I’ve been talking a lot lately about the subject of babies in the womb and how your body provides natural protection. I mean, this has been going on since the beginning of human life, so it stands to reason we’ve got enough cushioning in there.
But it’s not foolproof. And I think that right there is what keeps you up at night. I mean, what if you bump your bump on the kitchen counter? What if your overzealous nephew jumps onto you while you’re visiting? So many what-ifs!
So, I’m here to help you learn how much protection your baby has in there and what to watch out for!
Is it possible to squish a fetus?
A friend of mine called me to tell me she was pregnant and terrified to go to sleep. I told her she needed rest; this being her first child, she’d soon have many days where she wouldn’t get any sleep.
But she wasn’t sleeping because she’s a belly sleeper. Always has been. And she was afraid of falling asleep, rolling onto the baby, and squishing it.
If you’re a stomach sleeper, too, I have great news…you’re not going to squish your fetus inside of you. In fact, at the beginning (first trimester), you can still sleep on your belly safely.
Once the baby grows, it will be impossible for you to do so. But even if you rolled over onto your belly in your sleep, you can’t squish that sweet tiny human you’re growing.
It’s different when trauma is involved, especially later in your pregnancy. It is the leading cause of non-obstetric death in 7% of all pregnancies, mainly in the 3rd trimester. Major trauma takes up 7% of maternal deaths and 80% of fetal deaths.
These are not caused by you rolling over onto your belly, walking into the counter in the kitchen and bumping your belly, or toddlers or pets jumping on you. Most of these incidences are caused by car accidents. Falls from your instability later in pregnancy are the second most common cause.
Thankfully, domestic abuse isn’t too common, though if you are hit in your belly with the intention of your partner, go to the doctor immediately (and if you’re too afraid to call the police, tell your doctor and let them help you!).
I’ve said it before, and I’ll repeat it…our anatomy provides wonderful protection for our babies growing within us. We have thick uterine walls and amniotic fluid that prevents shock, but as the baby gets bigger later in pregnancy and/or the trauma is severe, the baby has more potential for injury.
What else could harm the baby in the womb?
In short, toxins, drugs (prescription or illicit), and certain foods. Let me break that down a bit.
You should be very careful of what you put in your body while pregnant. And what you’re exposed to as well. As a pregnant woman, it stands to reason you should not be standing in a freshly-painted room or breathing in harmful chemicals.
And you should not be taking any drugs without approval from your doctor. You will need to discuss your options with your doctor when you get pregnant or are still just planning to get pregnant and are on prescription medications. Some things will still be safe, but others will not, and only your doctor can help you with that.
Illicit drugs, tobacco, and alcohol should be avoided. While some say a little alcohol is ok, there is still conflicting evidence there, and for your best outcome, you should avoid it too. I know, not fun, but you want a healthy baby, right? You can drink after he or she is born!
Food is often one that gets us though. I mean, no more sushi?!? Well, you CAN have sushi if you only choose the fully cooked options. No harm can come from eating a roll with just avocado or fried shrimp. Certain fish, raw meats, raw seafood, unpasteurized milk and cheeses, lunch meats, and a few other things should be avoided (you can find a complete list here to help you with that).
However, please note that while something like your favorite brie is discouraged from eating because of the risk of listeria, you’d have to eat a ton of it first. Still, it’s not a great idea to tempt fate, but you don’t need to panic if you accidentally eat something like that on a sandwich.
How to protect yourself and your baby better
Again, your baby is really reasonably protected in the womb. But taking extra precautions in certain situations can ease your mind and help the baby.
- Avoid heavy lifting
Light objects are fine, but if you keep lifting heavy things, especially repetitively, you risk losing the baby. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, if you are not high-risk, you can lift your toddler or any object to 36 lbs until you’re 20 weeks pregnant. After that, don’t lift anything higher than 26 lbs. And don’t move furniture around, no matter how much you want to nest! Have hubby or another family member help.
- Be careful in cars
A car accident poses the biggest danger for you and your baby. If you are driving (avoid ATVs, dirt bikes, and 4-wheelers in any case), you must be careful with your growing belly. Adjust your seat further back to keep the baby away from the steering wheel. And whether you’re the driver or a passenger, adjust your seatbelt so it is low on your lap and below your belly. Your shoulder strap should be between your breasts. Even in a minor accident, you should call your doctor immediately. You may feel fine, but the baby needs to be checked just in case.
- Use caution while exercising
Exercise is great for you while pregnant, though ask your doctor what is safe for your condition. If you have no restrictions, you should be able to do quite a lot, but do remember your balance will be off as your baby grows.
You can use the treadmill if you go slower and keep your belly from being against the console. Use that emergency pulley, too, just in case.
Don’t list too much (as discussed above); have someone spot you for safety. A great idea is a yoga, except for the hot variety, as it can be bad for the baby.
And if you enjoyed other activities before pregnancy, you can ask your doctor about those. Just be prepared to sit on the sidelines should they tell you to wait until after you’ve recovered from your pregnancy to pick them up again.
Leslie Berry lives with her husband and two young daughters in Los Altos, California, where she loves helping other moms get comfortable with motherhood and embracing the insanity with facts peppered with laughs.
She loves eating too much sushi, exercising, and jamming out on her Fender. Read more about Leslie here.