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A Safe First Trimester

Most pregnant women do things early on in their pregnancies that they wouldn't have if they'd known they were expecting, such as having drinks with friends. Since the first trimester is the most crucial time for fetal development, it's hard not to worry when you've unwittingly taken a chance. Still, doctors agree that one or two slipups is usually no cause for worry. Here are some specifics:

Caution: Wet Paint
While one whiff of polyurethane isn't likely to harm a fetus, there's a chance that when a mother inhales paint fumes, they could get into her bloodstream and cause neurological damage to the fetus, says Constance Bohon, M.D., senior attending ob-gyn at the Columbia Hospital for Women, in Washington, DC. Once you know you're pregnant, steer clear of most paints and solvents.

Tossing Back a Few
Alcohol is a notorious threat to a fetus, but a drink or two at a party before you knew you were pregnant is probably okay, especially if it was during the first few days, before implantation occurred. That's not to say that you should purposefully consume several drinks a day in your first trimester. While an occasional drink won't likely cause a problem, one or two a few times a week may.

Not a Bitter Pill
Doctors once warned that a fetus conceived when the mother was on birth-control pills was at risk for heart problems or, if female, for masculinization caused by certain hormones in the Pill. Research shows that those fears are unfounded, given today's lower-dose pills.

Don't Sweat It
Fifteen minutes in a hot tub or sauna is probably not cause for concern, says Anita Grover, M.D., attending ob-gyn at Northern Westchester Hospital, in Mt. Kisco, NY. However, she advises patients who have spent a lot of time in a hot tub to have a level II ultrasound, in order to look for possible damage.

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