Low Risk Maternity Clinic in Calgary

Maternity FAQ



1.      How much exercise is safe in pregnancy? Is it OK to lift weights?

This is a difficult question because every woman has a different fitness level and routine. There are also no specific guidelines for exercise in pregnancy. Exercise is very beneficial in pregnancy, however, heavy lifting and/or repetitive strenuous activities can worse muscle and joint pain.

Please discuss your fitness routine with you doctor if you have any concerns regarding its safety.

2.      Are artificial sweeteners safe during pregnancy?

Most artificial sweeteners are believed to be safe in small amounts. Health Canada states that there is no health risk associated with consumption of artificial sweeteners during pregnancy. However, moderation is important as with any other junk food.

3.      How much caffeine is safe in pregnancy?

Excessive caffeine intake has been linked to first trimester miscarriages, preterm birth and low birth weights. The research with respect to caffeine and its impact in pregnancy is limited and ongoing. However, a value that is thought to be safe is a caffeine intake less than 200-300 mg per day.

Approximate values of caffeine in common beverages are:

Standard cup of coffee – 135-250 mg

Tea – 35 mg

Can of Coca-cola 46 mg

See the Health Canada website for a detailed table listing the amounts of caffeine in food and drink.

4.      How much vitamin D do I need during pregnancy?

The current recommended dietary allowance of Vitamin D is 600 IU/day. The tolerable upper intake leve is 4000IU/day. In Canada, the only natural sources of vitamin D are fatty fish and egg yolks (3oz of salmon provides 800IU). Cow’s milk and margarine are fortified with vitamin D. Most prenatal vitamins contain 250-400 IU of vitamin D.

5.      Do you recommend fish oil supplements in pregnancy?

Fish oil supplements are a source of omega-3 fatty acids.  If you eat enough fish in your diet, a supplement is not necessary.   Current recommendations are for one to two servings of fish per week.   Choose fish low in mercury content.  If you choose not to or are not able to eat sufficient amounts of fish, then taking a supplement is a reasonable alternative.  Look for a Natural Product Number (NPN) on the product label.  This indicates that the supplement has been government- approved for safety and quality.

6.      What foods do I avoid during pregnancy?

In general, a balanced healthy diet based on the Canada Food Guide is recommended. Avoiding food-borne illnesses in pregnancy is an important topic as

this may lead to maternal disease and complications such as congenital disease, premature labor, miscarriage or fetal death.

Pregnant women should exercise the following habits:

1. Ensure meats, fish, poultry and eggs are fully cooked.

2. Avoid unpasteurized dairy products, fruit/vegetable juices and honey.

3. Wash fresh fruits and vegetables thoroughly prior to consumption. Avoid eating raw sprouts.

4. Wash hands frequently and disinfect all surfaces that have come in contact with raw fish, meat or poultry.

Common sources of food borne illness include raw milk, raw meat or cheeses made from unpasteurized milk. Listeria is commonly associated with processed meats and hot dogs, soft cheeses, smoked seafood, pates and meat spreads. However, hot cooked foods are not considered to be a risk. Therefore, ensure processed meats and hot dogs are cooked and hot prior to consumption. For a list of common causes of food poisoning visit the Government of Canada website.

7.      Can I consume fish during my pregnancy?

Pregnant women need more omega-3 fatty acids in pregnancy as they are important in the growth and development of the infant. Canada’s food guide recommends women eat at least 150g (5oz) of cooked fish per week. In addition to omega-3 fatty acids fish is a great source of Vitamin D, iron and zinc.

Pregnant women should be cautious and eat only thoroughly cooked seafood as consuming partially cooked or raw food can lead to food-borne illness.

Pregnant women should also avoid fish that is high in mercury and contaminants. These fish should be limited to less than 150g (5 oz) per month and include tuna, shark, swordfish, escolar, marlin and orange roughy. Fish that are considered generally low in contaminants include salmon, trout, herring, haddock, canned light tuna, pollock, sole, flounder, anchovy, char, hake, mullet, smelt, atlantic mackerel and lake white fish.

An alternative food based source of omega-3 fatty acids is omega-3 eggs.

Omega-3 is best consumed from a food source and women should not think that supplements are equivalent. At this time there is insufficient evidence to support that fish oil supplements and DHA enriched foods have an effect on infant development. If you do take a supplement, Health Canada recommends that you look for a natural product number (NPN) on the label that indicates the supplement is government approved for safety, efficacy and quality.

8.      Can I take herbal medications?

Herbal medications should be avoided in pregnancy as there is currently no comprehensive regulation for strength and purity of these medicines.

