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Stop! Don't You Know That's Bad for Your Kid?

The FDA and some consumer groups have been on a run of cautions lately:

Don't give your under-2 toddler cough or cold medicines. Apparently, there have been hundreds of overdoses that have resulted in some deaths.

If you're nursing and take codeine, watch out for signs of an overdose in your infant. (A nursing infant died from a pain medication given to mom that contained codeine.)

Stop using bottles and sippy cups made of polycarbonate plastic.

These remind me of the cautions for pregnant women:

Keep your weight gain to no more than 35 pounds when pregnant.

Don't eat fish that could contain mercury.

Don't eat sushi.

Don't eat too many deli meats or hot dogs without proper reheating.

Don't eat soft cheese.

I'm fairly certain, I could keep going, but these don'ts can make us all go nutty.

Somehow, somewhere, we turned into a nation of paranoia and don'ts. So, here's a thought: How about telling pregnant women what to do instead:

Do gain an appropriate amount of pregnancy weight by eating right and exercising.

Do ask your doctor before self-treating a toddler's cold with over-the-counter cough and cold medicines.

Do eat fish -- with caution -- during pregnancy.

Do talk with your doctor about the effects of your medicines, including over-the-counter drugs, on breast milk while nursing.

Do use BPA-Free bottles.

Keep it going folks? What parenting "don'ts" would you like to rewrite? What "dos" give you a smile. How do you handle the paranoia, even when it's justified?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  August 20, 2007; 9:00 AM ET  | Category:  Babies , Preschoolers
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Comments


Well, actually, a pregnant woman CAN skip the fish because nowadays your doctor will tell you to take DHA pills along with your prenatal vitamins. DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid, the key ingredient in fish that makes fish so healthy for us. The DHA is necessary for optimal brain development, which is why eating fish was important for pregnant women. However, with the development of DHA pills (including, most importantly, ones that are synthesized rather than derived from fish), women can have the best of both worlds -- avoiding mercury while getting plenty of DHA.

Posted by: Ryan | August 20, 2007 9:27 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for this post - I am pregnant with second child and am tired of the hysteria. For example - you have a greater risk of being hurt in a car accident than getting sick eating soft cheese, but no one tells pregnant women to stop driving!!! I want to protect my children as much as anyone, but a little common sense goes a long way.

Posted by: dkgannon | August 20, 2007 9:30 AM | Report abuse

The thing with fish is that most of the fish you can eat is also the more common. Tuna and canned tuna, salmon, and various shellfish. There's nothing wrong with eating these things in moderation if you do so already. If you don't, then it is probably easier to take the DHA tablets, especially if fresh fish is uncommon in your area.

How about this for another food oriented "do": Eat plenty of fresh fruits and veggies. This can be expensive, of course, but the trick is to buy in-season. I also recommend doing your shopping at the end of the week rather than the beginning so that you have fruit to snack on on the weekends when you need a fix.

Posted by: David S | August 20, 2007 9:46 AM | Report abuse

I don't think these things are paranoid at all. If there's a risk that I can easily avoid- then I want to know about it.

I mean...we're not talking about building a nuclear bunker in your back yard. I'm eight months pregnant, and it really isn't any big deal for me to avoid soft cheese for a few months.

You're paranoid if you accidentally eat a bite of salad with feta, and it keeps you up worrying for three nights straight.

Posted by: Rock Creek | August 20, 2007 10:26 AM | Report abuse

I agree that the seemingly endless lists of "don'ts" can be annoying, but if the restrictions aren't making life that tough, the peace of mind can be worth it.

I know from experience how devestating it can be to miscarry and be left wondering whether anything you did could have caused it. Was it those cocktails I drank before we knew I was pregnant? Did I exercise too vigorously?

Even though such thoughts are completely irrational, they exist and it can be difficult to shut them out. If giving up my tuna salad sandwich can quiet some fears for my next pregnancy (if I should be so lucky), then it's a fair tradeoff.

Posted by: newsahm | August 20, 2007 10:33 AM | Report abuse

What was the deal with all those warnings to avoid peanuts and peanut butter a few eyars ago? It was supposed to be to help avoid havign your child develop peanut allergies, but it didn't amke much sense to me, so I ate peanuts regardless. My todder is fine-- absolutely no allergies-- and when I found out I was pregnant i asked if it was still recommended that pregnant women avoid peanuts. I was told "no" that further studies showed no link. Didn't surprize me, but has made me even more cynical about all the subsequent advice that has come out.

Was the peanut thing just a big hoax? some prank by a pre-med grad student? Seems far too often parents are "punked" by these bogus science reports.

