Q&A: Pregnancy

Diagnostic ultrasound utilizes low-powered sound waves that do not harm the developing fetus.

Pregnancy expert Peter S. Heyl, M.D., responds to your questions.

Is having an ultrasound safe, or can it pose a risk to my baby?
Diagnostic ultrasound utilizes low-powered sound waves that do not harm the developing fetus. The procedure should be performed only for diagnostic purposes (that is, used as a screening test) by a sonographer credentialed by the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers or by a physician trained and certified for this examination. You will see a certificate on the sonographer’s wall, or the initials RDMS (Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer) on the sonographer’s white jacket. Feel free to ask about credentialing beforehand as well. Be wary of a business that offers pictures or videos of your unborn baby just to add to a baby book.

I have a lower back tattoo. Will I be able to have an epidural?
The presence of a tattoo will not prevent you from having an epidural. However, anesthesiologists exercise caution. An epidural is not placed in a new tattoo that is healing, as it may cause infection. Nor is it placed directly on a tattoo, for the epidural needle may cause a scar and alter the look of the tattoo. Anesthesiologists attempt to insert the epidural needle in non-tattooed skin.

Can I deliver vaginally after having a C-section?
Currently, only one in ten women who have had a prior C-section attempt a VBAC (vaginal birth after a cesarean); 60 to 80 percent of these women who try a VBAC are successful. The decision to attempt a vaginal birth may be made with your obstetrician based on the type of incision used for your prior C-section, the complication that led to the previous C-section, whether you have had a successful previous vaginal delivery and the condition of your unborn baby. Professionals err on the side of caution when scheduling a VBAC, thinking primarily about the safety of you and your baby.

May I have just a glass of wine a day while pregnant?
Bear in mind that when an expectant mother consumes alcohol, so does her fetus. Fetal alcohol syndrome is the leading cause of preventable mental retardation in the U.S. today. For the healthy development of your growing fetus, most professionals advise avoiding all alcohol during pregnancy or when trying to conceive, since no one knows the safe amount of alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

Peter S. Heyl, M.D., practices maternal fetal medicine as an associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk.

Do you have questions about pregnancy and new parenthood? Send them to us.editor@cwcomms.com

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Written by Adair R. Heyl, Ph.D., and Pete S. Heyl, M.D.

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