11 Things You Didn't Know About Being Pregnant

by Yelena Shuster, Glamour

When you're pregnant, advice seems to come from every possible direction. We can't drown out your mother-in-law's well-meaning but totally crazy-sounding advice, but we can pass along these 11 pieces of valuable pregnancy information we wish someone had told us.

Pregnancy Fact 1: Your Headache Meds Could Double Your Miscarriage Risk
Now's the time to really take stock of what's in your medicine cabinet because there's a big difference between ibuprofen and acetaminophen-especially when you're expecting. Your risk of miscarriage increases up to 2.4 times by taking any type of nonaspirin nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or naproxen during pregnancy, according to a study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. Guy Ringler, M.D., reproductive endocrinologist with California Fertility Partners in Los Angeles, says taking NSAIDs during your pregnancy can cause a small to moderate risk of congenital defects. Relax, though: Acetaminophen may be a safer pain-relief option.

Pregnancy Fact 2: Moms-to-Be Should Stay Cool, Literally
Think of this news as less of a cause for alarm and more of a heads-up: According to one Norwegian study, there's a link between hot weather and a higher incidence of stillbirths. "This study can't prove that hot weather causes stillbirth," Ringler says. He does, however, add this big take-away from the research: "Dehydration can trigger uterine contractions, so it's best to avoid long exposure to hot and humid weather."

Pregnancy Fact 3: Time on the Job Could Harm Your Baby's Health
Thinking about answering work emails up until your final contraction? According to research published in the Journal of Labor Economics, pregnant women who clocked in past the eighth month had babies that were a half-pound lighter, on average, than those who stopped working earlier. "Pregnancy is a huge physical stress to the body. So is working hard for long hours in a standing position or at a very physical job. The combination can increase complications like preterm labor because of a decreased blood flow to the uterus," says Ringler. If you must work (and let's be honest, so many of us do), consult with your doctor, and try to take frequent breaks during the day.

Pregnancy Fact 4: Keeping Up Your Exercise Routine While Pregnant Is a Must
Your bump is no excuse to let your workout routine slip; actually, it should keep you moving! Researchers showed that pregnant women who worked aerobic exercise into their routines at least three times a week for 30 minutes had babies with lower heart rates and higher heart-rate variability--both signs of healthy hearts--during the final weeks of development. Recently, the same researchers found that the baby's improved health continued after birth. Hello, yoga pants! As always, check in with your doctor before starting any new workout regimen while pregnant.

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Pregnancy Fact 5: Eating Well--Even If Only While Pregnant--May Decrease Your Baby's Obesity Risk You can start protecting your child from obesity while you're still pregnant--and it starts with how you eat. It may seem a little science-fiction-y, but a fatty diet changes the structure of babies' genetic material and makes them more prone to obesity later in life. And according to newer research, even if you're overweight, eating healthily while pregnant will still help prevent the baby from becoming obese later in life.

Pregnancy Fact 6: Some Fish Is Good for Moms-to-Be
OK, so what's really the deal with pregnancy and fish? Emory University researchers found that babies whose mothers took DHA supplements--a form of omega-3 fatty acids, or the fats found in fish oil--during their pregnancies had fewer and shorter colds at one, three, and six months of age. "These acids are essential nutrients for health and not made by the body, so we have to take them as a supplement to prevent heart disease and improve the baby's brain function," Ringler explains. "You can also find them in food sources like salmon, walnuts, and flaxseeds." If you opt for fish, Ringler recommends sticking to lower-mercury seafood like trout and light tuna and maxing out at two fish-based meals per week.

Pregnancy Fact 7: Your Environmental Stress May Complicate Your Pregnancy
If you've got hurricane shutters at the ready, your child may be at an elevated risk of abnormal health conditions at birth because of increased stress hormones, according to a Princeton and Columbia study. Even if you're not living under such extreme conditions, try to minimize physical and emotional stress during pregnancy for the sake of both you and your future baby, says Ringler.

Pregnancy Fact 8: Fearing Childbirth Could Lead to a Longer Labor
Now is the time to channel everything you've ever learned in meditation. Women who are scared of giving birth spend about an hour and a half longer in labor than other women. "What you don't want is for the uterus to tire out, which can happen after 20 hours of labor," Ringler cautions. "At that point, your muscles get tired and the contractions get less effective." Regardless of where you fall on the drugs-or-no-drugs spectrum, he recommends prenatal breathing classes, and if you can swing it, a doula to guide you through the labor itself.

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Pregnancy Fact 9: C-Section Births Aren't Always Smooth Sailing
Scheduled cesarean births are tempting for women who like to plan everything, but according to researchers, nearly one out of every 10 women with a C-section delivery developed a post-surgical infection, with a small percentage needing to be readmitted to the hospital. Of course, doctors will perform a cesarean if you or your baby is in danger, but before you pencil in the surgery like your next facial, you may want to consider getting a second (or third!) opinion.

Pregnancy Fact 10: Pregnancy May Boost Your Memory

According to a study from Carlos Albizu University in Miami, new moms had better visuospatial memories--the ability to notice and remember information about a person's surroundings--than women who never had children. In the study, 35 women who'd had their first child 10 to 24 months prior were tested against 35 childless women. After being shown a paper with symbols several times, the new moms ultimately outperformed the other women in remembering and drawing the symbols. Just think: A few years down the line, you'll be a whiz at "Where did the baby hide my keys?"

Pregnancy Fact 11: Your Chances of In Vitro Fertilization Success May Vary Based on Your Vitamin D Levels
Researchers found that women with higher levels of vitamin D were also four times more likely to get pregnant than those with lower levels during in vitro fertilization (IVF). But the exact opposite appears to be true for Asian women. A smart solution? Ask your doctor to measure your vitamin D levels, then get a personalized dose recommendation if you're pursuing IVF.

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