Posted by: Jen S. | August 20, 2007 10:58 AM | Report abuse

Well, I agree that you can't be hysterical as a pregnant woman. However, as someone who ate the Oscar Myer chicken that was tainted with listeria and then found out a week later that I was pregnant, my motto is better safe than sorry. Luckily, I didn't get sick, but if I would have, there would have been no baby. The doctors worried for the first three months of my pregnancy over this. (Apparently it has a rather long incubation rate.) I asked for the blood test but they never gave it to me.

I heat all my lunch meat. I don't like a lot of cheeses so I am safe there. I mean, if you can't go without a little meat and cheese for nine months, I think you may have a problem! :)

Posted by: Irish girl | August 20, 2007 10:59 AM | Report abuse

It's not soft cheese, it's cheese made from unpasteurized milk. This is an example of how people take one fact and extrapolate it to eliminate things that don't matter.

Posted by: Kate | August 20, 2007 11:05 AM | Report abuse

What I find annoying is the anti-TV and anti-Movies crowd trying to tell me that my kid can't learn from nature documentaries. Last year we were tremendously lucky that we got on a whale watching cruise where we really saw a whale- first time for me in a handful of attempts. Other than that, the only way to learn how whales swim is by watching them on TV.

He has a few friends whose parents claim they watch no tv and the kids are really maladjusted. One kid will ignore my son during playdates and demand my full attention, following me into the kitchen when I'm making snacks, etc. Like they have no friendship with other kids, just impressing parents. I doubt that's truly caused by lack of TV, it's probably just what people used to call Only Child Syndrome, only these kids have siblings. Mom and Dad just focus on them too much for them to seek out friendships with kids.

Try walking that tightrope!

And of course there's my tweenage nephew who they proudly told us stopped watching TV... he spends all his money on x-rated Japanese comic books (manga), something neither the parents nor the book store even thought could exist or had to be monitored! Hey, at least he's not watching tv, right?

Posted by: DCer | August 20, 2007 11:06 AM | Report abuse

David S., the problem with the fish you CAN eat is that there are low levels of mercury in them. Although such levels are probably safe for adults and children (and certainly the benefits outweigh the risks), the reality is that mercury is incredibly dangerous and we don't know what levels of mercury are acceptable for a developing fetus. Developing fetuses are much more sensitive to the effects of various insults because their systems are still forming and, therefore, are much more "moldable".

Personally, as a neuroscientist, I think that minimizing the amount of mercury that a developing fetus is exposed to is quite reasonable. I would strongly suggest going with the DHA pills and maybe having one tuna sandwich per week (use the "light" tuna -- not the albacore).

Posted by: Ryan | August 20, 2007 11:11 AM | Report abuse

It could be soft cheese. It could be on anything that is processed or comes in contact with other foods that may be contaminated.

For example, if the deli cuts listeria contaminated turkey and then cuts your cheese on the same cutter, you can get listeria.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 20, 2007 11:14 AM | Report abuse

Actually, DCer, the "anti-TV" crowd is focusing on young children and not as much on older children, though they will say that older children watch too much TV.

More important, though, the "anti-TV" crowd has lots of research to back them up and you have . . . a couple of anecdotes . . . that don't really make any sense anyway. I mean, how does TV help a kid become well-adjusted? Do they develop better social skills by engaging in the non-social activity of watching TV? Think about it.

Posted by: Ryan | August 20, 2007 11:15 AM | Report abuse

The TV doesn't help my children develop, it helps get them out of my hair so I can actually get something done for a change.

Posted by: Bob | August 20, 2007 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Both my pregnancies were while I was in Italy, and thank goodness! They seem to take a slightly less hysterical approach to these things. The overall concern was that I ate a healthy, well-balanced diet. My doctor assumed that would include some fresh cheeses, some prosciutto, a daily cappucino, and even some wine. With all of these "dangers", I had two healthy babies. A friend's doctor told her that a glass of red wine every evening was not a problem. The same outlook tends to hold true in many other European contries, from what I can tell. These studies which indicate "possible" dangers are sometimes wildly overblown. I could get hit by a car if I walk across the street, but that doesn't mean I should give up walking. It just means I need to assess the risk, be appropriately cautious, take a deep breath, and live.

