Click here to find out more information on specific services from Ohio State's Maternal Fetal Medicine and on high-risk pregnancy.
The OSU Maternal Fetal Medicine team includes nationally and internationally recognized prenatal specialists, many of whom have been designated America's Best Doctors by U.S.News & World Report.
Our group of specially trained physicians, nurses, sonographers and genetic counselors offers comprehensive obstetric services, from preconception counseling through delivery and everything in between. Here, our experts answer some of the most concerning questions women have about maternal- fetal care.
Q: How do I know when I'm in labor?
A: The difference between false labor, also called pre-labor, and true labor can be confusing. Pre-labor is common and at times the only way to tell if it's true labor or pre-labor is by a vaginal exam. An exam will determine if the cervix is dilating and true labor has begun.
Some differences: Pre-labor is when your uterus has contractions that are not strong enough to dilate your cervix or open the mouth of the womb. The contractions may be regular or irregular and may feel strong. The strength of the contractions does not increase and the contractions do not last longer as time goes on. Sometimes the contractions go away with walking.
True labor is when your uterus has contractions that dilate your cervix. Contractions come more often, are stronger and last longer over time. Walking makes your contractions stronger. That is why you need to walk if you are not sure if you are in true labor. Bloody show may occur. This is a pink-tinged mucous discharge from your vagina.
Q: Is it normal to feel discomfort during pregnancy?
A: There are many discomforts of pregnancy. Dizziness, trouble sleeping, fatigue, nausea, frequent urination and other ailments are common.
Here are some ways to ease some of these problems: If you are dizzy, lie down on your left side, change your position slowly and eat regular meals.
For trouble sleeping, avoid drinks with caffeine, do not eat immediately before bedtime and take a warm bath.
Feeling tired? Try to exercise everyday (check with your doctor first). Also, lie down for at least one hour during the day.
To treat nausea, eat dry crackers, toast or cereal before getting up or when you are feeling sick. Also eat five or six small meals a day. Stay within your meal plan, and drink water between meals. If you urinate frequently, drink fewer fluids before bedtime and urinate often. Avoid fluids with caffeine.
Q: What foods should I avoid eating during pregnancy?
A: Junk food! Why? It does not have much nutrition for your baby. These foods are often high in sugar, fat, salt or artificial ingredients. By limiting the amount of junk food you eat during pregnancy and eating healthy foods instead, you will help your baby get better nutrition.
Do not eat the following more than a few times a week:
- fast food, such as hamburgers
- fried chicken
- french fries
- snack chips, such as potato chips, cheese puffs and Doritos
- ice cream
- soda pop
Instead, choose fresh fruit; dried fruit; frozen, unsweetened Bing cherries, strawberries, peaches and grapes; and fruit "canned it its own juice" and not in a heavy syrup. Nutritious snacks include 100 percent whole-grain crackers and pretzels, unbuttered or light popcorn, dry cereals, raw vegetables and dips or spreads made with yogurt, cottage cheese and peanut butter.
Q: Is it OK to take over-the-counter medicines if I need them while I am pregnant?
A: Try to avoid using any medicines if you can. This is especially important during the first three months of pregnancy.
Some points to keep in mind: You should not use any aspirin, ibuprofen or other pain relievers while pregnant. Avoid all products that may have aspirin in them during pregnancy. Also, use over-the-counter medicines for only one to three days. If your symptoms get worse or do not go away during that time, call your doctor.
Finally, do not use any herbal treatments unless you talk to your doctor or pharmacist to know where there may be any risk to you and your baby. If you are not sure which medicine to take, ask your doctor or pharmacist.
Q: Can I have sex while pregnant?
A: Yes! Many people worry about harming their baby. It is almost impossible to harm the baby in the uterus by having sex. Orgasm is not harmful to your baby. How often you have sex will not affect you or your baby, unless you have high-risk problems and you have been told not have sex.
Couples make love at different rates and that may vary from month to month. Some women are not interested in sex during the first three months of pregnancy. This may be due to tiredness and changes in hormones. Mood changes are normal during pregnancy. These may affect how you feel about sex. The most important thing is sharing these feelings with your partner. In this way, you can make changes to make your sexual relationship good for both of you.
Q: I like to exercise. Can I continue to do it while pregnant?
A: During pregnancy, you can continue to exercise and get health benefits. It is best to exercise three to five times each week. Drink plenty of water and eat a healthful diet. Wear clothing that is comfortable, and dress so you do not get overheated.
Some cautions for you when exercising during pregnancy:
- Avoid exercising flat on your back after the first three months of your pregnancy.
- Avoid standing for long periods of time.
- Stop exercising when you are tired.
- Avoid any type of exercise that can cause even mild trauma to the abdomen.
