Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: Part II

So, Part I was about the physical and emotional ups and downs that can accompany pregnancy - all the stuff that typically comes to mind when you think of the not-so-glamorous side of pending motherhood. But aside from the bloating and the bleeding gums and the unexplained crying, there are things going on outside your body that can prove frustrating as well.

One of the major things that people don't think about as often is the lifestyle change that often has to occur once a couple finds out they're pregnant - some of which affect more people than just the mommy-to-be. Your doctor will be happy to give you a long list of "no-no's" - activities, foods, medications, and other things to avoid while your bun is still in the oven.

In certain cases, there are varying opinions about what is safe and what isn't. One of the most hotly contested concerns right now is alcohol. Now, you won't find any medical professionals who will tell you that you are free to drink as much alcohol as often as you'd like. However, while many experts insist that expectant mothers should abstain for alcohol consumption completely, there is a growing number who suggest that small, occasional indulgence in low alcohol content beverages (mainly, wine) is fine under most circumstances. I even read about a study conducted overseas that claims that as much as one or two glasses of red wine a week may actually be beneficial to a growing male fetus (read an article about the study here). I have personally known several women who had the occasional glass of wine (and by "occasional" I mean maybe two or three glasses a month, at most) while in their second and third trimesters, and whose doctors had told them it was okay to do so, and none of them had any known problems.

Despite the conflicting reports, many women understandably prefer to air on the side of caution and stop drinking altogether. This is an easier choice for some than for others. Many women are used to enjoying that glass of wine with dinner or frequently attend social events where alcohol is being served. Some women like to have a drink when they go out to dinner or when they entertain in their home, viewing it as a special treat to go along with a special occasion. Other women may be accustomed to drinking regularly or on the weekends. No matter how frequently or infrequently you are used to indulging, the knowledge that you can't even if you want to may make some feel like they are missing out.

Along these same lines is something many women feel they need to start off their day: coffee. Obviously, the concern about coffee is the possible effects of caffeine on the baby. This is another area of debate in the scientific and medical communities. The general consensus seems to be that you probably don't have to swear off coffee altogether, but you should keep consumption to a minimum or, at the very least, cut back. The March of Dimes (which describes itself as "the leading organization for pregnancy and baby health) issued a recommendation that pregnant women consume no more than 200 mg of caffeine a day, which is about the equivalent of one 12-ounce cup of coffee. This recommendation was based on a study published in 2008 that found that women who consumed more than that amount had a higher risk of miscarriage. Click here to link to the March of Dimes article about caffeine use during pregnancy. Since caffeine is not only found in coffee, the site also provides a chart giving the approximate caffeine content of certain foods and beverages, and information about some medicines and herbal remedies that may also contain caffeine. Here is another link to information about caffeine consumption during pregnancy, which also includes a similar but slightly more inclusive list of the caffeine levels of some foods and beverages.

Perhaps the most difficult lifestyle vice to give up for pregnant mothers is smoking. I don't think I really need to tell you all in the ways in which smoking can effect your unborn baby (not to mention how it can harm mommy, too), but in case you need a refresher course, here are some people who are happy to remind you:

March of Dimes
American Lung Association
American Pregnancy Association
Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
American Heart Association
Hell, even Philip-freakin'-Morris says you should cut the shit!

This is one of those lifestyle changes that your partner should join you in making, both for your sake and the sake of your children. For starters, having a partner who continues to smoke while you are trying to kick the habit makes quitting that much harder. You are far more likely to find success in quitting if you don't have to watch your partner lighting up or you can't bum a cigarette off of him when the craving strikes you. Also, the dangers of second hand smoke should not be underestimated, during your pregnancy and beyond.

While we're on the subject of that "beyond" factor, in addition to the effects smoking has on the health of your unborn baby, and the effects that secondhand smoke can have on your children after they're born, please do not ignore the effect that smoking has on you and how that could potentially effect your children in the future. My father was 45 when he died of a heart attack. I was 11 years old. While his frequent smoking was not the only factor that led to his death, it was definitely one of the major contributors.

And if that's not motivation enough, maybe you'd simply like to save that $5 a pack to put towards diapers, wipes, toys, food and formula for your baby - or leisure time for mom and dad. Forbes did the math, and depending on your state and how much you personally smoke, you could save an average of $200 to $500 a year just in the cost of buying cigarettes if you quit smoking - that doesn't include the cost of gas to go buy the cigarettes, health care costs associated with smoking, higher insurance premiums, etc. And the price of cigarettes is likely to increase.

All this talk about money brings me to another lifestyle change that many parents and couples find they must make when expecting a new member of their family - the financial kind. Having a baby is expensive, from beginning to end. Here is a list of some of the many new expenses you could incur thanks to your coming bundle of joy:

In the beginning...

- Prenatal vitamins
- Co-pays and other fees related your many doctor's visits
- Time off from work, also related to frequent trips to your doctor
- Maternity clothes
- All the get-ready-for-baby gear (assuming you have to buy these things and don't have hand-me-downs or receive them as gifts): crib, crib mattress, crib bedding, changing table, changing table pad, changing table cover, bassinet, bassinet bedding, other nursery furniture, mobile, baby monitor, car seat, stroller, clothes, toys, pacifiers, teethers, bibs, burp cloths, bath time supplies, first-aid, books, CDs, DVDs, hangers, storage bins, diaper bag, bottles, activity mat, swing, entertainer, bouncer, high chair, etc.
- Breast pump, nursing pillow and other accessories if you are breastfeeding; formula, if you are not (or maybe even if you are, if you choose to supplement)
- Diapers and wipes
- Toiletries, medicines and grooming supplies
- Nursery renovations
- Health insurance for baby
- Co-pays and other fees related to your baby's many doctor's visits
- Maternity leave, sometimes with reduced or no pay
- Childcare

And as they get older...

- Childproofing
- Sippy cups, utensils, plates and bowls, etc.
- Food, clothes and medical care throughout the years
- Birthday parties, Christmas gifts, etc.
- New furniture as your child outgrows the nursery set-up
- School supplies
- Fees for participation in various sports and activities
- College savings/tuition

Just looking at the list is even making me a bit dizzy. Unfortunately, the majority parents are not in a position where the cost of raising a child is of no concern to them. Most have to budget, save and plan for these extensive costs. This may require any number of strategies, including giving up or scaling back on certain luxuries, taking on extra work or longer hours, reorganizing investments and savings, selling or putting off the purchase of certain items, altering long term spending plans and goals, cutting back costs by changing service providers or eliminating services altogether, refinancing debt, skipping a vacation or other pricey event, accepting help from family members, taking out a personal loan or second mortgage, postponing home renovations and other costly projects, dipping into retirement funds, or simply becoming more frugal with spending habits. This process can range from annoying to stressful to depressing to seemingly impossible, depending on your circumstances.

I am currently working on compiling a list of money-saving tips to help alleviate some of the pressure of new baby budgeting - so check back for that soon!


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