can get into your bloodstream and potentially transmit to your baby. Here’s a list of ingredient no-no’s to avoid when you’re pregnant.
Retinoids are derivatives of vitamin A. These ingredients promote skin cell turnover, helping to reduce the appearance of wrinkles. High dosages of vitamin A and retinoids can be harmful to unborn babies. While there isn’t any study that says topical retinoids are harmful to babies, few research studies are conducted on pregnant women because of the potential harm to babies. Because doctors know oral forms of retinoids, like isotretinoin (Accutane) are harmful, they don’t recommend topical options either. Examples of topical retinoids or ingredients include:
- Differin (adapelene)
- Retin-A (tretinoin)
- Retinoic acid
- Retinyl linoleate
- Retinyl palmitate
Keep in mind that cosmetics brands also may add retinoids to their makeup products, such as powders. You’ll want to check the ingredients in your makeup products too.
Similar to retinoids, topical forms of salicylic acid haven’t been shown to cause birth defects. However, oral forms of salicylic acid, like high-dose aspirin, have been shown to cause birth defects as well as pregnancy complications. As a result, most doctors recommend avoiding salicyclic acid applied topically during pregnancy. This is especially true for stronger facial and body peels. Smaller amounts, such as spot treatments to reduce acne or toners to improve the skin’s appearance, may be safe. Just talk to your doctor first. Sometimes salicylic acid is labeled as beta hydroxyl acid or BHA.
Another option, benzoyl peroxide, is generally considered safe for use during pregnancy to treat acne blemishes. Look for a skincare product that is 5 percent benzoyl peroxide or less.
Hydroquinone is a compound that cosmetic manufacturers add to their skincare products to lighten their skin. This is helpful for women who may have moles or skincare discolorations due to sun exposure. While hydroquinone hasn’t been tested on pregnant animals or women, doctors generally recommend avoiding the ingredient as a safety precaution. Ingredients to avoid include:
- quinol/1-4 dihydroxyl benzene/1-4 hydroxy benzene
Exfoliation using alpha hydroxy acids may help to reduce the appearance of excess skin pigments while pregnant. After you have your little one and are done breastfeeding, you can go back to your previous treatments.
Ask your doctor if there are individual skincare products you should avoid given your health history. If you’re not sure if your product is safe, refrain from using it until you ask your doctor. When you do have your little one, keep in mind that ingredients in skincare products can affect your baby if you’re breastfeeding too.
Breastfeeding is a beautiful and natural way to provide your baby with the nutrition they need to have the best start at life. While your baby is born with some instincts as to feeding, this doesn’t mean the breastfeeding process is painless (far from it, usually) or without its own pitfalls and hang-ups. But if you’ve got breastfeeding problems, the good news is, there is often a solution out there.
The Problem: Your Baby Won’t Latch
The Solution: The right latch is vital to breastfeeding success, but it can sometimes feel as elusive as the perfect pair of jeans. The solution is most often to go skin-to-skin with your baby, which stimulates their natural pull toward the breast. Take off your clothing from the waist up and leave baby in just their diaper. While in a reclining position, place your baby on your chest or stomach. Your baby will likely start doing the “breast crawl” toward your breast. You can then offer your breast to your baby, gently squeezing the breast like holding a sandwich. This will make your nipple protrude and can also express some milk, which will further stimulate your baby toward your breast.
If you try these tips and your baby still will not successfully latch, you may need to consider other feeding issues, such as inverted nipples or tongue-tie that keeps your baby from achieving the desired latch effect.
The Problem: It Hurts When Baby Latches On
The Solution: New moms can expect that latching on may uncomfortable as you and baby adjust to breastfeeding. However, feelings like “sensitivity” or “tender’ are normal at first, but pain isn’t. First, consider if your baby is latching onto enough of the breast. Signs that your baby’s latch is enough around the breast include the head is leaned back, chin is tucked into the breast, and nose is away from the breast. You may also want to consider applying an ointment after each feeding to reduce breast tenderness. Doctors will often prescribe an ointment that can be made at a compounding pharmacy that has an anti-fungal component to prevent breast infections. However, if you experience shooting pain in your breasts or your nipples are cracked or bleeding, these could be infection signs and warrant a trip to your doctor.
The Problem: Your Breasts Are Engorged
The Solution: Breast engorgement occurs when there is an excess of milk in your breasts. It can cause feelings of tightness and discomfort. Usually, having your baby feed will help this. However, if your breasts are very full, it’s tough for baby to get a good latch because your breasts are hard. Also, engorgement can result in a forceful let-down that may cause baby to gag and resist the breast. One way to reduce these effects is to hand-express milk or use a breast pump briefly before you feed your baby. This can reduce that initial forceful experience. As time goes on, your breasts should start to match production to your baby’s demand.
If our solutions still don’t prove the answer to your breastfeeding difficulties, contact your doctor or lactation consultant. Scheduling an appointment to discuss feeding at any age can help your baby have a better breastfeeding time – no matter what age or stage your baby is at.
Are you concerned that your job is putting your pregnancy at risk? Working may not be an option, especially if you’re the main income provider for your family. However, most women can safely continue to work while pregnant with a few precautions. Of course, there might be days where morning sickness makes working unpleasant. Still, many women adapt and keep working. On the other hand, don’t put your health or your baby’s health at risk. Here are some tips on work safety while pregnant.
