Answers to Common Pregnancy Questions

Premier Physician Network doctors answer frequently asked questions about pregnancy.

What is preconception, and why is that time important?

Preconception is the time in a woman’s life when she is not actively trying to prevent pregnancy. It’s important because it means a woman should take the steps toward living a healthy lifestyle before becoming pregnant, according to the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionOff Site Icon (CDC).

Most of the time, when a woman becomes pregnant, she doesn’t know until she misses her next period, according to the CDC. So, choosing healthy lifestyle choices long before finding out she’s pregnant is the best for the baby’s growth and development.

Talk to your doctor for more information about preconception.

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How can a couple prepare for conception?

Preconception health is different for everyone because each person has individual needs. Every couple, however, can prepare by choosing to live well, make healthy choices, feel positive about their life and be encouraging and supportive of each other, according to the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionOff Site Icon (CDC).

The CDC describes preconception health as “a precious gift to babies,” and explains that by choosing to strive for a healthy weight, stop smoking, decrease stress, take the right vitamins and sleep well, couples are choosing to provide a healthy start to life for their babies.

A few ways the CDC recommends preparing for pregnancy include:

  • Avoid stressful and abusive environments
  • Care for current medical conditions and get them under control
  • Check with your doctor about the safety of any medications you take
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Get mentally healthy so you can feel positive about your life
  • Get up-to-date on vaccinations
  • Learn your family health history
  • Quit smoking
  • Stop drinking alcohol
  • Take 400 micrograms of folic acid daily for at least a month before pregnancy to help with the baby’s brain and spine growth
  • Work toward and maintain a healthy weight

For more information about how couples can prepare for conception, talk with your doctor.

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How do weight and age play into preconception?

Weight and age are important factors in preconception. Being overweight and being underweight both can cause ovulation problems. Maintaining a healthy weight helps improve your chances of getting pregnant and helps women to better manage weight gain while they are pregnant, according to WomensHealth.govOff Site Icon.

Age also plays an important role in preconception health, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon. Becoming pregnant while still a teenager often causes the mother to develop high blood pressure and anemia (a lack of healthy red blood cells). There is also a higher risk of low birth weight and early labor.

Becoming pregnant for the first time after age 35 also increases pregnancy risks, according to WomensHealth.gov, including:

  • A cesarean delivery instead of a natural birth
  • Complications during delivery, including excessive bleeding during labor
  • Genetic disorders in the infant, such as Down syndrome
  • Labor that does not progress like it should
  • Long labor, lasting more than 20 hours

It is important to plan a visit with your doctor to talk about how your weight and your age could affect your pregnancy. Preconception is the best time to have this conversation so your doctor can help you prepare yourself to help your baby grow and develop in a healthy way during pregnancy.

Talk to your doctor also for more information the role of age and weight in preconception.

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How important is it for a pregnant woman to get the flu vaccination?

It is very important for pregnant women to get the flu vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionOff Site Icon (CDC).

The flu is a serious illness, and it can cause serious problems to pregnant women, putting them at higher risk of hospitalization and even death, according to the CDC.

Getting such a severe illness while you’re pregnant also can be dangerous to your unborn baby, increasing the risk of premature labor and delivery, according to the CDC.

Getting a flu shot is the best protection for both you and your baby, according to the CDC. The flu shot causes your baby to make antibodies to help fight the flu. Those antibodies are passed on to your baby.

The antibodies a pregnant mother passes on to her unborn baby will help protect the baby for up to six months after the baby is born, according to the CDC. This is important because babies cannot get their own flu shots until they are 6 months old.

For more information about the importance of pregnant women getting flu shots, talk with your doctor.

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What are ways a pregnant woman can care for herself if she does get the flu?

If you are pregnant and have flu-like symptoms, it’s important to call your doctor’s office right away, according to the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionOff Site Icon (CDC). The symptoms of the flu, especially a fever, can be dangerous to your growing baby.

In addition to calling your doctor, the CDC and U. S. Department of Health and Human ServicesOff Site Icon (HHS) recommend the following:

  • Covering yourself with a blanket to help with chills
  • Drinking plenty of fluids, including broth, water, and sports drinks
  • Gargling with warm, salty water to help a sore throat
  • Getting a lot of rest
  • Putting cool wet washcloths on your forehead, arms, and legs to help ease fevers
  • Taking acetaminophen (Tylenol) to lower your fever
  • Using a humidifier to make it easier to breathe

On a case-by-case basis, doctors can sometimes prescribe an antiviral medicine to treat the flu, according to the HHS.

The CDC and the HHS also advice pregnant women with the flu to call 911 right away to get emergency medical care if they have any of the following symptoms:

  • Breathing problems, shortness of breath
  • Chest or abdomen pain or pressure
  • Confusion
  • Decreased or no baby movement
  • High fever
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Vomiting that is severe or ongoing

Talk to your doctor to learn more about what to do if you are pregnant and have the flu.

