When it comes to starting your journey to parenthood, we know you have questions. No, seriously: We told you to ask away on social media, and you didn't disappoint. From broad ("How much does it cost to have a kid?") to specific ("Can I eat feta cheese when I'm pregnant?"), those questions illustrated just how much there is to consider when you're expecting. So naturally, it only felt right to pass them along to our team of experts.
Whether you're already counting down the days til your due date or are just starting to think about becoming a parent, find the answers to your burning questions below.
Important Q: Is it true I need to avoid cheese when I’m pregnant?
Great news: Many types of cheese are totally fine to eat during pregnancy. “Just make sure that the cheese is made from pasteurized milk,” advises our resident nutrition expert Dr. Mastaneh Sharafi, PhD, R.D.
How much money do you need for a baby?
Having a kid definitely isn’t cheap—a 2010 USDA report estimates that the average middle-income family will spend roughly $12,000 on baby-related expenses in their first year of life. (That includes diapers, food, medical expenses, childcare, clothes, and more.) The good news is that awareness is the first step—now that you know, you can plan ahead and start saving.
When should I start taking a prenatal?
Even if you’re just thinking about getting pregnant, it’s not a bad idea to start taking your prenatal. Our science team recommends aiming for three months before conception (but it’s never too late to start!).
I follow a plant-based diet. Will that impact my baby?
The trick is to make sure your diet is nutritionally balanced—which is something to strive for whether you’re trying for a baby or not—and take a high-quality prenatal vitamin to fill the gaps. That said, there are certain nutrients that should be top of mind for someone who identifies as vegan or vegetarian. “Vitamin B12 and vitamin D are the nutrients of most concern [for a plant-based diet],” says Dr. Luke Bucci, Ph.D, CCN, CNS, and Ritual’s VP of Research and Development. “Iodine and Omega-3 DHA are right behind them.”
How do you know if an epidural is right for you?
That’s ultimately a very personal decision, says Dr. Jason Rothbart M.D., F.A.C.O.G., an ob-gyn and member of Ritual’s Scientific Advisory Board—and one that you might end up making with your doctor depending on the course of your labor. “A woman should get an epidural if at any time in labor the level of pain is more than she can tolerate, or more importantly, wants to tolerate,” he notes. And that decision can also change depending on how much time you have left until delivery. “Ultimately,” he says, “every patient can decide what is right for her in the moment.” And while it can be tough if you were set on a “natural” birth, try taking guilt out of the equation. Labor is hard!
I’m a social drinker. Is it okay to drink alcohol when I’m trying to get pregnant?
Just to be safe, probably not. “Alcohol can cause problems for your developing baby throughout your pregnancy, including before you know you are pregnant,” says Sharafi. The Center of Disease Control maintains that no amount of alcohol is totally safe during pregnancy, so it’s best to refrain altogether.
Is there anything I can do to prevent tearing?
We have bad news and good news: There’s no guarantee that you can prevent vaginal tearing when giving birth, but research does point to a few ways that you might be able to decrease your risk. Perineal massage is one option—studies show that for every 13 women who opt for this treatment in the weeks leading up to birth, one case of vaginal suturing is avoided. Spending time in a whirlpool bath during the earlier stages of labor was also connected with less perineal trauma. But other popular remedies—like switching up your birthing position, or taking a slow-and-steady approach to pushing—didn’t show any significant impact.
Don’t I need calcium in my prenatal vitamin?
If you eat a balanced diet with sufficient calories to support you during your pregnancy, chances are you’re getting enough calcium through your food alone—that’s according to national reports of dietary intake (NHANES 2007-2010) that has shown pregnant women age 19-50 on average get 1123 mg calcium from their diet,* says Sharafi. You also just want to make sure that you’re getting enough of the nutrients that help your body to absorb calcium: that includes boron, vitamins D3 and K2, and magnesium. (Read your labels and choose a prenatal that includes those nutrients.)
Do products like deodorant and skincare really affect my baby if I use them while I’m pregnant? Should I go more natural?
While it’s not a bad idea to practice a little skepticism about the products you put on your body, your best strategy is to consult with your doc if you’re really concerned. “There are inherent risks in every product we use—some have been proven, some are theoretical,” says Rothbart. “But when it comes to any of these products, if there is ever a question, always talk about it with your doctor.”
Should I cut out all “bad” foods before and during pregnancy, like caffeine and sugar?
It’s not 100% necessary, but it’s also not a bad idea. Just like an unbalanced diet can impact things like blood sugar and heart health, it can also have an impact on the health of your developing baby. So it’s best to aim for a nutrient-rich diet all the time—especially since if you’re trying for a baby, you might be pregnant and not even know it yet.
What exercises can I do to help my body prepare for pregnancy, labor, and birth?
If you already hit the gym on a regular basis, you’re in luck: “Any fitness routine that involves moving your body, moving the blood around, and being active will be helpful with pregnancy and labor and birth,” says Rothbart. But beyond that, you’ll use certain muscles in your body during the delivery process more than others—and there are actually lots of exercises that can specifically prep you for the marathon that is childbirth. For that, he recommends consulting with your doctor, so the two of you can put together a plan specific to your fitness level, body type, and any potential issues specific to you.