The Daily Pregnancy Freak-Out

Pregnant woman

If you’re prone to fretting, pregnancy, at least in the modern, Western world, is an endless buffet, a feast of fret. I’m a worrier—if my mind doesn’t have something to rub between its fingers and obsess about a little, it just isn’t itself. Before pregnancy I worried about the thinning ozone, genetically modified foods, whether my face looked fat, split ends, if a friend was mad at me, what to make for dinner, and if a zombie apocalypse is a real possibility. The usual.

Now that I’m four months along, I have to actively not worry, because it’s no longer recreational; temptation to spiral into full-blown panic lurks everywhere. I know this is just prep for actual parenthood, when my heart will be running around outside my body, but that doesn’t make it any less real. Here are some things I’m chewing on this week:

1)   My Coffee Table is a Danger Zone

I have a coffee table that’s basically a piece of glass balanced on a wood base. It’s deeply pretty to me, but lately it’s begun to scream: “Toddler deathtrap!” So I went on a mission to find a safer replacement, and was once again amazed by the Internet. So many articles about kid-safe coffee tables! One commenter even told a friend-of-a-friend story about a kid dying from my exact kind of table. Yikes. I don’t believe a child’s entire world should be made of Nerf, but I do think if we can make things safer, why not? So I’ve been looking at not-too-pointy tables and round tables and even glorified ottomans that you have to use with a tray if you want to balance a drink. My husband thinks this is all premature, that we have more urgent things to buy, like, say, a crib. His point about a coffee table not being an issue for a year and a half is salient, but does not address the freak-out. Sigh. Living with table for now. But babe, don’t be shocked if you come home one day to its replacement.

2)   There’s Too Much Vitamin E in my Prenatal Vitamin

I’m a label-reader and a relatively healthy eater, so when it came time to choose a prenatal, I did my research. I chose a brand from a lab with a great reputation, and the pills have no added colors, preservatives, or binders. I went to re-order on Amazon and noticed that, amongst the positive reviews like, “I NEVER throw up,” there was a one-star rant, in which the writer said this supplement has too much vitamin E. I read on: “I never imagined that ___ would have 167% of the RDA for Vitamin E. Do they not know of the research linking excessive Vitamin E (ANYTHING over 30 IU, from any source) to heart defects?… Please google ‘vitamin E heart defect’ for more information.” Sounded nutty, but never one to resist a Google health info challenge, I searched, and sure e-freaking-nough, lady is right. The 2009 study says “too much” vitamin E can greatly increase the risk of fetal congenital heart defects. And, the RDA for vitamin E is 18 mg for pregnant women; this vitamin has 50 IU, or 35 mg—which is actually on par or lower than with most prenatals. Did no one get the memo? Or is it not a big deal? (Worry.) From the study it’s unclear if this amount of E is enough to cause harm. I put in a call to the manufacturer to see what their scientists might have to say about this. Stay tuned. (Maybe forever–no one’s called me back in two weeks.)

3)   My Sofa Is Making My Baby Sick

Ever since I read that big New York Times article about the flame retardants (unnecessarily) in any upholstered furniture in the United States, I’ve been suspicious of my sofa. I knew these chemicals, listed as “probable human carcinogens,” chlorinated Tris, pentaBDE, and a host of other untested, likely toxic compounds, populate 85 percent of sofas. But trying to find a sofa without these in the U.S.–not so easy, or cheap. So I’m hoping my Crate & Barrel number isn’t slowly poisoning me and the bebe. (Fret.)

4)  My Cellphone and Computer Are Radiating Us

Electromagnetic frequencies are no joke. Concerns about cell phones have been growing in recent years, with some studies showing they may contribute to certain kinds of brain tumors. And it’s recommended that kids not use them at all because their skulls are so much thinner than those belonging to the knuckle-headed adults who came up with such a crazy technology to begin with. No doubt the evidence will grow as we continue the mass experiment of holding a giant frequency tuner next to our brains. Also, I work all day on my laptop on a lapdesk (on my probably toxic sofa), and worry that its EMF output is making my fetus feel funky. (Inhale, exhale.)

Like most of us, I worry and worry, and do what I can. I switched prenatals to a brand with no Vitamin E—I’ll get what I need from food. I’m sitting right now at a real desk, with my laptop further from my belly. We haven’t gotten a new coffee table… yet. Plus, I’m doing what I hope is a lot of other stuff to balance out the risks—I exercise, drink a lot of purified water, eat pretty well, take my fish oil capsules and calcium and prenatals. I try to sing and dance and laugh and get into nature. I try not to let my worry thoughts drag me down too much–because then I would worry about the effects of stress on my babe. And, in our toxic world, that’s the best I can do, aside from living in a biodome with carefully vetted everything. Though sometimes, in the name of protecting this new life beautifully swimming inside of me, it’s tempting.