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When during pregnancy is a woman tested for gestational diabetes? How is the testing done?

All pregnant women are checked for gestational diabetes, according to The American Congress of Obstetricians and GynecologistsOff Site Icon (ACOG).

The screening is usually done between 24 weeks and 28 weeks of pregnancy but is sometimes done earlier for women who have risk factors that increase the chances of having gestational diabetes, according to ACOG.

The screening involves a couple of steps, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

First, you drink a sugary drink. An hour later, you have your blood drawn to check your blood sugar level. You do not need to fast for this test, and it can be done any time of day, according to the NIH.

If the level is higher than normal, you might have to have another, for which you will have to fast for at least eight hours before the test, according to the NIH.

Your blood sugar level will be checked before you start, then you will drink a sugary drink, according to the NIH. Your blood sugar will be checked again after one hour, two hours and maybe three hours to determine if your levels are again too high.

Talk to your doctor for more information about gestational diabetes screenings.

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Who is at risk for developing gestational diabetes?

A variety of factors can increase your risk of having gestational diabetes, according to The American Congress of Obstetricians and GynecologistsOff Site Icon (ACOG).

You are more likely, according to ACOG, to develop gestational diabetes if you have the following risk factors:

  • close relative with diabetes
  • ethnicity – African American, American Indian, Asian American, Hispanic, Latina, or Pacific Islander
  • older than 25
  • overweight
  • polycystic ovary syndrome
  • prediabetes
  • previous gestational diabetes
  • previous stillbirth
  • very large baby

For more information about risks of developing gestational diabetes, talk with your physician.

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How does gestational diabetes affect your pregnancy?

If you have gestational diabetes and don’t treat it, it can be harmful to both you and your growing baby, according to the American Diabetes AssociationOff Site Icon (ADA).

Having gestational diabetes causes the pancreas to work extra hard to make insulin, but that insulin still doesn’t lower blood sugar levels the way it should, according to the ADA.

The extra blood sugar travels through the placenta and gives the baby high blood sugar, which makes the baby’s pancreas create too much insulin also, according to the ADA. The extra insulin makes the baby grow extra fat – a condition called macrosomia.

Macrosomia can cause health problems for the baby, including shoulder damage during birth, jaundice, low blood sugar at birth, breathing problems and increased risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes, according to the ADA.

Having gestational diabetes also can affect you, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH), by increasing your chances of:

  • cesarean delivery
  • depression
  • preeclampsia (high blood pressure and too much protein in your urine)
  • type 2 diabetes

Talk to your doctor for more information about how gestational diabetes affects your pregnancy.

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How is gestational diabetes treated?

Treating gestational diabetes means working to keep your blood sugar levels in a healthy range, according to National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

Your doctor will help you to set the right range for you and can teach you to maintain it, according to the NIH, by

  • being physically active
  • eating right
  • taking insulin shots or other medication

Knowing what foods to eat, how much to each, and when to eat are all very important to controlling your blood sugar level, according to NIH.

To learn more about treating gestational diabetes, talk with your doctor.

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What is CenteringPregnancy®?

Certified Nurse Midwife Jalana Lazar discusses what CenteringPregnancy is. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

CenteringPregnancy is prenatal care group approach that provides health assessments, interactive learning and community buildingfor mothers-to-be, according to the Ohio Department of HealthOff Site Icon (ODH).

Patients meet as a group throughout their pregnancy. Having others in the group to lean on who are having similar experiences can help pregnant women feel more comfortable, motivated, and empowered during pregnancy and after the baby’s birth, according to the ODH.

Talk to your doctor for more information about CenteringPregnancy.

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What is the goal of CenteringPregnancy?

Certified Nurse Midwife Jalana Lazar discusses the goal of CenteringPregnancy. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

The goal of CenteringPregnancy is to promote healthy behaviors for pregnant women during their pregnancy and after the birth of their child, according to the Ohio Department of HealthOff Site Icon (ODH).

CenteringPregnancy uses a group approach to provide health care, education, and support – including child care, snacks, and transportation. CenteringPregnancy provides a safe place for moms-to-be to share their feelings and questions with other women having similar experiences, according to the ODH.

The group setting helps the women build positive peer relationships, which encourages healthy choices while they are pregnant and provide support after birth, according to the ODH.

By promoting healthy behaviors during pregnancy and after birth, the ODH says that CenteringPregnancy strives to help:

  • Decrease the frequency of premature births
  • Increase birth weight
  • Improve patient and health care provider satisfaction

Talk to your doctor for more information about the goal of CenteringPregnancy.

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What are the benefits of CenteringPregnancy?

