Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Miscarriage myths busted

Published: 21 Jan 2008 - The news that two cups of coffee a day could double your chance of having a miscarriage will leave many pregnant women worried.

But what other dangers does an unborn baby face?

Lily Allen tragically lost her baby last week, and, like the 1 in 4 women who find themselves in her position, she'll be asking herself, "did I do something wrong?"

"More often than not the answer to that question is no," says Annette Briley, a practising midwife of 25 years and consultant midwife for Tommy's the baby charity.

Drinking, sex, exercise, diet and stress are just some of the things women like Lily may blame for the loss of a baby. But what could endanger the health of your unborn child and which warnings are just old wives' tales?

The Myths

One of the biggest misconceptions surrounding miscarriages involves accidental pregnancies. Believe it or not, many women who lose unplanned babies feel the unborn child was in some way affected by their feelings of uncertainty.

"More than half of all pregnancies are unplanned, and almost every mother-to-be feels some sort of anxiety," says Briley. "But there's no way these emotions could make you miscarry."

There's also no truth in the myth that having sex while pregnant can damage the baby.

Briley continues, "A lady once asked me if eating lots of potatoes could hurt the baby. People really do get some funny ideas!"

Over half of all early miscarriages are down to a chance chromosome abnormality in the egg – and nothing an expectant mother does after conception can influence that baby's fate.

There are no guaranteed ways of making sure you don't have a miscarriage, and with most cases, a reason will never be discovered. But there are things you can do to reduce the risks.

Pregnancy precautions

Do – Eat plenty of starchy foods and carbs so you have lots of energy throughout the day. Blood sugar levels can drop quickly when you're in the early stages. Stick to your five a day, make sure you're getting your protein from meat, eggs and fish (it really is good for babies' brains!) and keep your calcium intake high.

Don't – Consume meat, seafood or dairy products which are served raw or unpasteurised (this includes pate, Parma ham, homemade mayonnaise and soft and blue cheeses).

Caffeine - a new study released by the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology [sic] suggests that more than two cups of coffee (around 200 mg caffeine) can double the chance of miscarriage. Tea is around 40 mg per cup and cola drinks contain about 15 mg. Chocolate also has caffeine in it – the more cocoa solids the higher the level.

"Your body may well go off food and drink that's not good for the development of your baby," says Briley. "And you could also start craving things you both need."

There is no proven direct relationship between stress and miscarriages. But it's a well-known fact that stress does affect your health. Your common sense should offer you the best guidelines.

"Listen to your body," says Briley. "Women have very clever bodies. If you feel the need to rest up, do it."

There are no hard and fast rules about how much you should exercise during pregnancy, but if your pregnancy is going well, keeping active is good for you and the baby.

Heavy smoking and drinking increase the risk of miscarriage.

"The exact amount of alcohol and cigarettes needed to harm your baby isn't known," says Briley, "so steer well clear of both. Even passive smoking.

"No two pregnancies are the same,"
Briley continues, "and if you have any concerns for you or your baby's health, you MUST speak to your doctor or midwife."

Tommy's runs an information service staffed by midwives, who are on hand to answer any questions women may have regarding pregnancy. Anyone who would like to speak directly to a midwife can call 0870 777 3060 or log on to tommys.org for further information.

[Sources - The Miscarriage Association, Tommy's The Baby Charity and the National Childbirth Trust]


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