Posted by: Amoroma | August 20, 2007 11:40 AM | Report abuse

It is crazy, and you didn't even start down the list of restrictions on how an infant is supposed to sleep. A newborn with natural instincts to seek protection, to curl up in a warm cozy place has to sleep flat on its back on a hard mattress with no blankets or pillows? And then that leads to the skull deformations and all of the books and hysteria over kids with "sleep problems" who have to be "ferberized" and "cry it out". Now there all of these crazy pillows, helmets, wearable blankets, etc. No one wants to let mothers and babies "go with the flow." There are reasonable, practical, healthy solutions that let mothers continue to be humans interacting with the rest of the normal world. Sure there are risks, SIDS, but I would love to see the statistics of otherwise healthy kids who die of SIDS vs. those that die in car accidents in proper carseats and yet we don't tell mothers to stop driving, because that is a national right and privilege and at the heart of our consumer society. Don't interrupt the commute!

Posted by: ATTYMOM | August 20, 2007 11:41 AM | Report abuse

How about replacing
"don't let your child watch too much tv"
with
"make sure your child gets lots of time to play outside and be active"

Posted by: reston, va | August 20, 2007 11:41 AM | Report abuse

It's hard to imagine staying away from all the "huh?" don'ts until 1 smacks you in the face. Most of us are smart enough to stay away from drugs and alcohol without having seen first-hand the effects, but it's harder to understand the risk of listeria. My cousin lost her baby at 6 months to listeria, so it's on my radar, and I take it very seriously. I can't imagine delivering a stillborn instead of what should have been a perfect, healthy baby. So, no lunch meat that I haven't personally heated. I was "fortunate" to be completely turned off by seafood, but I would have kept it to 1 can of tuna a week otherwise. These are small changes. Admitedly, the number of small changes can add up and be VERY annoying, but it's the health of the baby at stake. Just ask your doctor. You'll find they're much less apocalyptic than the internet, for sure!

On the other hand, I was very active, which seemed to make people very uneasy. If I walked down the hall at work are my usual fast clip, I was warned to slow down. If they only knew what I tried to go into labor! That's a wive's tale that needs to die.

Weight is such a loaded topic. As a normal weight person, I was very committed to a 25 pound pregnancy. I did not want to swell up and end up with a huge baby and blood pressure issues, not to mention 20 pounds of plain old garden variety fat to shed. I made every calorie count. I wish I still ate as mindfully. Please don't diet, but you're also not eating for 2. It's more like 1.1.

As far as baby safety, I'm giving her age-appropriate foods and testing them for 4 days for a reaction. The hardest part is keeping my husband in the loop. I ask the doctor about medications or ways to avoid medications. It's pretty much common sense, which maybe isn't as common as it should be.

Posted by: atb | August 20, 2007 12:03 PM | Report abuse

I mean, if you can't go without a little meat and cheese for nine months, I think you may have a problem! :)
******
But I think that is part of the problem. after you eliminate Delhi meat and a number of cheeses, that means you have to cook your every meal from scratch. I think this is a lot to ask of a working mom, especially if, like I do, you have other dietary restrictions that limit the convenience foods you can eat to Delhi meat. Developing fetuses do need protein, you know...

Posted by: jcadam | August 20, 2007 12:25 PM | Report abuse

"It could be soft cheese. It could be on anything that is processed or comes in contact with other foods that may be contaminated.

For example, if the deli cuts listeria contaminated turkey and then cuts your cheese on the same cutter, you can get listeria."

Well, then I'll just live in fear. That's good for babies.

Posted by: Kate | August 20, 2007 12:36 PM | Report abuse

Well, my dr. told me to take the 'what to expect when you're expecting' book and throw it out the window. It unnecessarily told women all these risks about all sorts of diseases no one's ever heard of and scares them to death.

I have two wonderful healthy kids - and all the time see all sorts of presumably normal people who worry endlessly about their kids. Not that we all shouldn't worry, but at some point, you have to let go - otherwise, you're raising paranoid children who can't do anything for themselves. And that's a horrible society to live in.

Posted by: atlmom | August 20, 2007 12:49 PM | Report abuse

by Ryan @ August 20, 2007 11:11 AM

"David S., the problem with the fish you CAN eat is that there are low levels of mercury in them. Although such levels are probably safe for adults and children (and certainly the benefits outweigh the risks), the reality is that mercury is incredibly dangerous and we don't know what levels of mercury are acceptable for a developing fetus. Developing fetuses are much more sensitive to the effects of various insults because their systems are still forming and, therefore, are much more 'moldable'."

You make a good point. The NPR story I spoke about the other day regarding lead should probably serve as a warning that just because we think a certain amount of a substance is safe today does not mean it will be so tomrrow.

I suppose I (and my family) just really like seafood. Alas!

Posted by: David S | August 20, 2007 12:53 PM | Report abuse

"Well, my dr. told me to take the 'what to expect when you're expecting' book and throw it out the window. It unnecessarily told women all these risks about all sorts of diseases no one's ever heard of and scares them to death."

