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Safety

Hazards / risks that could be harmful to pregnant woman:

Physical hazards:

  • Vibration
  • Noise
  • Radiation

Biological hazards:

  • Infections

Chemical hazards:

  • Handling of chemical substance such as drugs, pesticides, lead etc.

Working conditions:

  • Inadequate facilities (including rest rooms)
  • Excessive working hours (nightshifts etc)
  • Unusually stressful work
  • Exposure to cigarette smoke
  • High or low temperatures
  • Work on heights
  • Extensive traveling
  • Exposure to violence


image 87 Smoking:

Apart from the well-known dangers that smoking is posing to anyone, such as increased risk for heart disease and cancer, women who smoke during pregnancy are at greater risk for giving birth to babies with low birth weight.

On average, babies born to women who smoked during pregnancy are statistically significantly smaller than those born to women who don't smoke. Low birth weight is one of the leading causes of infant illness and disability, and of stillbirth.

Evidence that cigarette smoking may have other harmful effects on the fetus is more controversial, but some problems associated with smoking include ectopic pregnancy (where the fertilised egg implants outside the womb), miscarriage, premature labour and birth, placental abruption, vaginal bleeding, and cot death. 

There are even some studies that are showing that smoking during pregnancy can harm a child's mental development and behaviour, leading to a short attention span and hyperactivity. Other research shows that certain birth defects may be more common in babies whose mother smoked during pregnancy. For example, a number of studies have shown a strong link between smoking in pregnancy and babies born with a cleft lip and/or palate.

The further into pregnancy you smoke, the greater your risk of complications. For example, if a pregnant woman stops smoking during the first half of her pregnancy, her baby will most likely be born a normal weight. If she continues to smoke throughout the pregnancy, she'll probably have a low birth weight baby. So if you're a smoker and have not succeeded in quitting so far, stopping now, or at the very least cutting down on the number of cigarettes you smoke a day, can still benefit you and your baby.

Traveling:

Traveling during your first and second trimesters is generally regarded as safe, although if your pregnancy is complicated by medical problems such as spotting, diabetes, high blood pressure or a previous early delivery, check with your GP before traveling.  You may find that your second trimester - weeks 14 to 27 - is a perfect time to travel. With morning sickness behind you, your energy levels high and chances of miscarriage low, you can enjoy the luxury of relaxing and indulging yourself, probably for the last time in a very long time. You can also enjoy the advantage of traveling light - with no car seat, pushchair, nappies or toys in tow.

Flying:

Airlines are sometimes unwilling to carry women who are past their 28th week of pregnancy because of the risk of premature labour. Ticket agents won't ask if you're pregnant when you book a seat, but you could be questioned about your due date at the gate. In fact, an airline can bar you from travel if they are worried about how pregnant you are. To avoid delays - and more importantly, to confirm that it is safe for you to fly - get written permission to fly from your doctor. The letter should state that you have been examined and are not likely to go into labour in the next 72 hours.

Travel policies vary with each airline, so ask about restrictions when you book your flight. Don't forget to take into account how far along you'll be on the return trip, too. In addition, pregnant women should not fly on small planes that don't have pressurised cabins.

Of course, airline policies aren't the only restrictions you should consider. It never takes long to get uncomfortable in an aeroplane seat, and it takes even less time when you're pregnant. Be realistic about the possibility of a medical emergency, too.

Sun tanning and sunbeds:

Many women find during pregnancy that their skin is more sensitive and that they are much more susceptible to sunburn. If this applies to you, be liberal in your use of sunscreen and avoid the sun where possible. In pregnancy, levels of melanocyte-stimulating hormone are higher in the body, and this makes pregnant women prone to excessive skin pigmentation. If you get chloasma (the irregular dark patches on facial skin called the "mask of pregnancy"), it can be a sign that your skin will react more strongly to sunlight than usual, so take more care. The chloasma may be increased if you sunbathe or use a sunbed. In addition, lying in the hot sun for hours on end increases the risk of overheating and dehydration - neither of which are good for you or your developing baby.

Regular use of tanning beds is a fairly recent trend and there is little research on their effects in pregnancy. Also, no definitive studies have been carried out about how exposure either to sunlight or to artificial ultraviolet rays affects a developing baby. Some preliminary studies suggest there may be a possible link between exposure to ultraviolet rays and folic acid deficiency. This is because folic acid can be broken down by strong sunlight. In the first few weeks of pregnancy, high levels of folic acid help protect against neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, in the developing baby. While further studies have yet to be done, these initial studies suggest that intense or prolonged exposure to UV light should be avoided around the time of conception and in early pregnancy. After the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, all the developing baby's major organs have been formed and any risks are reduced.

If you desperately want to be brown, the current medical opinion seems to be that it's much safer to use fake tanning lotions - and much easier as well! If you decide to take this option, do a patch test first, even if it's a lotion you have used before. Your skin may be more sensitive during pregnancy and therefore more prone to irritation than usual.

Sex during pregnancy:

With a normal pregnancy, you can keep on having sex right up until your waters break. Do check with your doctor first if you're having any problems with your pregnancy, such as placenta praevia or bleeding or if you have a history of miscarriages.

You won't hurt the baby by making love, even with your partner on top. The thick mucus plug that seals the cervix helps guard against infection. The amniotic sac and the strong muscles of the uterus also protect your baby. Though your fetus may thrash around a bit after orgasm, it's because of your pounding heart, not because he knows what's happening or feels pain. There are some important circumstances, however, in which you may be advised not to have intercourse, so consult your doctor first.

 

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