In addition, there have been cases documented of potential harmful effects on pregnancy.

9.      Can I do sit-ups during pregnancy?

Abdominal crunches or sit-ups can be done in the first trimester. After the first trimester abdominal crunches are not recommended as it can increase your incidence in developing a separation in your abdominal wall muscles (called diastasis recti). Try switching to planks, seated crunches or pelvic tilts to exercise your core muscles.

10.  I occasionally have a brief stabbing pain to my cervix/vagina, what causes this?

This type of pain is usually referred to as “picket fence” pains. It tends to mostly occur in the third trimester. It is not dangerous to you or the baby and the pain is thought to be caused by normal changes in your cervix as your body prepares for labour.

Seek medical attention if you experience severe abdominal pain, bleeding, fever or chills, or pain when urinating.

11.  Is it safe to sleep on my back during pregnancy?

It is a common belief that women must sleep on their left side during pregnancy. Lying on the back can make some women feel faint or dizzy during pregnancy. However, evidence has shown that there is no effect on baby even if the woman is experiencing symptoms. In summary, it is safe to sleep on your back or either side during pregnancy.

12.  Is round ligament pain normal?

There are several ligaments that support the growing uterus during pregnancy; one of these ligaments is called the round ligament. It is very common to experience sudden, brief pain to the lower abdomen and groin as the round ligament grows and stretches. Sudden movements such as coughing, sneezing or rolling over in bed can often trigger the pain. Treatment can include rest, acetaminophen, warm bath and avoiding sudden movements.

Seek medical attention if you experience severe abdominal pain, bleeding, fever or chills or pain when urinating.

13.  When are swollen ankles a concern?

There are many normal changes in pregnancy that lead to ankle and calf swelling. To reduce swelling you can minimize long periods of standing or sitting and get regular exercise and elevate your legs when possible. Compression stockings can be purchased and most drug plans will cover part or all of the cost with a doctor’s prescription.

If one leg is much more swollen than the other or is noticeably more painful, call your doctor or Healthlink (403-943-LINK) right away as this could be due to a blood clot.

14.  What is should my target heart rate be while exercising?

The “talk test” is a good guide to monitor the intensity of your exercise.  You should be able to talk through whatever activity you are doing without being breathless.  Since fitness levels differ, this is a more accurate way to determine how hard you’re exerting yourself compared to measuring your heart rate.

15.  Is there anything I can do for leg cramps?

Leg cramps are a common complaint in pregnancy.  They tend to occur at night, mostly in the calf muscles.

Making sure you are adequately hydrated can help to alleviate cramps.  Even if you think you are drinking enough water, drink more!  Before going to bed, it may be helpful to do some calf stretches.  Calcium and magnesium are also thought to help.  Talk to your care provider about taking a supplement if you are still having symptoms.

16.  What is your advice regarding travel in pregnancy?

Canadian airlines allow you to fly up to your 36th week of pregnancy.  If you have not had any complications in your pregnancy or have any conditions that put your pregnancy at higher risk, you should be able to fly within Canada.

Travel outside of the country is limited primarily by options for travel medical insurance.  Most insurance companies will not cover you for travel outside Canada beyond 31 weeks of pregnancy.

If you do choose to travel outside the country, ensure that you have adequate medical insurance for you and your baby.  It is also wise to carry a copy of your prenatal information with you while you travel.

Air travel and long car rides do carry some risk of blood clots.  Discuss any travel plans you have with your care provider.

17.  What happens if I go past my due date?

Your due date (40 weeks) is only an estimate of when we expect your baby to arrive.  Most babies will be born between the 37th and 41st weeks.   If you do go significantly beyond your due date, it is important to reassure ourselves that your baby is continuing to do well.  An ultrasound will be arranged at 41 weeks to assess your baby’s well being.  Induction of labour is offered after 41 weeks but is generally recommended by 10 or 11 days past the due date.

18. What should I expect to see in my newborn’s diapers?

Peeing is a sign of your baby’s hydration.  If your baby is one day old, you should expect at least one pee.  If your baby is two days old, you should expect at least two pees, and so on until six days.  Once your baby is beyond six days old, you should see six to eight pees per day.

Stools or poops are a sign that your baby is taking in adequate calories.  In the first few days after birth, your baby will pass meconium.  This type of stool is black, sticky, and tarry looking.  Once your baby is feeding well, the stools will change to normal newborn stools.  For the breast fed baby, these would be typically seedy, yellow, and runny.  The stools of formula fed babies may range in appearance from brown to green and may be runny or more pasty.