December 21, 2016

Holiday Advice for Moms-To-Be and New Moms

shutterstock-pregnant-holidaysLorrie Harris-Sagaribay, coordinator of MotherToBaby NC, answers questions for moms-to-be and new moms.

I’m pregnant. Is an occasional glass of wine okay?

There is no “safe” level of alcohol during pregnancy. Exposure to alcohol has a direct effect on your baby’s brain development throughout, and even after, pregnancy. Avoid risks by choosing nonalcoholic beverages.

What about drinking alcohol if I’m breastfeeding?

It takes about 2 to 2½ hours for each standard serving of alcohol to clear from breast milk. (A standard serving is 12 ounces of beer, 4 to 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor.) Pumping and discarding breast milk, drinking water, taking caffeine or exercising cannot help your body metabolize alcohol faster.

Is it okay to use over-the-counter cold medicines?

Read labels carefully. Multisymptom cold formulas may contain alcohol or additional ingredients you don’t need. Use cold medicines at the lowest effective dose for the shortest time needed, and follow dosing instructions carefully. Decongestants should be used sparingly, especially if you have high blood pressure, you smoke, or you’re taking medications to reduce fever, pain or inflammation. Also try to avoid decongestants during your first trimester unless allergy symptoms affect your ability to sleep and breathe — both are important for a healthy pregnancy.

Pregnancy-approved treatments for a stuffy nose are saline nose spray or a neti pot filled with sterile saline rinse, nasal strips at night, and sleeping with your head slightly elevated. Most antihistamines (examples are Claritin® and Zyrtec®) are also considered safe to use.

Could depression and anxiety medications hurt my baby?

Taking antidepressants during pregnancy is safe overall. Although there is a slightly increased chance of certain complications, there may be even greater risks when depression is left untreated, such as increased risks for miscarriage, preeclampsia (dangerously high blood pressure), preterm delivery, low birth weight and postpartum depression. Talk to your doctor to help you weigh the risks and benefits of using antidepressants during pregnancy.

Should I get the flu shot if I’m pregnant?

Yes! Women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant should get an annual flu shot as soon as it’s available. Pregnant women have an increased risk of serious complications from the flu, such as severe breathing problems and even death. Severe flu infection can also increase the risk for miscarriage or premature delivery. Getting the flu shot also passes some protection against the flu to your developing baby for the first months after delivery. Nasal spray influenza vaccine (FluMist®) is not recommended during pregnancy.

Is it safe to dye my hair during pregnancy?

Hair products, including dyes, are considered low risk during pregnancy if used as directed. To be extra safe, wait until after the first trimester to dye your hair. If you already colored your hair during your first trimester, don’t worry. Absorption of any chemicals through the skin is minimal, and there are no known risks associated with hair dyes.


Lorrie Harris-Sagaribay, MPH, is coordinator of MotherToBaby NC, Fullerton Genetics Center, Mission Health.

MotherToBaby NC is a free, statewide service providing current information about risks associated with medications, drugs and alcohol, chemical exposures, illnesses and more during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Call toll-free 1-800-532-6302, email facts@mothertobaby.org or visit mothertobabync.org. Spanish language assistance is available.

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