Are You a Friend of the Unborn?
DO YOU like to entertain? Most people do. Often they are willing to make special arrangements for the comfort and happiness of their guests, perhaps by cooking a special meal, or by arranging a sight-seeing trip.
If you are a pregnant woman, you have inside your body a helpless “guest” with very special needs. Like any guest, the embryo, or fetus, inside you deserves special attention. Indeed, a thoughtless lack of proper “hospitality” for the unborn can have permanent, tragic consequences. On the other hand, proper care for your little “guest” before birth can lead to a fine start in life.
What are some dangers pregnant women should be alert to? There are many, perhaps more than you ever realized. And new threats to the unborn are constantly being discovered. Here are some things to watch out for:
CAFFEINE found in coffee, tea, colas, and chocolate. Caffeine has been shown to cause birth defects, such as missing toes, in animals. “If the usual safety precautions respecting drugs were adopted with respect to caffeine, bags of coffee would be required to bear a label warning pregnant women to consume no more than a small fraction of a cup each day.”—Addiction Research Foundation, Toronto, Canada.
In a study of 1,529 pregnant women, researchers from the University of Washington found that high caffeine use was “tied to a significantly higher incidence of breech births as well as to greater numbers of miscarriages or fetal deaths in the mothers’ previous pregnancies.”—Medical World News.
“Hundreds of thousands of pregnant women are consuming enough caffeine from coffee and tea to cause thousands of congenitally deformed children to be born each year.”—Center for Science in the Public Interest.
ASPIRIN (ASA). “Whatever headaches accompany the last months of pregnancy, it’s best to forgo aspirin.” (Medical World News) What’s wrong with aspirin? In one study, when mothers took aspirin late in pregnancy and then had premature births, 70 percent of those babies suffered from bleeding inside the skull (intracranial hemorrhage), a much higher figure than for women not taking aspirin.
“I’d say flatly aspirin is contraindicated,” during the last three months of pregnancy.—Dr. Carol M. Rumack, professor of radiology and pediatrics.
TRANQUILIZERS Valium, Miltown, Librium and others. Here is what the makers of Valium tell doctors in their literature: “Use of minor tranquilizers during the first trimester should almost always be avoided because of increased risk of congenital malformations, as suggested in several studies.” In other words, taking tranquilizers during pregnancy can cause birth defects. Don’t do it if you are concerned about the future happiness of your little “guest.”
How serious is the risk? A study of 20,000 women by researchers at the University of California concluded that babies born to women taking Librium or Miltown early in pregnancy suffered six times as many birth defects as did the offspring of women taking no medication.
BARBITURATES may also cause birth defects. These include drugs like Seconal, Nembutal, Amytal, Luminal and Tuinal. “Studies suggest an association between the use of certain sedative hypnotic drugs during pregnancy and various congenital defects in the offspring of users.”—Addiction Research Foundation, Toronto, Canada.
MEDICAL TREATMENT during and even before pregnancy can have unwanted side effects on your baby. For example, it is well known that rubella (measles) can damage the fetus if the mother catches the disease early in her pregnancy. Some women choose to be vaccinated against measles about the time they become pregnant. But this can also be dangerous to the fetus.
“Rubella vaccine is contraindicated for pregnant women, and women of childbearing age should take measures to prevent pregnancy for two months after rubella vaccination.”—New England Journal of Medicine.
Smallpox vaccine has caused a small number of fetal deaths and “should be given to pregnant women only in an epidemic, something which should now be a thing of the past.”—Australian Family Physician.
Do you have an infection? Watch out for tetracycline if you are pregnant! “Tetracyclines can damage teeth at any state of in utero [in the womb] life, and they have no place in the treatment of pregnant women.”—Australian Family Physician.
X rays are not a good idea for your unborn child either!
“There is no more certain way of producing a malformed fetus than by exposing it to radiation with X-rays, particularly during the early part of embryogenesis . . . No one except for very good clinical reasons would subject a woman in early pregnancy to radiology.”—New Zealand Medical Journal.
Of course, this does not mean that every pregnant woman who has an X ray is likely to have a deformed child. But why subject your little “guest” to any more danger than necessary? If you suspect you are pregnant, advise your doctor before having any X rays.
If you have had an X ray that could affect your ovaries, or if you have received a radioactive drug, then it might be wise to wait a couple of months before becoming pregnant.
