Great Expectations: Julie @ 21 Weeks

beach-26011_640.jpgI am now 21 weeks pregnant with my little girl. We had her 20 week anatomy scan last week and she’s doing great. She weighed 11 oz. and is in the 40th percentile. We got 20-25 minutes of staring up at her on the screen, endlessly moving as the tech went over each part of her body: her brain, palate, nuchal area, lungs, genitals, arms, legs. I’m not sure if everyone’s baby is this active, but every time we go in, the doctor or technician remarks on how the baby is “zooming” or won’t stop moving. I can attest that she does kick quite a bit while she is awake.


Now that I know that, thus far, this pregnancy and baby is healthy, I will be transitioning over to a private birth center with midwives from my OBGYN (with the continued care of my high risk doc). This birth center is a six minute ride to the nearest hospital, which has provided excellent care when I have needed it (which has sadly been quite a bit!). The midwives who will help birth my baby are in alignment with my belief system, which is not so much anti-medicine as pro-body: meaning that I believe that my body will know how to give birth. I also know that anything can happen during birth and am emotionally prepared to do what it takes to have this baby in whatever fashion is healthiest for her and for me. I just don’t believe that this means starting out with pitocin, an epidural, not being able to move, and fearful. I’ll start with my pro-body movement and take it from there. This is, as some would say, not without risk.


I have found that a majority of pregnancy, or at least how I have experienced it, is avoiding and minimizing risk. The medical community has greatly overblown many pregnancy risks (as corroborated by my high risk Maternal and Fetal Health doctor). By the end of my first trimester, I was convinced that almost everything I put into my mouth was going to adversely affect my pregnancy. As an over-researcher, I have heard through various venues that everything from sushi to deli meats to runny eggs to soft cheese to herbal teas to coffee to any “leftover” food at all is a risk for Lysteria (the worst and most dangerous offender) or salmonella. And then of course we have what the more paranoid people may fear (Hello! Here I am!): parabens in beauty products, aluminum in deodorant, sulfates in shampoos, microwaving in plastic, drinking out of Styrofoam, among other questioned chemicals that are part of our daily routines. We know that something is causing many developmental issues in children, but we don’t know exactly what may be causing it.


My high risk doc said to use “common sense” when making choices. This was the best piece of advice I have been given to help sort out true risk. I said, “So if I eat an Italian sub or a sushi roll, it’s not going ruin the baby?” He said “no” and laughed. I then went home and ate bologna sandwiches three days in a row (you know, because bologna is so good for you). The book, “Expecting Better” by Emily Oster, had been suggested to me. This book greatly helped me put my remaining food worries to bed. So now, I pretty much eat what I want. Brie with honey for dinner? Great. Eggs that are a little runny? Love it. The salty deli meat I crave? Sometimes. A spicy tuna roll? Once a month. I have continued on using my natural body products, including shampoo that is basically like mud but sulfate-free, and Marshalls/TJ Maxx has my favorite, weird aluminum-free deodorant and paraban-free moisturizers.


Now on to the bigger fish to fry: I’m leaving for Aruba in two days. You may have heard of the Zika virus which is making its way around the Caribbean. You may have even been thinking about a warm, pre-baby getaway. Current medical information tends to correlate the virus with micro-encephalopathy in babies and pregnant women are being urged to avoid the entire area. This notice came out about two weeks before we were scheduled to leave for our trip. Aruba is not on the list of countries where infection has been noted, but it is right there, off of the coast of several of the countries on the list. This set my mind on fire and even worried my husband. As soon as I had talked myself down about the risk, another person would bring it up with me or him, igniting the cycle of worry again.


So I scoured the web: chat forums for pregnant ladies; scientific papers; CDC warnings; local articles from the islands; asked medical staff. I ultimately made my decision to go based on the following factors: 1. Aruba is not the list of infected countries; 2. A mosquito has to bite an infected person, then bite you, for you to become infected. There is no data on whether or not there are women who are infected but with no impacts to the baby; 3. The most affected country is Brazil. However, despite the increase of 150 cased to 3000 cases of micro-encephalopathy in 2015, this is still a relatively small incidence (although devastating) in a country where people actually LIVE, and aren’t on some 8-day vacation. The final say went to my high risk doctor. If he said no, I would not have gone. He said to go, wear bug spray, enjoy myself and that he would tell his pregnant wife the same.


I’m not going to lie. I’m still anxious, but I get anxious before traveling (and during my stay as well) but I chose not to live in fear. Not of sandwiches, not of sleeping on my back, not of runny eggs. These bigger concerns, such as a devastating virus, must be weighed heavily by each individual woman, her family, and trusted and informed medical staff. However, in the grand world of statistics, each person faces far greater risks every day than many of the concerns that plague many (overly informed?) women. I’ll be taking my all-natural (CDC suggested), alternative to DEET insect repellant and a lot of sunscreen (chemical free, of course), my bathing suit, and a mind that I hope to quiet as I snorkel, eat good dinners, and spend time with my husband on this final vacation before we meet our little girl.


Next post: Update on the trip, decisions on birthing classes, and trying to get back to a healthy lifestyle before the 3rd trimester hits!

1 Comment

Knowing your risks

January 31, 2016 03:37 PM by Jessica Deeb

Making the "right" decisions during pregnancy often comes down to a personal decision.  After examining the evidence, each woman needs to come to her own conclusion, and this includes food safety. 

Rather than making decisions based public opinion, or hear say, going to a reliable source, like the CDC can help influence positive choices.  For example, most soft cheeses are safe to eat during pregnancy because they are most often made from pasteurized milk (indicated on the packaging), and caffeine is considered safe up to 200-300mg,

I would be wary to minimize the risks of Listeria.  Pregnant women are much more likely to become sick from foodborne illnesses than the general population.  When they do get sick, they are more likely to become very sick and require hospitalization.  Listeria can be passed from the mother to her unborn baby, which may result in the unborn baby's death.  Deli meat is a potential source of Listeria contamination, and should only be eaten during pregnancy if cooked until steaming hot. 

While we should not live in fear, during pregnancy and other times of our life, we should always consider the choices we are making, and take strides to become more educated.  I consider myself well educated on food safety during pregnancy, having spent hours finding the source of each recommendation I hear.  In my book, Listeria (deli meat) is not to be take lightly.  It sounds like the author made a well thought out decision about traveling to Aruba (enjoy, it is amazing!), but I don't see the same steps taken when considering food safety. 

For more information on Listeria during pregnancy, you may want to check out: or

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