And that's why I like The Panic-Free Pregnancy. It tells you to use common sense, not unreasonable fear.

When my mother was pregnant, people said, "Oh, you'll have to stop cooking with garlic, or your baby won't like your milk." She said, "Really? Is that what Italian mothers do?"

Western European nations have lower infant mortality rates, and parents there seem to have full lives throughout the process. Maybe it's not always the food, but often the food handling that's the issue. The answer to that shouldn't be to avoid the food, but to require better, more hygienic procedures. That benefits everyone and requires no panic at all.

Posted by: Kate | August 20, 2007 12:55 PM | Report abuse

But the thing is, a few years ago, butter was evil and margarine was okay - now everyone says how margarine is the devil's spawn, but a little butter won't kill you. And eggs were supposed to be the worst thing ever, now they're the 'okay' kind of cholesterol.

The reality is that these studies are on going and whenever something comes out, everyone just wants to follow the advice, to do whatever they're told - rather than understanding a study and what they've proven (which is rarely as clear as a headline spews). My mom smoked through three pregnancies, gained probably 35 pounds TOTAL for all three, and we're fine.
Of course, that's all anecdotal (oh, wait, there were no car seats back then, she drove car pool and had 5-10 kids in the backseat). So really, we seem to want to panic ourselves all the time, when we really don't have all the information...

Posted by: atlmom | August 20, 2007 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Kate: no joke. In Japan, they eat sushi. I bet it wouldn't occur to Japanese women to not eat sushi while they are pregnant.

Posted by: atlmom | August 20, 2007 1:00 PM | Report abuse

As far as food, I think it's safe to say that natural foods free of bacteria and environmental toxins are the best way to go. So, eggs are great, but you have to clean the shells before cracking them. Butter is natural, while margarine is man made. Tuna works if it's not loaded with mercury. My whacky uncle, a chemist who turned out to be not so whacky, has been following this diet for years. Seems obvious now.

I second Panic Free Pregnancy.

Posted by: atb | August 20, 2007 1:04 PM | Report abuse

Actually, that fish advice is now passe I think. There was a study that showed that for some reason the mercury didn't seem to go to the child and infact the more fish the woman ate, the better off the kid was.

Posted by: formerly preggers | August 20, 2007 1:04 PM | Report abuse

atb: well, of course - but the reality is that people read a headline, don't discuss it with someone knowledgeable, then panic.
I would check out that book, if we're going to have any more. But it looks like we're done. *sigh*. *sniff*

Posted by: atlmom | August 20, 2007 1:10 PM | Report abuse

atb

I am with you on the fear of listeria. I don't think it is that much of a hard ship to not eat lunch meat that has not been cooked. I am a working mom too and if I want it, I cook it.

By the way, hygiene will not save you from listeria. The food is contaminated before you ever touch it. No one is saying live in fear either, but you might want to consider the baby on your trip to Subway to get a cold cut combo. These warnings are really not that hard to follow. I don't live in fear of these things because I just do what the recommendations tell me to.

Posted by: Irish girl | August 20, 2007 1:13 PM | Report abuse

Well, since I was a vegetarian since way before I even thought of getting pregnant, never had the cold cuts issues - I guess that's why I never heard about that til now.

Posted by: Out here | August 20, 2007 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Irish girl, that's great if you're able to do that with equanimity. However, the repeated message of "Don't do this, or calamity will ensue!" does ultimately create a climate of fear--not to mention judgmental interaction. Life is full of risks, but it's important to determine exactly what those risks are, and work to minimize the ones that are actually likely, without falling into a state of paranoia.

Posted by: Kate | August 20, 2007 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Well Kate it is great that I can do it, it not hard. I think there is enough evidence provided by doctors, on the web, and even on this blog to point to the fact that listeria is a bad thing.

I actually think that a lot of the anti-paranoia people out there hurt people just as much as the paranoid. It is partly the reason why I didn't cook my Oscar Myer chicken before I fed it to myself and my daughter. I was so tired of hearing how paranoid I was, that I had loosened up on my "strict" way of doing things. Three days later my husband saw the chicken in the fridge and the recall on the TV. Five days later I found out I was pregnant; it was not a fun couple of months.

Personally, I don't see anything negative about telling people about what happened to me or warning them about the dangers. I don't drink, so drinking while pregnant doesn't affect me nor does eating fish. I just think that some women who run around screaming your are paranoid and are scaring me are the ones who want to drink three glasses of wine at a super bowl party, which happened at my party last year. Don't worry, I didn't engage in judgmental interaction with her, I just thought she was stupid and really wished she's leave my house. In the end it all comes down to you, you are responsible for keeping your baby safe and if you mess up, you really have no one to blame but yourself. I was stupid for not heating my chicken, luckily I didn't get sick.