Forced labor is sometimes required for medical reasons, but often it is induced simply for the convenience of the mother or the doctor. Here are some results of a careful study by British doctors, comparing babies born by forced and natural labor:
“Healthy women, with no medical or obstetric abnormalities, who are allowed to come into labor spontaneously, will nearly all experience an uncomplicated labour and delivery . . . Women in the induced group, who also had no medical or obstetric complications, not only received more intervention during labour, but were also more likely to have a forceps delivery or a Caesarean section . . . The babies born after an induced labour appeared to be in rather worse condition than those born after spontaneous onset, in that considerably more of them needed resuscitation by intubation.”—British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.
Should you subject yourself and your baby to these risks for the sake of convenience?
DIET during pregnancy can affect your unborn child in ways you may not suspect.
“Many hyperactive children can be noted to be hyperactive even before birth. The mother eats a certain food and the child gets hyperactive. It could be just plain old sugar in the diet, but it is apt to be an empty calorie, ultra-refined food that is eaten by the mother in large quantities.”—Dr. Ray Wunderlich, pediatrician.
Children malnourished at birth may take a long time to catch up with other children, or may not catch up at all.
“For every two pounds of difference in birthweight lower than normal, there is a 6-month lag in reading ability at age seven, a difference roughly comparable to 10 points in I.Q.”—Dr. Nevil Butler, Bristol University, England, director of a massive study on the effects of fetal malnutrition.
Proper nutrition is a special problem when the expecting mother is a teenager whose growing body is competing with her baby for nourishment. “The pregnant adolescent is well recognized as being medically, nutritionally, and socially at risk . . . The diets of most students were found to provide less than two-thirds of the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for pregnant adolescents in one or more major nutrients . . . nearly one-third of the pregnancies were complicated by iron deficiency anemia.”—Journal of the American Dietetic Association.
ALCOHOL even in moderate amounts may be dangerous to the fetus. “Heavy drinking, and perhaps even moderate drinking, by pregnant women can endanger their unborn children. The fetal alcohol syndrome, characterized by mental retardation and other abnormalities, has been identified among some children of alcoholic women. Birth defects have also been observed in the offspring of some women who drank only two ounces of alcohol daily during pregnancy. Decreased birth weight (often associated with increased risk to the newborn) has also been observed among the children of some women who drink two drinks per day during pregnancy, and in one study there was evidence of an association between two drinks a week and miscarriages.”—Science News.
If drinking during pregnancy is so dangerous, how is it that nobody said so before? Scientists are asking the same question. “All reports suggest fetal alcohol syndrome is exceedingly common,” writes Harvard University pediatrics professor Mary Ellen Avery. “It is incredible that we missed it so long when it’s such an important problem.”
“We are not talking about skid row alcoholics,” observes a Seattle, Washington, researcher. “We’re talking about ordinary women.”
“As fetal-alcohol research continued, it became evident that no amount of alcohol could be called safe during a woman’s pregnancy.”—Dr. Ruth Little, Director, Pregnancy and Health Program, University of Washington School of Medicine.
The message is clear. If you are pregnant and want to play it safe, don’t drink. If you invited someone for dinner, and he declined to drink, saying that alcohol was bad for his health, would you force him? Why force the “guest” in your womb to drink when it could damage him for life?
SMOKING is dangerous to your baby for a number of reasons.
Smoking before pregnancy increases the risk of placenta praevia, a condition in which the placenta is attached abnormally low in the womb, causing dangerous complications during labor and birth, according to a recent study of 50,000 pregnancies.
Smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of crib death by 52 percent, independently of all other factors, according to the same study.
“Babies born to mothers who smoke during pregnancy weigh less than those of non-smoking mothers. The extent of lower birth rate is directly related to the number of cigarettes smoked.”—Lancet.
What causes this? “Lack of oxygen is believed to be the chief reason,” says Dr. James Wright of Australia. When you smoke, some of the hemoglobin in your blood is “fooled” into carrying carbon monoxide, which is a poisonous gas, instead of oxygen. According to a Wales study, women who quit smoking even 48 hours before giving birth increased available oxygen in their blood by 8 percent.
Most people realize that serious health problems, such as venereal disease or drug addiction, are bad for their unborn children. But did you realize that things you may take for granted—coffee, aspirin, tranquilizers, junk food, many common drugs, alcohol and smoking—can also be dangerous?
BE A REAL FRIEND
Giving up these things, at least for the duration of your pregnancy, may require self-control, but isn’t it worth it? If you wait until your baby is born to show that you love it, that could be too late. Why not start showing that self-sacrificing love as soon as the decision is made to have a baby?