Talk to your doctor if you have pregnancy-induced hypertension or diabetes, premature labor, maternal heart disease, premature rupture of membranes, vaginal bleeding, competent cervix or a cerclage, intrauterine growth retardation and Placenta Previa.
Q: Does my age impact my pregnancy?
A: It is true that being greater than 35 years old makes your pregnancy high-risk. The most recognized and feared risk is that of chromosome disorders affecting your fetus, though the pregnancy risks are not limited to genetics. Women greater than 35 years old are also at higher risk for acquiring gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, growth disturbances in the baby, stillbirth and other complications. In spite of the risks associated with advanced maternal age, the likelihood of having a healthy pregnancy is still high. Especially for an older mother who is in good health, with close observation and surveillance, we would expect you to have a successful pregnancy.
—Mona Prasad, DO
Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology
Q: What can I do to prevent my baby from being born early?
A: Preventing preterm birth should begin before pregnancy. Start by eliminating risks such as smoking and alcohol, by improving your diet, by taking prenatal vitamins, by maintaining physical fitness through regular exercise and by planning your pregnancy to fit your work and family schedules.
Once you become pregnant, educate yourself about the signs and symptoms of early birth; they are not the same as for birth at-term. Women who have any bleeding or spotting or who experience premenstrual-type symptoms of pelvic pressure or cramping have increased risk and should be evaluated, even in the second trimester.
—Jay Iams, MD
Vice Chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology
Q: What is preeclampsia?
A: Preeclampsia is a disorder specific to pregnancy that classically consists of three symptoms: high blood pressure; swelling, especially of the hands and face (edema); and protein in the urine (proteinuria). Not everyone with preeclampsia has all of these symptoms. Conversely, not everyone with these symptoms has preeclampsia. Preeclampsia complicates about 8 percent of pregnancies, making it one of the most common complications a pregnant woman may encounter.
Some warning signs of preeclampsia are severe headaches that do not go away, pain around the liver and new onset of severe "heartburn-like" pain. Communicate any of these signs to your obstetrician.
—Philip Samuels, MD
Director of the Maternal Fetal Medicine Fellowship Program
Q: Is it possible for a woman born with a heart defect to have a successful pregnancy?
A: It most certainly is! We have a team here that is devoted to caring for women with congenital and acquired heart disease who wish to become pregnant. The team consists of cardiologists, anesthesiologists and obstetricians.
The most important thing for a woman to do is to meet with us when she makes the decision to become pregnant. We take a careful history to determine what type of heart defect she was born with and what measures were taken to correct the problem. Next, we perform tests such as echocardiograms and MRIs to determine her current heart function. After all this information is obtained, we can make a plan to care for the woman for her pregnancy and delivery. We will also make a plan to assess her unborn child for congenital heart disease as well, as the baby is at slightly greater risk for having a heart problem.
—David Colombo, MD
Physician Advisor, Maternal Fetal Medicine
Q: How does a multiples pregnancy differ from a single pregnancy?
A: Multiple gestation is seen more frequently today. These pregnancies are considered to be at higher risk, and close follow-up is necessary to ensure a good outcome.
The most significant complication of multiple gestation is preterm birth. It is more difficult to carry multiples, and the risk of preterm delivery increases in proportion to the number of babies in the womb. Our Maternal Fetal Medicine team monitors not only the growth and development of the babies, but also the strength of the mother's uterus and its ability to sustain the pregnancy.
—Richard O'Shaughnessy, MD
Director of the Fetal Treatment Program
Q: How does my family history affect my pregnancy?
A: Pregnancy is the perfect time to focus on your family history as you consider how the past might influence the future. Families have many factors in common, including their genes, environment and lifestyle. Together, these factors can give clues to medical conditions that may run in a family.
Some health problems are more likely to occur in certain families, racial groups or ethnic groups. Certain diseases are linked to specific genes. In addition, your baby's risk of developing diseases such as diabetes, seizure disorder or mental retardation may be higher if someone in your family has had them. Discussing your family history with your healthcare provider during pregnancy can offer opportunities to reduce risk and improve outcomes for your newborn.
—Britton Rink, MD
Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology
Q: What can I do to plan my pregnancy if I have diabetes?
A: We have known for a number of years that controlling blood glucose at the time of conception and in the first trimester of pregnancy is critical to reducing the risk of certain birth defects that can be associated with maternal diabetes. Women with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are at risk for such outcomes if their blood glucose levels are consistently elevated during early pregnancy.
We encourage women with diabetes to have a prepregnancy consultation with our experienced team, at which time we carefully assess their diabetic control as it relates to planning the optimal time for pregnancy. Also at this visit, we determine if there are vascular complications of diabetes (kidney or eye disease) that may in some cases be affected by pregnancy. The good news is that with pregnancy planning and expert prenatal care, most women with diabetes can have a successful pregnancy and delivery of a healthy, full-term infant.
—Mark Landon, MD
Chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology