Learning not to worry during pregnancy

May 26 2010 | Guest post by Camilla Wells
Painting while pregnant?! Oh noooo! ;)
Painting while pregnant?! Oh noooo! 😉

I was an unstable person in early pregnancy. I sweated over every symptom I did — or did not — experience. Constantly anxious, I fretted that my breasts weren't tender enough, that I was nauseous but not throwing up, that I was tired but not that tired, or that the back pain I had was just a little too intense. I googled every symptom and inevitably ended up on some page with multiple posts from women who had symptoms just like mine … and miscarried four days later. I was also worried that I would screw up. I thought that I would exercise too much (ha — that hasn't happened yet), I wouldn't exercise enough (more likely), I would drink caffeine and hurt my child, I would eat Chipotle too often and have too much sodium in my system, I would paint the nursery and the fumes would cause some strange deformity, or I would eat some lunch meat and get listeriosis.

When faced with some minor spotting (which is normal in 1/3 of pregnancies, according to The Mayo Clinic Guide to Pregnancy), I finagled my way into a viability ultrasound (at five weeks!) and gladly signed up for another one at nine weeks. My new doctor, the chill one, was all like, "Why'd you have so many ultrasounds?" when I saw him for the first time. Um, because I'm nuts?

Camilla and her one-a-day diet soda.
When I got to my second trimester, I started a no-worrying campaign. I decided not to look on any more internet sites with editorial comments from grieving women. I made a vow not to worry about every little thing that the pregnancy books tell you to do or not do. And you know what? It has been tremendously liberating.
Along with this liberation, I have adopted Pregnancy Vices, for which I am sometimes repudiated, and gleefully, I ignore those who would doubt me.

These are my confessions:
• I drink one diet soda a day. Okay, I drink two sometimes. I counteract them with water, lots of milk, and ice cream (I hear ice cream replaces the calcium that the soda leaches from your bones … ha!)
• I take a walk when I feel like it, but sometimes I don't. This weekend, I skipped prenatal yoga.
• I take Tylenol when I have a headache.
• I took Alavert during the week or two I had allergies.
• I use face wash with salicylic acid. It helps the preggo acne.
• I use whitening toothpaste sometimes.
• This weekend, I painted. I got paint that was low-VOC, but not no-VOC. Yep. I feel no worse for the wear, and the baby is kicking just as hard as ever. I do think that if you DRINK like, oil paint or something that you might hurt your little one. But all the stuff about paint is just way over-hyped. I'm glad my living room is Tawny Birch, and not dingy gray anymore.
• I've eaten at Wendy's twice. It was delicious.
• At my work retreat, I drank a beer. At a friend's house, I had a glass of wine.
• Sometimes I substitute green vegetables with those green smoothies from Odwalla or Naked. They have blue green algae and wheat grass and stuff. So, that's like vegetables, right?
• Yes, I do eat lunch meat. I make sure its fresh, and then I eat it. And it's a good thing.
• Tonight, I had pizza. With bacon on it.

I hope to extend this philosophy to my child-rearing. I think a person can over-think things too much — it hurts your psyche, and you have to take care of yourself in order to take care of a baby. I feel more confident since I stopped worrying so much, and I think the same thing will be true when the baby is born. You can't do all of the right things all of the time, and you can't beat yourself up when you don't accomplish all that you've wanted. You can't worry over every symptom, or overreact when your child meets a milestone a month later than he or she should. If you spend your life sweating the small stuff, you aren't really living, and what kind of message does that send to your child? I know I'll always be a worrier, so I'm glad I learned this lesson early.

  1. Love it. Great list! I started the not worrying right from the beginning because like hell I'm going to go without sandwiches. They're a major staple of my diet!

    3 agree
  2. I went through this! however once I relaxed and decided it wouldn't be a terrible thing if I had a cup of coffee a day, or did paint that room myself, I could not stop myself from feeling like a bad mother once the cup was empty or the wall was painted. Finally I have grown up and gotten mentally to where you are now. Thanks for sharing!

    ps. really want some bacon pizza now.

  3. yes! Pepsi gets me through the day! And there ain't nothing wrong with that!

