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By Neely Cessac, Teratogen Information Specialist, MotherToBaby

The holidays are full of family, fun, and enjoyment – and the season is wonderful EVERY, SINGLE, DAY, right?! WRONG. Every year many pregnant women (as well as the general public) become so stressed and worried around this time. And rightly so…not only do pregnant moms have regular holiday stress, but they’ll soon become moms! M-O-M-S! Holy cow. An overwhelming concept, to say the least, especially with everyone telling you what you can (or should) do and what you can’t (or shouldn’t) do during pregnancy. As a birth defects information specialist, I’m starting to get a ton of questions surrounding stress from moms-to-be. I can relate…and I’m not even pregnant yet!

I always want everything to be perfect, from clean floors and ceiling fans, to wonderfully wrapped presents and delicious food. Luckily my mom is an expert at all of those things, so I asked my mom how she survived the holidays while she was pregnant with me. Between my teratology expertise (the study of exposures that cause birth defects) and her “mom-ology” expertise (the study of being awesome in general, but especially as a mom), we’ve put together a list of some key questions and answers to help you survive the holidays too!

Survival Q #1: How can I avoid becoming too stressed?

  • How you breathe is important! Be sure to take deep breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth, and relax.
  • Realize you are not alone. Most pregnant women and women in general are feeling the same way you are. Talk to others; it will help reduce your feelings of stress.
  • Take a nap! Escape and take a quick cat nap when you are really stressed and tired.
  • Light to moderate non-impact exercise is great too. Try walking, swimming or yoga.

Survival Q #2: How can I avoid becoming too fatigued?

  • Don’t be afraid to admit you are too tired to do some things. You cannot (and should not) be super woman during the holidays! Just say “no”.
  • Sleep, sleep, sleep! Try to get about eight hours of sleep each night.
  • Have that morning cup of coffee or tea. Studies have shown that limited amounts of caffeine, 200-300 mg a day, have not been associated with any known increased risks for baby.

Survival Q #3: How can I avoid drinking alcohol?

  • Don’t be tempted to drink alcohol, as alcohol is known to be harmful for baby. Bring your own non-alcoholic beer or wine with you to the party.
  • Want something bubbly to drink on New Year’s Eve? Try a delicious non-alcoholic sparkling juice or cider.
  • Make sure there is no alcohol in the drinks or desserts that your host/hostess is serving at the party. Don’t be afraid to ask questions!

Survival Q #4: How can I avoid complications from overeating, such as gas and constipation?

  • Eat more often, but eat smaller portions. With a baby on board, you do not have as much room in your tummy as you used to!
  • When needed for gas, it is okay to take over-the-counter products such as Gas-X®.
  • To avoid constipation, drink lots of fluids and eat foods high in fiber, such as apples and broccoli. If constipation continues to be a problem, use commercial stool softeners as needed.

Survival Q #5: If I become sick, which over-the-counter cold and flu medicines can I take?

  • Look for products that contain acetaminophen, while avoiding products that contain ibuprofen or aspirin.
  • If you have high blood pressure, try to avoid using products that contain pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine, which can slightly narrow the blood vessels and increase blood pressure. Consistent use of decongestants is not recommended during pregnancy for anyone.
  • You can use over-the-counter cough medications such as Mucinex® and Robitussin®, without any known increased pregnancy risks.
  • And you know what they say about an ounce of prevention…! Get a flu shot!
    • In the United States the flu shot has been given to pregnant women since the 1960s. Studies of thousands of women who have received the flu shot just before or during pregnancy have found no increased risk for birth defects or other problems.
    • The flu vaccine given by injection is recommended for all women planning to become pregnant or who already are pregnant (whether in their first, second, or third trimester) during the flu season.

If you have any questions, don’t forget that you can call, email, or live chat with a MotherToBaby expert. And to make it even less stressful for you, you can now just send us a text with your question! We’re trying to make it as easy as possible for you, Mom – you have enough to worry about! Just text us at 855-999-3525. We are here to help. Happy holidays and may you have a zen-like season! 🙂

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Neely Cessac is a Teratogen Information Counselor at the North Texas affiliate of MotherToBaby. She has been with the service for over two years and loves working with pregnant moms!

MotherToBaby is a service of the international Organization of Teratology Information Specialists (OTIS), a suggested resource by many agencies including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If you have questions about alcohol, medications, vaccines, diseases, or other exposures, call MotherToBaby toll-FREE at 866-626-6847 or try out MotherToBaby’s new text counseling service by texting questions to (855) 999-3525. You can also visit MotherToBaby.org to browse a library of fact sheets.

References:
“Less Stress for Healthier Mom, Baby”, www.webmd.com/parenting/features, 11/18/2015.

“Mocktails for Mom, Be Safe: Have an Alcohol-Free Pregnancy”, www.beststart.org, by/par health nexus sante, 2011.

Reprotox Teratogen Database. Agent report on Stress #1989, 10/24/15. Agent report on Sudafed #1170, 5/9/15. https.//reprotox.org/members.