1 – Avoid Exposure to Toxins
If you work a desk job in a quiet, clean office, working poses few challenges. However, if you’re a chemist in a lab or work in an environment that exposes you to toxic chemicals or heavy metals, your job may be a hazard. If you’re unsure, ask your employer and request a copy of the Material Safety Data Sheet. By law, your employer must make you aware of any hazardous chemicals you’re exposed to. If you have concerns, discuss them with your employer and see if you can be reassigned to a safer area temporarily.
If you work in the healthcare field, you could be exposed to a variety of potentially harmful substances. Occupations that potentially pose a risk include x-ray technician, dental hygienist, or radiologist. These are jobs where you’re around radiation. If you wear appropriate protection, the risk is low. However, if you do procedures that involve high levels of radiation, such as therapeutic radiation, the risk is higher. Other sources of exposure that could be problematic for a baby are cancer chemotherapy medications and contact with gaseous anesthetic agents.
Radiation is an obvious risk, but some studies also show that exposure to anesthesia gasses is linked with a slightly higher risk of spontaneous abortion. If you work with anesthetic agents or chemotherapy drugs, protect yourself against exposure. Wear an appropriate mask and make sure the equipment you’re using is well maintained and in good working order.
Don’t forget that the health care and child care field expose you to an increased risk of infection. Be sure to take precautions like frequent hand washing or even wearing a mask. Other fields where you may be exposed to toxins include the dry cleaning industry, printing industry, house cleaning work, agricultural work, painting, photography, and more.
2 – Avoid Prolonged Standing and Heavy Lifting
After a certain point, usually during the late 2nd trimester, standing for prolonged periods of time or lifting heavy objects (over 25 pounds) isn’t advisable. A study published in Obstetrics and Gynecology showed that strenuous or physically demanding work is linked with a greater risk of preterm birth and preeclampsia. Talk to your doctor and ask how long it’s safe for you to continue to lift and stand all day. Then, discuss your concerns with the supervisor and see if they can reassign you to a desk job until after you’ve delivered.
3 – Listen to Your Doctor
If you have a high-risk pregnancy or other medical condition that makes working risky, your doctor may recommend reducing your hours or not working at all. Heed their advice. Make sure your doctor understands the type of work you do and what your job entails. If you develop high blood pressure, a high blood sugar during pregnancy or if you’re pregnant with multiples, it may also limit your ability to work. Most importantly, know what you’re exposed to on the job and whether it could be harmful to your baby.
MotherRisk.org. “Occupational exposure to inhaled anesthetic: Is it a concern for pregnant women?”
Obstetrics & Gynecology pp 623-635: 95, 2000.
You know that smoking isn’t healthy for you or your baby and now you’re committed to kicking the habit. What are your options? Must you quit cold turkey or are there safe quit smoking aids you can use to stop smoking? Quitting smoking while pregnant isn’t easy but there are ways to make it easier. Let’s look at some of the possibilities.
Quitting Without Stop Smoking Aids
If you can do it, quitting without smoking aids is the ideal method for kicking the smoking habit. When you take this approach, you aren’t exposing your baby to medications or nicotine replacements. If you’re quitting without help, you can either stop “cold turkey” or gradually reduce the number of cigarettes you smoking until you’re at zero. Unfortunately, doing it on your own is not as easy as doing it with support. Plus, if you gradually reduce the number of cigarettes you smoke, you’re still exposing your baby to nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes until you’ve completely stopped. On the other hand, if you’re a heavy smoker and you quit all at once, you might experience mood changes due to nicotine withdrawal. If you taper gradually, the nicotine withdrawal symptoms will be less severe.
Nicotine Replacement Products
These days, nicotine replacement products come in a number of forms – patches, chewing gum, and even sprays that give you a dose of nicotine. The purpose of a nicotine replacement product is to deliver the nicotine you would normally be getting from smoking. With this approach, you shouldn’t experience nicotine withdrawal symptoms. Because you’re getting some nicotine, replacement products make it less challenging to stop smoking. In fact, the success rate with nicotine replacement products is almost double that of quitting on your own. However, you’re still exposing your baby to nicotine. It’s not clear if nicotine is the component of cigarettes that’s linked with pregnancy complications or whether it’s one of the other hundreds of chemicals in cigarette smoke.
Before using a nicotine replacement product, talk to your doctor. Some replacement products may be safer than others. For example, you can buy long-acting patches that deliver sustained nicotine or shorter acting sprays. Using the spray could potentially pose less risk to your baby, although it’s not clear what the risks are of various nicotine products. However, if you quit smoking by using a replacement product, you’re not exposing your baby to the other chemicals in cigarettes.
Bupropion is a medication originally used as to treat depression. It also helps smokers quit smoking. The problem is it’s a medication. Ideally, you want to limit exposure to medications as much as possible during pregnancy. Overall, bupropion is a safe medication but it does have potential side effects and few studies have looked at its effects during pregnancy. Of course, you have to weigh the risks of continuing to smoke with the potential risks of the medications. Talk to your doctor about the pros and cons and taking this medication while pregnant.
Quitting cold turkey is difficult. Unfortunately, nicotine replacement products and bupropion have drawbacks too. Another option is to see a counselor, either one that can give you “talk” support or one that offers alternative approaches, like hypnosis, meditation, or acupuncture. Although these approaches don’t work for everyone, they’re drug-free – and that’s a benefit when you’re pregnant.
The Bottom Line
When you quit smoking, you lower the risk of pregnancy complications, including:
- Premature birth
- Delivering a low birth weight baby
- Having a miscarriage or stillbirth
- Other complications involving the placenta
So, think about your options and discuss them with your doctor – but make an effort to quit for you AND your baby.
WebMD. “Alternatives for Giving Up Cigarettes”
ACOG.com. “Smoking Cessation During Pregnancy”
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