    BUT, if one more person tells me my baby is going to have ADHD because I eat too much candy, I'm going to punch them in the face.
    How's that for not worrying?


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    • OMG I get this too! A random lady said something to me THIS morning at the store. Granted, I had three bags of different candy in my arms but still. I ate ALOT of chocolate with my first one and she is as chill as you can be so yeah shove it people.

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  4. I absolutely went through this my first pregnancy. I went to the hospital four times because I didn't think the baby was kicking enough. Looking back I'm sure the nurses thought I was nuts! But then one day, I ate a bologna sandwich without thinking about it and then realized it and sobbed – I'm talking like someone had died sobbed – on the kitchen floor thinking I had just harmed my baby. After about 15 minutes, something in me just snapped and I thought to myself it was a damn sandwich you are taking this WAY to serious and from that point I chilled out. This pregnancy I'm so busy with my daughter you knows what I ate on automatic sometimes.

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  5. Funny facts: Quite a few European doctors encourage *light* drinking of wine during pregnancy. Sometimes I wonder if, instead of warning labels on everything, we should take a hint from Douglas Adams and have "Don't Panic" in big, bold letters.

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    • In the US, doctors in the 80s used to recommend this too! I know my mom definitely drank some wine when she was pregnant with me on doctor's orders!

      • My Dad's French and..wait for it…his mom used to put a spoonful of wine in his bottle when he was a baby!! Now he's a healthy and happy 60-year-old. But I still wouldn't do that to my baby (probably get reported to child services)!

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        • In Peru they encourage pregnant mothers to have an occasional dark beer. Apparently the malt is good for the baby. My mom obediently enjoyed her occasional dark beers, and I came out healthy and strong. Oddly, however, I prefer alcoholic fruit ciders. 😀

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    • Outside of the US, dark beer is recognized as useful to helping new moms produce milk. So a little Guiness at the end of pregnancy and while breastfeeding is encouraged. There's some advice I can't wait to try! 🙂

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  6. I did a whole mess of things you're not supposed to do 😛
    I ate deli meat. My favorite was london broil. OMG. I ate rare steaks. I ate sushi with raw fish! I had bleu cheese and brie.
    I didn't sit and gorge on it, but I ate it, in moderation. (I was probably naughtiest with the bleu cheese. One of my biggest cravings!!) My son is perfectly healthy, and I had an uneventful pregnancy 😉

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    • It seems awfully strange to me that people get so worked up and judgmental about this kind of thing when you're pregnant…what about when you're not pregnant? Are we really supposed to believe that all of these things are going to hurt not us, but our baby, and we're terrible people for descrating the temple that is our womb…but the rest of the time, it's fine 'cause it's just you. It reminds me of my mother, who quit smoking for the duration of three pregnancies, and went back to it each time. I would rather she had eaten brie throughout than convinced herself that she needed to be healthy for the baby's sake alone.

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      • I had a coworker of mine approach me, genuinely concerned, while I ate Indian food for lunch one day. She told me I shouldn't be eating that becuase the spices were bad for the baby. LOL I wonder what Indian women eat while they are pregnant? 😀
        People can say some very harmful things to pregnant women, and whether their intentions are good or not, I will people would stop judging and stop helping. Thanks for the very enlightened post. 🙂

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        • People love that they have the opportunity to have some say in other people's (read: women's) choices. It's like they're waiting for that moment. But seriously, Indian food? *eyeroll so loud I can hear it*

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  7. Oh I so needed to read this post, as I have worried about everything! I feel guilty if anyone sees me having my daily diet soda. And, honestly, no one really cares; it's all in my head!

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  8. i can understand why women do this, considering the INSANE amount of "you must not do this, you must do that" that our culture does. i've developed a bullshit detector, not just to do with the advice i give my clients as a doula but for my own life. anything that says i MUST do something (or not) to be healthy/thin/happy/perfect i generally scoff at until proven otherwise. common sense is really the best health advice and it's often the ability to stop and ask "why?" or "says who?". it's mean, but i have actually responded to "omg i HAD to take a tylanol for a migraine, is my baby going to die!?" with "can you hear yourself? does that make good sense?"

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  9. i love this post! ive recently gotten over my worrying! lol i went without pop for 3 months, holy hell! eating lunch meat again! and im painting ( always with the windows open and the fan on!)

    my mother in law told me that when she was pregnant with my husband that her doctor told her to have one mixed drink a week and he turned out normal( sorta lol , but that has nothing to do with her, haha)

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  10. I freaked out a little during my 1st pregnancy, but between babies 1 and 2 I found a picture of my grandma with a beer in one hand and an unfiltered camel in the other, hugely pregnant with my aunt. Who turned out fine.

    After seeing that I had my hotdogs without worry.

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  11. Thanks for the post. I too have fretted over small things.
    What I am realizing (unfortunately) is that I wasn't really worried about harming my baby when I broke the "rules"… I knew having a great sandwich or continueing to play a sport I love wasn't going to hurt the baby… but I did worry about what other people would think. Totally need to get over that!!!
    I do still worry about my symptoms and miscarriage and so have sworn off googling for a while. It is more fun to look for wicked baby clothes and nursery decor anyway!!

    1 agrees
    • I know what you mean! I've broken a few of the "rules" consistently throughout my pregnancy, but mostly try not to do it in public because I don't want people judging me.

      What's so strange is that people have no idea what they're talking about most of the time and it can come from the most least expected sources (like my 15yo male neighbor?). Eg where I live the official guideline is that 200mg of caffeine a day is completely safe, yet if you tell someone this (after they have reprimanded you for drinking a cola drink) they just look at you like they truly beleive you've made that information up on the spot and you just dont care that you're killing your baby!

      After doing a LOT of research (probably too much) on the pregnancy rules I've found the majority of things I was told by people in the first 3 months is a load of crap (eg dont dye your hair, dont paint your fingernails) that just keeps getting perpetuated by people who dont know any better.

      My biggest advice to any pregnant woman is do your own research and make you're own decisions based on the risks you've found out.

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  12. Hey I totally agree with you on chilling out on the dos and don'ts. On the other hand, a regular ultrasound is comforting. I had most of my pregnancy in Japan where they do a quick ultrasound at every check-up. I always felt a lot more in touch with my baby after seeing her wriggle and hearing the heartbeat.

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  13. I am planning on ignoring the "thou shalt not eat sushi while preggers" rule.

    And my goodness am I sick of people gleefully pointing out that I will not be allowed to eat sushi when I preg up (yeah, I eat sushi on a daily basis, in Australia, not Japan), and I think i am ready to have my babybrain freak out now!

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    • I think that just really depends on what type of sushi you eat. As long as it's low mercury fish you should be fine 🙂

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  14. Google was both my best friend and my enemy during my pregnancy. It was definitely become my BFF now that I've become a mother. It nice to know that other people (even cyber people) were going through sleepless nights and babies that wont feed.

    I was a very naughty pregnant woman. I went on a long haul(ish) flight in my first trimester, I ate almost all the things they say not to (except drugs, obvs). I drank tea and coffee and coke. Side story: My sister and I (both pregnant) were standing in line drinking coffee and got told off by a real "mommy" type woman. A few months later, we both gave birth to a 6lbs and a 5lbs baby. Perhaps "mommy" woman was right.

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  15. I was a medical freak in vitro and my Mum never really knew I was coming until she was 6 months pregnant. Needless to say she drank, ate and did pretty much everything that you're told not to! The conclusion? I came out fine 🙂

  16. Thank you for this!! I am 16 weeks pregnant, and in the beginning, I worried about everything I put in my mouth. The doctors gave me a long list of things to avoid and the books gave even more. After talking to my mom one day, I realized that my having a cup of coffee or a soda is not going to be the end of the world. Everything in moderation.

  17. This definitely used to be me too, and I didn't come around until recently, hitting my 3rd trimester. I wish I had enjoyed my pregnancy more. Here's the way my midwife put it:
    "A glass of wine isn't going to give your baby Fetal Alcohol Syndrome anymore than a doughnut is going to give it diabetes." That mantra works just as well in reverse order. 🙂

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  18. I should show this to my mother! My sister had 2 miscarriages, and now I'm 13 weeks pregnant (and my sister is due any day now) and my mom glares at me for dragging around my huge purse and has decided that I can't paint ever again. She's gotten a little overprotective (I'd better not tell her that I was moving a couch on the weekend). Things in moderation are just fine – and I've got to get that baby's room painted eventually!

