FAQs | Catherine Elliot


Am I pregnant:

Some women may be able to tell form their bodies that they are pregnant (breast tenderness is often one of the first signs)

There are some urine pregnancy test that may detect a pregnancy 2 days prior to the expected next period, however in most cases, the urine test would be able to detect a pregnancy when the BHCG (pregnancy hormone in the blood) is at a level of 50IU/L and this may occur in the first week after the missed period.

A blood test can determine the exact levels of pregnancy hormone, but are not always necessary in every case.

A transvaginal ultrasound scan (performed by a trained medical practitioner, gynecologist or ultrasonographer.) can detect an intrauterine sac at 5 weeks, a small embryo (diamond ring) at 6 weeks and a fetus with a heart beat at 7-8 weeks.

When is the best time to visit an obstetrician/gynecologist for the first time in pregnancy: in the absence of any pain or bleeding the best time is 6-8 weeks. Remembering that the weeks are counted from the first day of the last normal menstrual cycle and 40 weeks is full term.

If the dates of the your last normal menstrual period are not known, then it is best to book an appointment as soon as possible.

Is the use of Ultrasound safe for my baby and me?

No adverse effects of ultrasound have been demonstrated to date. However, as with every medical test it is important to perform them only when there is a clear indication to do so. In other words there must be a question one needs to answer for example ‘ am I pregnant and is there a heartbeat” that would require only that test to provide an answer.

The fetal heart can be seen beating as early as 6-8 weeks, however the use of Doppler sound (to hear the heart beat) is not recommended before the 11-13 week scan.

What can I eat while I am pregnant?

Following a healthy diet is an important part of staying healthy and providing enough micronutrients for your growing baby. A healthy diet should include home cooked food, which includes enough fruit and vegetables and protein. Fish can be eaten (green and low in mercury) twice a week.

If you are a vegetarian it is important to make sure that your protein and iron intake is sufficient for a growing baby and a pregnant mom.

Raw meat and fish should not be consumed and food should be cooked through including a resting time on the stove.

Vegetables and fruit should be washed well. It is safe to eat salads at reputable restaurants.

It is best to avoid unpasteurized dairy. This would include juices at markets that are not freshly squeezed, health shop dairy products and soft cheeses (like brie, camembert etc.) Hard cheeses are considered safe.

Listeriosis is a potentially harmful bacteria that may be present in unpasteurized dairy and raw meat products
Salmonella is potentially present in meat and fish that is beyond its sell by date or rare or uncooked.

Should I take vitamins during pregnancy?

Following a healthy diet is an important part of staying healthy and providing enough micronutrients for your growing baby.

Folate supplementation (400micrograms per day) from 8-12 weeks before conception will help to prevent major spine and brain abnormalities, namely Neural Tube defects.

A prenatal/pregnancy vitamin is recommended. Take a look at your local pharmacy and chose a pre-natal vitamin (sold as a pregnancy specific vitamin). This should include (along with all the other ingredients) at least 400 micrograms of folate and 200mg of iron. It is best to start the vitamin at least 2 months before you fall pregnant and continue whilst you are breastfeeding.

Omegas should be added to your daily vitamins. These can be started as soon as you can, but may be a bit difficult to take in the first trimester if you are suffering from morning sickness (which can be all day sickness) Please choose a omega tablet that is specific for use in pregnancy (which will be low in mercury).

Can I fly in pregnancy?

Flying is considered safe in pregnancy, however each airline will have very specific rules determining the last opportunity you will be allowed to fly. Please check the airline website before you plan your trip. Towards 28 weeks if you are planning to travel you will need a letter from your doctor to state you are healthy and fit to fly. It is recommended to visit your doctor a week before you travel for a check up.

When you are travelling, stay well hydrated, get up from your seat at least every two hours to move around avoid sleeping tablets and insure enough time is set aside to rest at your destination.

Can I visit a malaria area whilst pregnant?

Malaria areas are best avoided whilst you are pregnant. (Children under 5 years of age, should also not visit a malaria area)

Compiled by Dr Catherine Elliott

American institute of Ultrasound in Medicine

Royal college of obstetricians and gynaecologists.