Posted by: Irish girl | August 20, 2007 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Oh it all goes back to reasonability- rather than all the extremes that seem to be the only setting people understand.

Understand the risks, and then take which ones you find are right for you.

What about the "Don't choose to raise a child until you've decided your calling in life is in great priority to devote to a child?" I like that one.

Posted by: Liz D | August 20, 2007 3:04 PM | Report abuse

More important, though, the "anti-TV" crowd has lots of research to back them up and you have . . . a couple of anecdotes . . . that don't really make any sense anyway. I mean, how does TV help a kid become well-adjusted? Do they develop better social skills by engaging in the non-social activity of watching TV? Think about it.
-----

I thought about it and I don't agree with you. So where are we now?

I think the all data I've ever seen on TV viewing and kids is completely suspect and sometimes willfully misrepresented in the media. "Violent TV" is translated to "TV" in these kinds of forums and suddenly kids act violently after watching Mr Rogers if you follow these kinds of posts. I've never seen a kid come away from watching Mr Rogers without wanting to and successfully interacting with other kids better. I disbelieve any "data" which says otherwise.

Since junior highs have "turn the tv off week"- the anti-video folks are targeting older kids too, even adults, not just younger kids. I received a TV Turn Off Week flyer as an adult approximately 10 years ago. I'm not sure how I can be harmed by watching the Daily Show or Stephen Colbert interview an author about the middle east, but someone could find a way.

I think TV shows kids lots of effective ways to "be" outside of what they see in their neighborhood. Mr. Rogers is a prime example. Sesame Street is another. I lived in a racially segregated neighborhood in the 1970s and if it weren't for Jimmy "JJ" Walker or Freddie Prinze I might not have accepted people who looked different from me as well as I did. I had an intern who claimed to be inspired to get out of his bad situation by Seinfeld who never faced poverty and crime.

My kids demanded to get swimming lessons based on watching scuba divers- at age 3! I figured they were too young, but they really wanted them. Or demands for skiing lessons or surfing lessons or all the things no one on our block does that kids do on TV. Or demands to visit all the museums, zoos and aquariums featured on the Discovery Channel shows.

No, I think we can all agree the anti-TV rhetoric gets into sushi territory.

Posted by: DCer | August 20, 2007 3:16 PM | Report abuse

The reality is that these studies are on going and whenever something comes out, everyone just wants to follow the advice, to do whatever they're told - rather than understanding a study and what they've proven (which is rarely as clear as a headline spews). My mom smoked through three pregnancies, gained probably 35 pounds TOTAL for all three, and we're fine.
Of course, that's all anecdotal (oh, wait, there were no car seats back then, she drove car pool and had 5-10 kids in the backseat).

-------

While I agree with you more than I don't. I like to bring up this kind of information:

My mother lost two siblings out of 8 to influenza.
My father lost one brother to influenza.
My wife's grandmother lost 3 kids and both she and her husband died by age 40 to influenza and cancer.
My wife's other grandmother lost a child.
My wife's great grandmother lost all her children except my wife's grandmother to influenza.
In my grandmother's rural "block" all my friends I played with died or were killed before I turned 30 (military, hunting, farming and car accidents and murder).

Today, I don't know anyone who lost a child except to miscarriage.

Posted by: DCer | August 20, 2007 3:28 PM | Report abuse

When I was pregnant I was able to follow most of the warnings because I've never smoked at all and consume very little alcohol and already ate healthy foods. The bonus of this was I was kind of on the down low at work about being pregnant and almost no one noticed until I went public at 4 months. (I also carried low and didn't gain much weight at first and it was winter.) What really saved me was the increasing availability of convenience foods with more natural/organic ingredients and fewer chemical additives. It got pricey, but a healthy baby is well worth it.

The hardest things for me to give up were over-the-counter drugs. I used to take Advil all the time for headaches, plus prescription migraine drugs (Imitrex), plus decongestants during allergy season, all of which are bad in pregnancy, very bad in the first trimester. I had to stay home from work with sinus troubles that before pregnancy would have been solved by a few little pills. The other tough part was having to still stay away from some of these meds after my son was born due to breastfeeding. However, I have found that I have much fewer migraines than before I was pregnant, but don't know whether it's due to hormonal changes or from not being back at work yet!