    • My husband used to get so mad at me when he came home to find I'd rearranged the apartment — I did it, like, four times when I was pregnant. Each time he'd say, "Can't you just wait until I get home?"

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      • FINALLY someone speaks about enemy #1: the hubby! OMG, when I was preggers he would not let me do ANYTHING. While it was cute at the beginning, it got annoying VERY fast. The fact I later miscarried (for the second time @ a solid THREE months) didn´t help at all, though… 🙁

  19. You know what else? I don't sterilize my breast shields or baby bottles, I just wash them. My daughter is healthy and full of energy. This is definitely a good lesson to learn early on.

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  20. I was the same way! I have called my husband bawling in a panic more times than I can count because of some new thing I read about on the internet. I have since banned myself from googling pregnancy related terms that I know will just set me off. Also, I finally had to give in like you, and most of the other posters here and let myself LIVE while I was pregnant. I have eaten lunch meat, tuna, and rare steaks. I have had diet soda and regular soda, and sometimes there isn't anything that tastes better than a gooey cheese pizza. I am now 32 weeks, my daughter is growing well and is very healthy, as am I. We are going to be just fine.
    Thanks for posting this! It helps to know that pregnancy insanity doesn't just apply to me. 🙂

    1 agrees
  21. What, I'm not supposed to have pizza?! Oops, and fooey.
    I too freaked out my first trimester. (Expected as this is our first). But then I mellowed. My husband actually needs help letting go. He's put a ban on coffee, but I still have the occasional cup of decaf. I also had to convince him that I could in fact eat fried crawfish! He's protested me painting, but not very loudly. 🙂 Someone's gotta do it!
    A month 5 winds down, I'm looking forward to a more mellow 3rd trimester.

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  22. Guess what?? Your strategy works!! I have a ten month old girl who everyone remarks is the most easygoing baby they have ever seen. I don't sweat the small stuff, and I think dog germs, the occasional missed bedtime in lieu of visiting with pals and daddies working late are important. While other people are busy reading all these books, I watched the dog whisperer. I figure if my kidlet is socialized and exercised, all is good. Of course, I also painted and ate all kinds of junk when I was pregnant too, after my greens and proteins. Life is really short, and since I just found out I am pregnant with my second, I am even more determined to chill out this time – I am not cancelling my surfing weekend, nor am I giving up running this time. Good luck to you!

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  23. …I'll admit it. I'm "that" person.
    I totally flinched when I read "soda," "Wendy's," and "beer [while pregnant]." Sorry. But in all fairness, I wouldn't touch any of that with a ten foot pole even if I were pregnant (an earlier poster made a good point mentioning that everyone cares about what you eat when pregnant, but no one cares when you're not).

    That said, it's your life, and your pregnancy. And I trust that you know what's best for you. That's the beauty of it – we all find our Zen differently.

    But try and remember, people like me aren't necessarily trying to be harsh or condescending when questioning your gastroNOMical decisions. It may be us simply being caring and concerned, however oddly it may come across.

    So you enjoy your pizza, and I'll enjoy my algae (which isn't really a veggie). hehe.

    Good read!

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  24. Hells yes!

    I was seriously laid back in pregnancy — I worked at Subway for about 2/3s of it, so I had my share of (heated!) lunch meat, and I had at least one cherry coke a day. I also had water.

    But I ate what sounded good at the time, I had the occasional glass of wine in the last 8 weeks or so, and I have a perfectly normal 14-month-old to show for my lack of effort.

    Rock on with your pregnant self! =D

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  25. I think with the advent of ultrasound scans, pregnancy tests that are effective before your period and the like, our generation is unique in that the baby is in our scope earlier than what our mothers and grandmothers went through, which adds to the pressure of the responsibility we have for it – and subsequently the pressure we put on ourselves to do things the 'right' way, sometimes before conception has even occurred.

