Pregnancy

How can I make sure to travel safely while pregnant?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My job requires a lot of travel, and I recently became pregnant with my first child. What do I need to know about traveling safely during pregnancy?

DEAR READER: Being pregnant doesn't mean you have to stay at home for nine months. There are exceptions; particularly in the last three months, some women develop complications of pregnancy that require them to be resting. But for most women, travel poses no threat to the mother or child.

Is it safe to drink diet soda during pregnancy?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My beverage of choice is diet soda, but my girlfriend told me I should stop drinking it now that I'm pregnant. Is she right?

DEAR READER: For some time now, research has shown that when pregnant women gain a lot of weight during pregnancy, they have heavier babies. Heavier babies tend to grow into heavier children, who tend to grow into heavier adults. And being overweight or obese in childhood can adversely affect a child's future health and well-being. So it's a good idea for pregnant women to try not to gain more than their doctors tell them to.

What should I feed my baby if I need to avoid rice cereal?

DEAR DOCTOR K: You recently wrote about the dangers of feeding rice cereal to babies. Can you tell me more about this? What should I give my baby instead?

DEAR READER: For years, rice cereal has been a go-to food for parents when they start their babies on solid foods. My Harvard Medical School colleague Dr. Claire McCarthy, a primary care pediatrician at Boston Children's Hospital, says it's time to change that.

Is it safe to take an antidepressant during pregnancy?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have been on SSRI medicines for depression for five years. I'm trying to get pregnant, and I hear that SSRIs might be dangerous. What do I need to know?

DEAR READER: I love to receive questions that I can answer confidently. Yours is not one of them. The evidence from different studies is conflicting. Here's my best attempt to weigh the risks against the benefits.

Is there any new information on the link between Zika virus and birth defects?

DEAR DOCTOR K: In a recent column, you said that doctors were still conducting research to see if the Zika virus does, as feared, cause birth defects -- particularly, babies born with small heads and brains. Has there been any new information on that?

DEAR READER: There has, and it's important. The new information was summarized in articles in the New England Journal of Medicine in April.

I have a heart condition. What do I need to know before I get pregnant?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have a heart condition. What do I need to know before I get pregnant?

DEAR READER: When a woman is pregnant, her heart is working for two. Blood passes through her placenta to her baby. This places additional demands on her body's circulatory system, particularly the heart. Among other changes, her heart pumps a much higher volume of blood each minute. As a woman with a heart condition, it's particularly important for you to understand what this added workload might mean to your health, and to your baby's.

What happens during a C-section?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My doctor says she is going to have to deliver my baby by C-section. What will happen during this procedure?

DEAR READER: A cesarean delivery, or C-section, is surgery to deliver a baby through the abdomen. It may be scheduled in advance when a woman cannot or should not deliver the baby through the vagina. A C-section may also be performed if continuing with labor or delivery becomes risky to the mother or baby. Finally, a cesarean may be done as an emergency procedure if there is immediate risk to a mother or baby.