I think it will be much harder to follow all the precautions if/when I get pregnant with kid #2. With my first pregnancy I was scrupulous, for example, about keeping a distance from the microwave oven when it was on but now I stand right in front of it while it's running all the time because it is the only way to get dinner on the table for my husband, my toddler & me in a reasonable time. With pregnancy/kid #2 it will also be harder for me to get all the rest you're supposed to while pregnant & recovering from delivery. Also I've managed to keep breastfeeding my now 13-month old, only because he's my only child right now and I wasn't working during the critical early nursing months. Breastfeeding #2 may be harder while working and with a toddler around, although I at least will be less clueless next time.

Posted by: Erichan | August 20, 2007 3:35 PM | Report abuse

I wish people would **read up** on listeria before freaking out about lunch meat ... you might as well freak out about salads too, since it's found equally in raw veggies!:

http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dbmd/diseaseinfo/listeriosis_g.htm#getinto
"Listeria monocytogenes is found in soil and water. Vegetables can become contaminated from the soil or from manure used as fertilizer.
Animals can carry the bacterium without appearing ill and can contaminate foods of animal origin such as meats and dairy products. The bacterium has been found in a variety of raw foods, such as uncooked meats and vegetables, as well as in processed foods that become contaminated after processing, such as soft cheeses and cold cuts at the deli counter. Unpasteurized (raw) milk or foods made from unpasteurized milk may contain the bacterium."

When I was pregnant, I rolled my eyes @ other women freaking out about listeriosis. It's a *very* rare infection - about 2500 people per year here get it, and the vast majority of those are AIDS patients and farmers who get it from their own unpasteurized products. Unless you are an AIDS patient who happens to be a dairy farmer, you're probably safe .............

Posted by: StudentMom | August 20, 2007 4:05 PM | Report abuse

The whole TV controversy...We live in an apartment complex where we have to pay the cable company to get network TV, and cable and satellite TV rates in our area are astronomical. For people who work, play with their child & then do all of the chores, watching TV at that cost doesn't compute. So, no, we don't watch TV. Frankly, even when situations change, I don't think that we will watch TV. We also don't watch too many videos. Having said that, I don't have a problem with TV per se. I do, however, have a problem with advertising. When I do watch TV now, I am much more aware of just how much stuff is being sold through the medium, and I find it distasteful, and would just as soon that dd gets a little older before being bombarded to buy, buy buy!

The whole fish thing...to say that you can get your omega 3's with a vitamin brings up the whole vitamin controversy. Does your body process the vitamin in the way that it would process the food, is the vitamin production safe, or tainted? Quite frankly, I go back and forth on this one. I took a prenatal vitamin, I don't currently take a multi-vitamin. As over-planners, my husband & I decided that I would START eating fish with pregnancy, and I did & we feed it to our daughter, who is crazy about fish. Anecdotally, she is also very verbal & social & I see no ill-effects from the 2-3 times per week I ate fish throughout pregnancy and the 1-2 times I eat it now. The Monterey Bay Aquarium produces a great guide to fish for consumption, and takes into account both human safety and population management issues. It is located at: www.mbayaq.org/cr/seafoodwatch.asp

I think it is best to be informed about health concerns, but to approach them rationally. My mom, who lived in France, throughout both pregnancies drank wine daily. My sister & I are both reasonably normal, successful, contributing members of society. Neither of us drank any alcohol during pregnancy (or in my case the 3 months before attempting to become pregnant). I often wonder if our society puts so much pressure on us as adults to perform (and thus we teach our children the same behavior), to be successful at work, at home, to take wonderful vacations and have great sex lives, that we are over tired, over stimulated and over stressed, causing us to become a nation of slightly neurotic automatons, over-responding to every new study or health warning without the ability to filter the information in a useful way.

In the end you have to be able to live with yourself and your decisions. If you couldn't live with yourself if you miscarried because of listeria, don't eat lunch meat without cooking it. If you are totally non-functional with no sleep because your baby will only sleep on its stomach, then you probably have to balance sleep with your concerns about SIDS.

Posted by: MIMom | August 20, 2007 4:46 PM | Report abuse

Good point about "soft cheese." Easy cheese, handisnacks, and cheese wiz are still safe to eat while pregant. Phew.

Posted by: Cliff | August 20, 2007 5:02 PM | Report abuse

Has anyone brought up the cat litterbox thing yet? I believe it's taken as gospel truth that pregnant women are NOT supposed to clean out the litterbox because of the risk of toxoplasmosis. At least that's what my OB told me. No litter box. End of story. No nuances.