    I think that given the worldwide variation in what women do/don't do during pregnancy shows that the babies come out alright in the end!

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  26. I definitely struggle with the worrying aspect of what is and isn't safe. Google can be awesome, and it can also be the worst thing ever. It is nice to see that others have the same struggles and have been able to overcome the paranoia!

  27. If I hear one more person gasp when they hear I've been painting I'm going to punch them! 🙂 I've adopted a very relaxed (yet responsible) approach to pregnancy and I intend to carry it into parenthood. Great post- I've accomplished that entire list! 🙂

  28. I am so glad I read this. I was sobbing last night because a pain on the side of my abdomen, so I went to the doctor this morning because I thought I had an ectopic pregnancy. He laughed at me and said that there was no way I would be this calm (and not puking) if I did so it's just muscular. Whoops.

    I, too, have decided that googling is not a good way to find reliable info. Everyone has an opinion on what you're doing wrong so I'm just taking it in stride now. I feel much better after reading the pregnancy chapter of "Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom" by Dr Christiane Northrup if anyone is looking for a non-alarmist and semi-holistic doctor's opinion I'd suggest having a look. 🙂

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  29. Pheew! I have been totally worried. I had a miscarriage earlier this year. Then, I got pregnant right away. I was told to wait two months to try. I tried after one figuring it would take a while. WRONG. I have been worried ever since. I drink my one cup of coffee a day but try to avoid the rest. Dreaming of wine, brie, blue cheese and lunch meat. I do take unisom as I have nausea and severe insomnia. I have a stepson with ADHD so just a constant worrier. I dont know where it came from. I am 23 weeks and now worried if my baby is normal. SIGH. Trying to meditate more and relax. The internet can be friend and foe. Trying to learn to take a chill pill. My fiance is so relaxed about stuff. I wish i was 🙂

    1 agrees
  30. I love this article! I was the same way with my first pregnancy. I worried about everything! I would have panic attacks about certain symptoms that I thought were life threatening when they weren't. I would have anxiety about every little thing. Ladies – do not stress! Your body will react to it. With me I ended up getting shingles and later boils under my armpits. When you stress your immune system is weakened and your body can react to it. After all that I am now 30 weeks pregnant and my baby is currently healthy and kicking a lot! I just have 10 more weeks to go and can't wait – but what I did learn is not to stress…trust your body and your instincts….let nature take its course..pregnancy is natural and beautiful!

  31. Thank you thank you thank you for writing this!! I am just about to start the second trimester- a time when I should be relaxing a little…however I've been consumed with worry from day 1…that something could go wrong or I would eat, drink, or do something to jeopardize things…Reading all the comments has really helped me chill a little and remember this is out of my control…I too had some spotting week 8 which totally freaked me out and I think that's the main source of my anxiety…anyone else experience that but go on to have normal pregnancies? My dr. isn't worried so I'm trying to learn how to relax mentally and just enjoy the next few months. Best of luck to everyone 🙂

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  32. Thank you so much for posting this – I'm a natural worrier, and I've convinced myself that I'm doing everything wrong and because of that, I'm going to miscarry.

    So thank you again – I needed this.

  33. I'm only 7 weeks and I literally worry about everything. In fact, I came across this page after googling "how not to worry in the first trimester." I worry about not eating & when I give in and eat what I crave (which has mostly been pizza or pasta,) I feel horrendously guilty. I do want to be healthy but I also want to be healthy. I've already heard a heartbeat which supposedly drops miscarriage risk a lot, and before I found out I was pregnant I ate deli meat, drank and even took diet pills and my baby is still fine. I just can not help worrrying. I wish i could be as carefree as this. Hopefully I get there soon! Its already inspired me to give deli meat a try..maybe.

  34. Great post….. I am 36 weeks pregnant and have a happy, healthy 3 year old….. And I have worried my way through both pregnancies.
    Wish I would have read your post earlier…… I think I inherited my tendancy to worry about EVERYTHING from my mum…… And I am determined not to pass it onto my little ones…..
    Gonna try and chill out and enjoy the last month of my pregnancy!

