At the Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, each patient is an important member of her own care team and education is the cornerstone of our high-quality care. Find answers to frequently asked questions about pregnancy.

Please note: If you have questions about exposures to medications, drugs, chemicals, x-rays, infections and possible risks during pregnancy, you may call the Genesis Fund Pregnancy Exposure InfoLine at 800-322-5014 or 781-466-8474. Sponsored by the Genesis Fund, the hotline is open Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm. All calls are confidential and free of charge. You can also visit www.thepeil.org for additional information.

How frequent are my appointments?

The following is a general schedule for an uncomplicated pregnancy:

  • From the beginning of your pregnancy through 28 weeks you will have a monthly appointment
  • From 28-36 weeks, you will have an appointment every 2 – 3 weeks
  • From 36 weeks until delivery, you will have a weekly appointment

You may schedule more than one appointment at Massachusetts General Hospital at a time. Routine prenatal visits, in which you may ask all your questions and have your blood pressure, weight, urine and status of your baby checked, are usually 15 minutes long. If we anticipate a longer visit for prenatal diagnostic testing, we will let you know in advance so you can plan accordingly. We make every effort to keep appointments running on time. If you are going to be late, please call the office to arrange an alternate time. Unexpected emergencies do arise that we need to address immediately, which may cause delays in the schedule. Please bear with us.

Can I garden?

Yes, as long as you feel comfortable doing it. You should wear gloves and wash your hands thoroughly after working with the soil.

For more information about preventing infections during pregnancy, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Can I paint?

Paint fumes are usually non-toxic if the area is well-ventilated. Water-based latex paints are acceptable. If you have a question about the type of paint you are using, ask the manufacturer or call us.

What about my hair care?

You may perm and color your hair during pregnancy as there is no danger to your baby.

What if I need dental work?

It is not necessary to delay your dental work until after your pregnancy. If your dentist needs to take x-rays, just be sure to properly shield your abdomen. Local anesthetics are permitted. If your dentist has any questions, please ask him/her to call us.

Am I allowed to travel?

Travel poses no specific risks during pregnancy, but you should take some minor precautions. Use your seat belt throughout your pregnancy. During long trips, take time out to stand and move about. Consider access to obstetrical care. Although travel does not cause premature labor, there is the possibility that you may deliver far from home. Most airlines have restrictions in the last month of pregnancy, so check with the carrier. Finally, it is important that you drink lots of fluids.

What is a midwife?

At Mass General, you have the choice of having either an obstetrician or nurse-midwife as your healthcare provider. Mass General midwives are certified by the American College of Nurse Midwives and provide modern obstetrical care to women having an uncomplicated pregnancy and delivery. They are trained to recognize abnormalities at every stage of pregnancy, labor, delivery and postpartum. Midwives write prescriptions for medications and prescribe and administer analgesic medication and local anesthetics. If necessary, they can perform and repair episiotomies. Our midwives practice in collaboration with our obstetricians. In the event of medical or obstetrical complications, the midwives consult, collaborate and refer to the appropriate physician specialists. Many problems can be co-managed by a nurse midwife/obstetrician team, so even if a problem develops, a midwife may continue to participate in your care. Meet our nurse-midwives

Will I have my own obstetrician or midwife delivering my baby when the time comes?

After spending the vast majority of your pregnancy caring for you, your provider would like nothing more than having the privilege of delivering your baby. However, this is not always possible as we do not control the timing of when you go into labor or deliver. Babies are born 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and this means the labor unit never closes, making it necessary for obstetricians and midwives to rotate coverage. As the labor unit is always staffed by both an obstetrician and a midwife, we try to respect your choice of provider type. Although we suggest you remain with your chosen provider for all of your prenatal visits, you may schedule some of your visits with other providers. As Mass General is a teaching hospital, obstetrical residents may possibly be involved with part or your care.

What is a high risk pregnancy?

Women who begin their pregnancy with existing medical problems such as diabetes, hypertension, heart problems or known fetal abnormalities require the care of a high risk obstetrician. Usually, these women will have their medical information communicated to us by their referring primary care physician or obstetrician prior to their first visit. There are also non-medical situations, such as substance use, spousal abuse or psychosocial problems, which may also make a pregnancy high risk. Having a baby when you are older (35 years+) does not automatically make you a high risk patient if you are otherwise in good health.

What is a genetic counselor?

Genetic counselors are healthcare professionals certified by the American Board of Medical Genetics or the American Board of Genetic Counseling. They work with your obstetrical team to provide in-depth genetic information and counseling to expectant parents who may have questions or concerns based on their individual history, such as: diseases that run in families or specific ethnic groups; couples who have had a child with a birth defect; couples wit a history of stillbirth or more than one miscarriage; pregnant women older than 35. Genetic counselors may also discuss the effects of medications, drugs and alcohol on pregnancy as well as the effects of maternal medical conditions such as diabetes, seizures, high blood pressure and radiation therapy.

Will I need genetic testing?

Prenatal diagnostic testing is always your choice. Your obstetrician or nurse-midwife will assist you with deciding which, if any, testing is most appropriate for you.

Can I exercise?

Before beginning any exercise program, talk with your doctor to make sure you do not have any obstetric or health conditions that would limit your activity. Ask about any specific exercise or sports that interest you. Your doctor can offer advice about what type of exercise routine is best for you.

The extra weight you are carrying will make your body work harder than before you were pregnant. Exercise increases the flow of oxygen and blood to the muscles being worked and away from other parts of your body. Therefore, it is important to not overdo it. Try to exercise moderately so you don’t get tired quickly. If you are able to talk normally while exercising, your heart rate is at an acceptable level.