What Not to Worry About When You’re Expecting

You have plenty on your mind when you’re pregnant. Here are few worries you can safely put to rest.

a smiling pregnant woman touching her belly speaks with a nurse about pregnancy concerns

Medically reviewed in June 2022

Updated on June 14, 2022

I’ll never forget the two weeks in the middle of my pregnancy when my husband and I were waiting for the results of a repeat ultrasound. I’d already had one, which showed possible growth discrepancies. I then spent the next two weeks wondering what I had done wrong, accompanied by varying states of fear and spontaneous tears that I’ve never known before.

I leaned on the support of my wonderful and patient close friends—many of whom had similar experiences. As my husband and I finally heard the good news that everything was okay, I saw this as an opportunity to help others going through the same experience. 

It made me wonder: What else terrifies people during pregnancy?

I went to two experts, Gary Glasser, MD, of the Gynecology Clinic, University Health Center at the University of Georgia, and Dixie Gilmore, a midwife at Atlanta Gynecology and Obstetrics, in search of some answers.

There’s probably a much longer list of things that worry expecting parents during pregnancy, but here are five you can put to rest.

Vaccines
“Vaccines during pregnancy are an important aspect of prenatal care,” says Dr. Glasser. For those who are up to date on their vaccinations, this will mean getting a flu shot during flu season and a tetanus/diptheria/pertussis shot (Tdap).

Depending on when you had your last Tdap, recommendations include having this vaccine again in your third trimester to pass pertussis antibodies to your baby. Pertussis (also known as whooping cough) is a disease that can be mild in adults but can cause death in newborns and infants.

The flu vaccine not only protects you but also your baby. “By not getting the flu shot, women are putting themselves and their unborn child at risk,” says Gilmore. Other shots that may be recommended for folks at higher risk may include hepatitis A and B and the pneumococcal (pneumonia) vaccine.

Lastly, it’s important to get vaccinated for COVID-19. Pregnant people are more vulnerable to infections. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all pregnant people get the COVID-19 shot to reduce the risk of hospitalization from debilitating symptoms, like difficulty breathing, and pregnancy complications like preterm birth. The COVID vaccine also benefits the fetus by helping to build up antibodies.

You might be hesitant to take a vaccine that’s relatively new to the market, and that’s understandable. But studies published in 2021 in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology and in 2022 in the Journal of Reproductive Immunology have shown that not only is the COVID vaccine safe for the pregnant person and fetus, but the benefits far outweigh perceived risks.

Around-the-neck umbilical cord
If you’re like me, you’ve thought more than once about the chance of the umbilical cord getting wrapped around your baby’s neck. But Gilmore told me this occurs in 30 percent of all pregnancies. (The point being: It’s fairly common but rarely causes problems.)

Not only is it common, it often resolves before birth. (In other words, it moves away on its own from the baby’s neck.) Even if it’s still around the baby’s neck as you deliver, OBGYNs and midwives are experts at removing it.

Eating the wrong thing
I ate some cold cuts while pregnant. Now what?!

The problem with lunch meat is that it can harbor listeria, a type of bacteria that can cause a serious infection in a developing fetus. According to Glasser, while the risk is generally pretty low, there is an increased risk of listeria infection during pregnancy. Pregnant people are in fact 10 times more likely to get the infection, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that one out of six listeria cases occur in pregnant people.

Glasser recommends that you follow the same food precautions that you would at any other time. “Don’t drink unpasteurized milk,” he says, “and wash knives, cutting surfaces and hands after handling raw meat.” According to the CDC, here are additional precautions to take:

  • Cook hot dogs and lunch meats to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F or until steaming hot just before serving. Avoid getting fluid from hot dog and lunch meat packages on other foods, utensils, and food preparation surfaces. Wash hands after handling hot dogs and lunch meats.
  • Don’t eat soft cheese such as feta, queso blanco, queso fresco, brie, Camembert, blue-veined, or panela (queso panela), unless it’s made with pasteurized milk.
  • Don’t eat refrigerated smoked seafood unless it is in a cooked dish, such as a casserole, or unless it’s canned. (Refrigerated smoked seafood, such as salmon, trout, and whitefish is often labeled as "nova-style," "lox," or "smoked.") Canned and shelf-stable fish products such as tuna are safe to eat. These foods are processed so that refrigeration isn’t needed until the can is opened.

Light spotting or bleeding
Spotting is typically defined as seeing a few drops of pink, red, or dark brown blood occasionally in your underwear. It’s typically lighter than a menstrual period and is relatively common during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

“Spotting during pregnancy is always scary, but it doesn’t mean the worst,” Gilmore says. Just as the blood vessels in your gums and nose can dilate and cause gum bleeding or a bloody nose during pregnancy, the same thing can happen to your cervix.

Spotting can occur when the fertilized egg implants in the lining of the uterus. This is known as implantation bleeding. Other causes of spotting may be a cervical polyp (which is a harmless growth on the cervix), having sex, having a gynecological exam, or exercising intensely.

Bleeding entails a heavier flow that requires a liner or pad. First trimester bleeding is common as well, occurring in 15 to 25 out of every in 100 pregnancies.

While spotting is most often seen after intercourse, “always check with your healthcare provider after any bleeding,” she says. “Just know that it is a common occurrence.”

Having some spotting early in a pregnancy may be common, but any bleeding in the second and third trimester should be reported to an HCP right away, especially if the bleeding is heavy.

Hair coloring
“Most experts from both the United States and Europe say there are no health risks to hair coloring or permanents during pregnancy,” says Glasser. You should follow the same rules of adequate ventilation, wearing gloves, and limiting your exposure to the chemicals when you color your hair at home—whether you’re pregnant or not.

Glasser recommends, however, that you hold off on coloring your hair in the first trimester, when your baby’s development is at its most vulnerable, or stick to partial coloring, such as highlights.

As many a parent has told me, pregnancy is just the start of a lifetime of worrying about your child. But at the very least, let’s not waste time worrying about things that don’t need it.

Article sources open article sources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Get the Whooping Cough Vaccine During Each Pregnancy. Page last reviewed: June 10, 2021.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. COVID-19 Vaccines While Pregnant or Breastfeeding. Updated April 19, 2022.
Blakeway H, Prasad S, Kalafat E,et al. COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy: coverage and safety. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2022 Feb;226(2):236.e1-236.e14.
Vitiello A, Ferrara F, Zovi A, et al. Pregnancy and COVID-19, focus on vaccine and pharmacological treatment. J Reprod Immunol. 2022;151:103630.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Listeria from Food Safety for Moms to Be. Last reviewed September 27, 2018.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Bleeding During Pregnancy. Frequently Asked Questions. Last updated: May 2021.
American Pregnancy Association. Spotting During Pregnancy. Accessed June 14, 2022.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Is it safe to dye my hair during pregnancy? 2020.
United Kingdom National Health Service. Is it safe to use hair dye when I'm pregnant or breastfeeding? Last reviewed: July 1, 2021.

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