But. No one ever bothers to tell you that if your cat is strictly an *indoor* cat, and s/he is tested for the parasite and tests negative, the pregnant woman can handle the cat and the litterbox without risk for the duration of the pregnancy. (Assuming there are no other outdoor/indoor cats in the household, or rodents like pet mice).

Surprised? I know I was. I mean don't get me wrong, it was delightful to shift litterbox duty to my husband for 9 months. But this was just one more of many pregnant "don'ts" I had to endure as a half-truth.

And as with all of the other half-truths, I think the crux of the matter is that They have to keep it super simple ("Never, ever drink." "Don't handle the litterbox, period") because there will always be some people who do not understand the more complicated truth, or seek to exploit the moderation recommendation, ie, if 1 drink won't hurt, why not 11?

Posted by: toomanypets | August 20, 2007 7:15 PM | Report abuse

"I wish people would **read up** on listeria before freaking out about lunch meat ... you might as well freak out about salads too, since it's found equally in raw veggies!: "

You should also read people's posts before giving them the eye roll, two people on here have experience personally with listeria. No one said they were freaking out, they were just heating their lunch meat, I bet they wash their veggies too, oh those crazy, paranoid mothers.

I can google and this is what I found. Not exactly the same thing you said we were all freaking out about. 1/3 of the people who get it are pregnant women.

http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dbmd/diseaseinfo/listeriosis_g.htm

Posted by: Anonymous | August 20, 2007 7:29 PM | Report abuse

I was reading an article recently about drinking during pregnancy - verboten in America, no big deal in most of Europe and other parts of the world. Do we know that heavy drinking during pregnancy can cause birth defects and fetal alcohol syndrome? Yes. But, knowing that, no scientists have set out to determine exactly how much is okay. The scientific hysteria we talk about may be overblown, but I don't think it's poorly reasoned. Scientists aren't going to subject thousands of pregnant women to studies to determine the dividing line in terms of liquor consumption between healthy babies and unhealthy oones - no one wants that responsibility. I'm of the impression that most things during pregnancy, obviously using common sense and moderation, are going to turn out okay.

Posted by: overkill | August 20, 2007 7:42 PM | Report abuse

Anon, that's the link I posted ... not sure why you reposted it, but at any rate ... or why you cited multiple women with personal experience when only one said it, but again, at any rate ...

I read all the postings here. Just like I read the 50+ responses to listeria threads on birth club boards I belong to on the Internet.

It doesn't change the fact that listeriosis is EXTREMELY rare, that most OB/GYNs will go their entire career without seeing a case (ask yours), that listeria lives in any salad that you order for lunch, and that people with AIDS and farmers are much more likely to get listeriosis than anyone else, including pregnant women. There are 6 MILLION pregnancies in the US every year ... and if only 1/3 of the 2500 cases of listeriosis are pregnant women, that means it is only 833 cases - or a .000138 chance of something that does not even necessarily spell disaster. After all, if it is treated, it is not likely to be fatal. And even if it is an advanced case and completely untreated, harm to the baby is not a forgone conclusion.

So to recap: that's a 1 in 10,000 chance that I *might* get something that *might* get into my bloodstream and *might* cross the placenta and *might* harm the baby *if* I don't get it treated.

That's what I mean about looking up the info before treating it like scary gospel. Why people cherry-pick deli meat to get upset about instead of fresh veggies - or even water! - is beyond me. Besides, two-thirds of pregnancy trauma in the US is caused by car accidents - if you need something to worry about, that's a much scarier statistic. But why don't we hear as much about extra car safety as we do about singling out one of the MANY foods to give you listeria?

Posted by: StudentMom | August 20, 2007 7:59 PM | Report abuse

Chiming in late, but.

For me it's always about risk vs. benefits. It was totally not a big deal to me to avoid deli meats for 8 months. Never going anywhere in a car, however, would have been a big deal. Sure, the chances of getting listeria were lower - but it's so easy to cut the risk.

Was it worth it to me to cut out fresh vegetables? No way; but I was way more careful about washing them. Again, not really a big deal in my day.

I did these things in my first pregnancy and my daughter died after her birth.

For my second was I a little tempted to say the hell with it, those things didn't help the first time? Yes, to be honest, I was sometimes tempted... but again it was really NOT a big deal to avoid a few things.

Having been through the scenario where you ask yourself "if I had done this (in my case made a bigger fuss during a bad delivery) would my kid have lived," you kind of learn that there are minor inconveniences, major inconveniences, and unavoidable things. To my mind if a risk factor - even with the flawed conclusions drawn from preliminary research, etc. - is just going to cause me a minor inconvenience - well, why not?