Certified Nurse Midwife Jalana Lazar discusses the benefits of CenteringPregnancy. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

CenteringPregnancy has a variety of benefits. It is important because it provides a safe place for pregnant women to share their experiences with and relate to other women with similar experiences, according to the Ohio Department of Health Off Site Icon(ODH).

The group health care setting can help provide positive peer encouragement and promotes health choices during pregnancy, according to the ODH.

Those healthy choices help achieve positive pregnancy goals among CenteringPregnancy patients, according to Premier Physician Network’ physicians, including a decrease the frequency of premature births and improved patient satisfaction with their prenatal care.

Talk to your doctor for more information about the benefits of CenteringPregnancy.

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What makes a woman a good candidate for a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC)?

Dr. Stephen Guy discusses what makes a woman a good candidate for a VBAC. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

A good candidate for a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) has had no more than two prior cesareans, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and GynecologistsOff Site Icon (ACOG).

It’s also important that a woman choosing a VBAC only has a low transverse incision below the navel (side-to-side) because they are at less risk of developing a ruptured uterus compared to a vertical (up and down) incisions, according to the ACOG.

Premier Health Specialists' (PPN) physicians say good candidates also would include people who had a C-section because their baby was breech or for fetal distress.

For more information about who makes a good candidate for VBAC, talk to your doctor.

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What factors should be considered when making the decision to have a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC)?

Dr. Stephen Guy discusses what factors a woman should consider when deciding whether to have a VBAC. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

When deciding whether a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) is right for them, women should consider a variety of factors.

Some factors that are more likely to make a VBAC successful, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and GynecologistsOff Site Icon (ACOG) and Premier Health Specialists’ (PPN) physicians, include:

  • A previous successful vaginal delivery
  • No more than two previous cesareans
  • Not overdue for birth
  • Not considering induction
  • Transverse (side-to-side), not vertical, incision from a previous C-section 

For more information about who makes a good candidate for VBAC, talk to your doctor.

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What factors might increase or decrease a woman’s ability to have a successful vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC)?

Dr. Stephen Guy discusses which factors might increase or decrease a woman’s ability to have a successful VBAC. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

A variety of factors can affect whether a woman is more or less likely to have a successful vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC), according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and GynecologistsOff Site Icon (ACOG).

Some of the factors, according to the ACOG and Premier Physician Network' (PPN) physicians, include:

  • Age of the mother – Younger mothers are at less risk of complications during a VBAC
  • Conditions of previous labor – A woman who had a prior labor that stopped dilating or had a baby stop descending has a decreased chance of a successful VBAC.
  • Maternal weight – The more a mother weighs, the more difficult a VBAC can be to complete.
  • A normal size baby – This will increase the likelihood of a successful VBAC, whereas a large baby might require a C-section.
  • A baby that is already head down – Having a baby facing the correct way will create less risk of VBAC complications.

For more information about who makes a good candidate for VBAC, talk to your doctor.

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What is placenta previa?

Dr. Bachman discusses placenta previa. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Placenta previa is a condition in which the placenta implants itself low in the uterus and either partially or completely covers the cervix, according to the American Pregnancy AssociationOff Site Icon (APA).

Placenta previa affects about 1 in every 200 pregnant women, according to the APA.

With the placenta covering all or part of the cervix, a vaginal delivery can cause severe bleeding, so almost all women with placenta previa need a C-section, according to the National Institutes of Health [Link to http://nih.gov/ in a new window with off site icon and 3rd party content disclaimer] (NIH). Talk to your doctor for more information about placenta previa.

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What puts a woman at increased risk for placenta previa?

Dr. Bachman discusses increased risk of placenta previa. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Though there are a variety of risk factors that can increase a woman’s risk for placenta previa.

According to Premier Physician Network (PPN) physicians and the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH), the following things can increase a woman’s risk for developing placenta previa:

  • Abnormally shaped uterus
  • In vitro fertilization
  • Pregnancy at an older age
  • Pregnancy with multiple children, such as twins or triplets
  • Prior miscarriages
  • Prior pregnancies
  • Prior uterine surgery, including C-section
  • Smoking
  • Use of cocaine

Placenta previa affects about 1 in every 200 pregnant women, according to the NIH.

Talk to your doctor for more information about increase risk of placenta previa.

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What are the symptoms of placenta previa?

Dr. Bachman discusses symptoms of placenta previa. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

The most common symptom of placenta previa is sudden bleeding from the vagina, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

Bleeding typically starts near the end of the second trimester or beginning of the third trimester, according to the NIH.

Some women also have cramps with this condition.

Bleeding from placenta previa can be severe and can be life threatening to both the baby and the mother, according to the NIH. Though the bleeding can stop on its own, it can also start again days or weeks later.

For some women, labor starts within days of the bleeding. Other women don’t bleed until after labor starts, according to the NIH.

For more details about symptoms of placenta previa, talk with your doctor.

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What are the symptoms of a hernia following a C-section?

