3 Things Science Still Can’t Tell Us About Pregnancy

After many years of research, scientists have been able to explain why certain things happen to pregnant women, like why there’s excess hair on your face or chest — that’s from a new batch of hormones taking over your body — and which substances can be dangerous to an unborn baby, such as alcohol and cigarettes. But even in 2017, while scientists are working toward finding every unknown answer, there are still a lot of things science can’t tell us about pregnancy.

Pregnancy is a mystical and beautiful time in a woman’s life. In just nine months, a baby will grow from the size of a watermelon seed to a full 7-pound watermelon. Those are things we know, thanks to developments in the technology and many inquisitive medical minds.

For example, scientists have been able to link alcohol consumption during pregnancy to fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, which can cause both physical and mental birth defects. Doctors can also accurately say that pregnant women can not donate blood and should take extra precaution if they decide to sunbathe, as the sun can increase the body temperatures of both mom and baby and possibly lead to a preterm labor, according to The Guardian.

While those are just a few examples and serve as proof that science does know a lot about this time in a woman's life, there are still some pregnancy questions that have only scratched the surface — such as these three:

What Are The Exact Risks Linked To Marijuana, & Is Medical Marijuana OK To Use During Pregnancy?

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While doctors have linked marijuana use during pregnancy with an increased risk for pregnancy complications — like low birth weight and premature birth — researchers have mostly studied "the effects of marijuana use during pregnancy on animals," according to Healtlhine. So it's still hard to say what the exact risks would be for an unborn baby.

According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, pregnant women should be encouraged to discontinue marijuana use because there is "insufficient data to evaluate the effects" that it has on an infant.

And when it comes to medical marijuana — which 29 states have legalized — the ACOG says there are no standard dosages, formulations, delivery systems regarding use of it during pregnancy.

While the science still isn't all there yet, doctors recommend against using it both recreationally and medically for now.

Can Food Allergies Develop In Utero & Can A Fetus Have An Allergic Reaction?

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Over the years, there have been conflicting recommendations and studies about what exactly cause food allergies in an unborn child. While some research has said that allergies can begin in utero, it's still unclear which factors are the source (is it genetics, the environment, or specific foods?), according to the National Institute of Health.

"While it's clear that a mother's diet influences the health of her unborn child, there's a lack of evidence that eating specific foods can prevent certain illnesses and conditions in her child," according to ABC News.

The science is pretty clear that a certain diet can effect the development of the child growing inside the womb, but when it comes to allergies, there's a lot of grey area.

And since fetuses are still developing an immune system, it's hard to say whether a fetus can have an allergic reaction — and what that would entail — to something its mother has eaten. Essentially, this area of science is still a work in progress.

When Exactly During Pregnancy Does Zika Affect The Fetus?

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While mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus have been linked to devastating birth defects — such as microcephaly and underdeveloped brains — in babies born to women infected during pregnancy, public health officials don't know exactly when it happens.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Zika "can be passed from a woman to her fetus during pregnancy or around the time of birth."

At this time, the CDC doesn't know:

  • Whether the timing of a woman's Zika infection or the severity of it affects her pregnancy.
  • When Zika is passed from a woman to her fetus, such as if it happens during pregnancy or around the time of birth

Despite these unknowns, researchers say Zika is still dangerous at any stage of pregnancy. While more answers will go a long way in combating this epidemic in the future, anyone who is pregnant or looking to become pregnant should do their best to avoid Zika at all costs.

Science has indeed come a long way in modern history and it's only a matter of time — although it could take years — before these questions are answered, too.