Posted by: Shandra | August 21, 2007 8:48 AM | Report abuse

Don't drink alcohol during pregnancy. I did a term paper on fetal alcohol syndrome, and if you've ever seen an FAS baby you'll never drink again. The trick is they don't know exactly when during gestation the damage is done. You could be drinking and not even know you're knocked up yet. So go easy on the booze.

As for all the modern paranoia and scares -- my grandmother gave birth to 10 children at home. They lived on a dairy farm. She lived to be 97. My grandfather had fried eggs, bacon and coffee every morning for breakfast. He lived to be 92. None of her kids were ever killed in an auto accident, no suicides, no gang murders, robberies or assaults, no SIDs. Just a generation of survivors, I guess.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 21, 2007 9:57 AM | Report abuse

Anon, that's the link I posted ... not sure why you reposted it, but at any rate ... or why you cited multiple women with personal experience when only one said it, but again, at any rate ...

Actually student mom ATB's cousin had a baby die from listeria and I ate chicken that was recalled because of it, so there are two people on this board who have experince with it.

I don't know why you are so worked up about it. Eat all the deli meat you want, but it is really rude to eye roll over women who take the threat seriously. My OBGYN told me not to eat it and gave me a list of things to watch out for.

Posted by: Irish girl | August 21, 2007 10:15 AM | Report abuse

Irish girl, I am "worked up" because my personal pet peeve is when people don't know what they're talking about, and insist on disseminating the info regardless. If one thing drives me crazy, it's intellectual laziness.

My main point is: if you're gonna get worked up about listeria, get worked up about fresh veggies and water in addition to deli meat. Deli meat is one of MANY culprits, but is the primary one that people who have not researched it themselves zero in on. So they tell other women "don't eat deli meat!!" and those women repeat it, which basically seems to equate listeria with deli meat to the exclusion of the other common foods where it is equally - if not more - likely to be found. So not only is it an obscenely rare infection - but it's one whose food-risk factors are being completely misrepresented!! If you're like me and hate intellectual sloth, that sort of thing can drive you bonkers lol.

Kind of like saying "oh I hate how many illegal immigrants there are - just look at all the illegals from the Czech Republic!!!!" ;)

Posted by: StudentMom | August 21, 2007 10:58 AM | Report abuse

For what it's worth, my father worked in a meatpacking plant when he returned from WWII. He wouldn't eat deli meats or hot dogs AT ALL. He saw how they were made, it had nothing to do with listeria. He didn't like ground beef, either, but it's about the only meat, other than chicken, we could afford on his blue collar salary. He once saw a co-worker's finger get cut off with a meat slicer. Almost time for lunch, folks.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 21, 2007 11:45 AM | Report abuse

FYI, the anecdote "I did X when pregnant and my kids are fine" is really quite dumb. We're not talking about black-and-white issues. It's not that, if you eat one bad thing, your kids will be missing an arm. Rather, we're talking about small incremental effects -- i.e. increasing amounts of mercury leads to decreasing IQ.

The problem is that, if you took two kids, one with an IQ of 105 and one with an IQ of 100, you wouldn't notice the difference in just talking to them because it's a small difference. However, on a population level, if the population as whole were to shift down 5 IQ points, that would be a HUGE difference.

Moreover, as my mother has pointed out: Sure, she may be smart, but who knows what her potential was if her mother had done X instead of Y? In other words, just because you're "fine" doesn't mean you couldn't have been smarter.

Frankly, I'd like my kid to have the greatest potential his genes will permit. Genes determine the overall potential, while environment can reduce that potential (it can't increase it). That said, I don't advocate the "freaking out" over these things. Some people think that being anal retentive about these things will prevent every single problem and then are shocked when their kid has a problem. Others ignore the rules and then go on to claim (as I pointed out at the beginning) that "my kids are fine and, therefore, the rules are pointless."

Best advice possible: Try to do your best to create the highest potential for your kid. Don't become anal retentive about various rules. Accept that, even with all the guidelines, anything and everything can still go wrong (or right).

Posted by: Ryan | August 21, 2007 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Hmm.. about the lysteria thing -- I love nothing more than a roast beef, turkey, and cheese sandwhich. I was a pack a day smoker when I found out I was pregnant, and I have stopped completely (which was not easy to do) -- so If I want to have a damn sandwhich made with lunchmeat -- I will. I read a statistic that there are 2500 cases of listeriosis annually and 500 deaths -- I'm sorry, but these numbers are just not high enough in my opinion, when there are so many more important things (like the not smoking) that I am doing -- who knows, maybe I'm just going to be a horrible mother, but does anyone agree with me?

Posted by: Facetious | October 6, 2007 6:45 PM | Report abuse

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