Though hernias after a C-section aren’t common, when they do happen it is because an organ or tissue bulges through the muscles that weakened when they were split vertically during the surgery, according to Premier Physician Network (PPN) physicians.

The most common symptom of a hernia after a C-section is pain, and sometimes you’ll notice a small bulge in your abdomen.

However, other women have no symptoms, and the hernia is found during a medical exam or procedure.

For more information about symptoms of a hernia after a C-section, talk with your doctor.

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What puts women at higher risk for getting a hernia after a C-section?

With most C-sections, the incision is on the lower abdomen and is made horizontally.

However, once inside, surgeons split the muscles vertically to get the baby out, according to Premier Physician Network (PPN) physicians.

A hernia happens when part of an organ or internal tissue create a bulge though a weak area of muscle. It is usually in the abdomen. Though hernias after a C-section aren’t common, when they do happen it is because an organ or tissue bulges through the muscles that weakened when they were split during the surgery.

Talk to your doctor for more information about what puts women at higher risk of getting a hernia after a C-section.

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What is the hCG hormone, and what role does it play in testing for pregnancy?

hCG is a hormone made by the placenta when you’re pregnant. It starts to be made just after the embryo attaches to the uterine wall, according to the Food and Drug AdministrationOff Site Icon (FDA). 

When you’re pregnant, the hCG hormone increases very quickly. It typically doubles every 72 hours until it reaches its peak between eight and 11 weeks of pregnancy, according to the American Pregnancy AssociationOff Site Icon (APA). 

hCG levels are what register positive or negative on a pregnancy test – both with an at-home urine test and a blood test. 

For more information about hCG and how it affects pregnancy tests, talk with your doctor. 

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What is the difference between a urine test and a blood test when testing for pregnancy?

At home, you can test for pregnancy using a urine stream or urine dip test stick. You have to read and follow the directions carefully for accurate results.

The test can detect levels of hCG in your body through your urine. It’s most accurate testing with your first morning urine, according to the Food and Drug AdministrationOff Site Icon (FDA). 

With a blood test for pregnancy, your hCG levels are measured to help determine exactly how old your fetus is.  

Repeat blood tests can be done a couple days apart to see if your hCG numbers are increasing at the rate they should be or if intervention can help the pregnancy.  

For more information about urine pregnancy tests and blood pregnancy tests, talk with your doctor. 

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Can home pregnancy tests expire?

Home pregnancy tests can expire if not used in a timely fashion. Though most have long expiration dates, they can give false results if used outside those dates, according to Premier Physician Network (PPN) physicians.

Make sure to check the packaging for the expiration date before using it. 

For more information about home pregnancy tests expiring, talk with your doctor. 

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When should a woman be tested by her physician for pregnancy?

If you have missed your period and feel like you might be pregnant, but your home pregnancy test says otherwise, it’s time to visit your doctor for a follow up test.   Your doctor can do a blood test that can be more accurate than a home test, and the results of the office test can shed some light on the home-test results, according to Premier Physician Network (PPN) physicians.  

For more information about when a woman should be tested by her physician for pregnancy, talk with your doctor.

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How soon after giving birth can a woman become pregnant?

Many women believe they can’t get pregnant again shortly after giving birth, but that’s not the case, Premier Physician Network (PPN) physicians say.

You can get pregnant again as soon as you ovulate, which for some women can be as soon as five weeks after childbirth.

Talk to your doctor for more details about getting pregnant shortly after giving birth.

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How long should a woman wait before conceiving after giving birth?

Though women can get pregnant within a few weeks after giving birth, getting pregnant again that soon should not be a goal.

It’s recommended that you wait at least 12 months after giving birth to become pregnant again, according to Office of Women’s HealthOff Site Icon (HMS).

This waiting period gives your body the time it needs to fully recover from the birth of your baby and to prepare for another pregnancy.

Talk to your doctor to find out more about how long you should wait after giving birth to become pregnant again.

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Can a woman conceive while breastfeeding?

There’s an idea that women can’t get pregnant while breastfeeding.

But, this is a misconception. Though it’s often less likely for some women to conceive while breastfeeding, it is possible, according to Premier Physician Network (PPN) physicians.

Some of us won’t ovulate or menstruate while we’re breastfeeding, but others will.

The best plan of action to avoid getting pregnant again sooner than your body might be ready is to practice safe sex. Because some kinds of birth control medication aren’t safe while you’re breastfeeding, talk to your doctor to decide what kind of birth control method is best for you.

For more information about conceiving while breastfeeding, talk with your doctor.

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Thanks to these Premier Physician Network doctors for answering these common questions about pregnancy:

Additional Resources

This website provides general medical information that should be used for informative and educational purposes only. Information found here should not be used as a substitute for the personal, professional medical advice of your physician. Do not begin any course of treatment without consulting a physician.

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