  35. I know I'm really only a handful of weeks along, I've already started the worry process. "I had half a Coke!" (Trying to wean off). "I'm not nauseous enough!" "I'm too exhausted at this early stage" "Am I going to feel like this the entire time?" etc etc etc.
    I've been reading way too many bulletin boards about women not telling people early because more often than not, there's a miscarriage.
    OK. So don't tell anyone because basically I'm not mom material right now. It's "nice" to hear that I'm not the only worry wart. I hope I get over this by week 12.You know, when you're "allowed" to tell everyone.

  36. Dude. Thank you for this. This is my second pregnancy, and even the first time around I was like FUCK ALL Y'ALL TELLING ME THIS RIDICULOUS SHIT. YOU DON'T KNOW ME Y'ALL DON'T LIVE MY LIFE. I was absolutely appalled when I someone told me I shouldn't eat lunch meat. I literally PFFFED in their face.

    My fuck off manifesto:

    -I eat sushi. All the time. Raw ocean fish. I crave the hell out of raw tuna (I'm more cautious with high mercury fish due to the mercury content, so I only do once a week at most). You think they tell Japanese women to not eat sushi during their pregnancy? Doctors encourage women to eat raw fish in their pregnancies in Japan (I know, I lived there as a teenager.) I've read a few articles recently that have affirmed that the worry about eating raw ocean fish in pregnancy is even less a risk than eating bagged spinach, which carries an even higher chance of foodborne illness. And even if it WASN'T: my choice. I had to tell a waiter off last time by asking him if he was my doctor or not. I pfffed in his face, too.

    -I also take acetaminophen and sometimes ibuprofen, because I suffer from really, really bad headaches (which other meds I've tried don't touch). Ibuprofen is not a more serious risk until the third trimester, and then I avoid it.

    -I'm taking ondansetron for severe morning sickness, as well as two drugs for depression that slightly raise the chances of birth defect. The benefits absolutely, absolutely outweigh the risks in my case.

    -I'm too sick and tired to exercise because of the severe morning sickness. And whatever.

    -I drank a moderate amount of coffee last time. Now I can't drink it at all due to gastrointestinal issues, but I would do it again if I could.

    -I eat the hell out of stinky soft cheese.

    -Last time I didn't drink at all. This time, I will drink a glass of champagne or wine once in a great while in 2nd and 3rd trimester. Usually I go on a low-key bender with my husband and MIL during Christmas. This, I swear, I will avoid this year.

    By the logic of what they tell pregnant women not to eat and what to do, they should be telling us to never drive, because there is literally nothing more dangerous than that on the daily. And not to mention the insanely lax chemical regulations in this country (considered safe until proven not safe aka human guinea pigs), half of the products you're using have dangerous chemicals in them, including your couch, your mattress, your cosmetics; EVERYTHING. Johnson's baby wash, for instance, was independently tested and proven to have formaldehyde in it in 2012. Because profit and who cares until there's a lawsuit.

    I really honestly believe most of this shit is an easy way to control women's choices and behavior. Alcohol, nah, that definitely causes FAS. The rest of it is out of control, and I ain't playing. They might as well be telling us to lock ourselves in a damn bubble.

    I mean, if you're really cautious in pregnancy, I'm not judging you, that's totally your prerogative. You're all good.–I just am very skeptical and always do my own scholarly research when anyone tells me what I should and shouldn't do with my own body.

    And EXCUSE ME what is this thing about pizza?!?!?!?????!!!1111 NO. (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

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  37. I'm well into my third trimester and I've "given up" a lot of things since I found out I was pregnant, because I'm a paranoid nervous person. My 3-4 cup of caffeinated tea a day habit turned into one, I haven't eaten cold cuts, I avoid sushi and non-pasturized dairy. But those things aren't huge losses and they help me sleep at night. That's my choice.

    But when other people want to make choices for me? Please just stop. I teach – and plan to do so until the day I deliver – and if one more person stops by my room and tells me I can't move desks…or I need better shoes…or I should take time off now…we may have an issue. Let me make my own decisions about what's best for me and my baby.

    1 agrees

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