Having a baby sure can be complicated. And an ever-growing list of things you need to avoid in pregnancy can add to the confusion. To help you sort through recommended things to avoid in pregnancy, we’ve compiled this list for easy reference.

pregnant woman holding her belly - Your Comprehensive List of Things to Avoid in Pregnancy

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It’s important to avoid or limit the following during your pregnancy:

Certain exercises.

Remaining active is one of the best things you can do for your body during this pregnancy. Before you start, make sure your doctor has given you the green light to exercise. (And be sure to clarify with them what exercises you need to avoid with your history and risks.) Second, stick to safe activities. Check out our full list here of activities to choose, exercises to avoid, and signs that you need to stop or change your exercise regime.

Some foods.

Nothing says, “everything’s changed” like how you must consciously think about what you can eat and drink while pregnant. We know this can be a daunting challenge, so we created a full list of foods to avoid and why. We hope this helps you feel confident you are staying safe while eating.

Excessive caffeine.

Caffeine can sure help overcome fatigue. But there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. There are some serious implications for caffeine consumption as it passes easily through the placental barrier. This can be especially risky in your first trimester. The consensus is to ingest no more than 200 mg of caffeine a day. Check out our full article on this topic and about why excess caffeine should be avoided. Then click here to find out how much caffeine is in the coffee you love.

Certain medications.

When you’re facing your first migraine or cold while pregnant, it is confusing when to take meds and when to avoid. We recommend talking to your provider and requesting a list of approved over-the-counter (OTC) medicines once you’ve confirmed your pregnancy to avoid phoning an on-call doctor in the middle of the night. In case you can’t get that list or don’t currently have access, we did create this list of general obstetrician-approved OTC meds. Please remember that, with all medicine, what is safe for one person may not be safe for you. Always run everything by your doctor who knows your personal medical history and risks.

Overheating.

One of the things you need to avoid in pregnancy is overheating. We’re not just talking about the crazy hot flash you get when your hormones surge (although we’d like to avoid those, too). According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), do not let your core body temperature exceed 102.2° while pregnant. (Some agencies recommend staying below 101°). Here’s why . . .

In the first trimester especially, hyperthermia or too high of body temperature can contribute to congenital abnormalities in your baby[1]“Pregnant in a Hot Tub,” American Pregnancy Association, https://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/hot-tubs-during-pregnancy/. This means avoiding things like saunas or hot tubs which are set well over the 102° limit. The American Pregnancy Association warns that you can exceed 102° core body temperature in as little as 10-20 minutes in a hot tub.

Does this mean you should avoid hot baths? Not necessarily. The key is to make sure you remain comfortable, not overheated. A bath is different from a hot tub because a bath continues to cool as you soak. Also, less of our upper body is submerged in a bath, helping to prevent overheating.

Other sources of overheating to be aware of are sunbathing, exercising, hot weather, having a high fever, or dehydration. To help combat these, drink plenty of cool water. Stay in well-ventilated places. Limit or avoid spending time in the harsh sun. Avoid exercises that overheat you. And talk to your doctor about fever control if you are sick.

Jarring activities, such as roller coasters.

Nothing is as boring as standing in line forever with your family for your favorite ride at an amusement park – only to have to sit the ride out. But the warning to stay clear of roller coasters and other jarring is not overly cautious. Any strong movement that has sudden starts or stops or bounces your body can cause your placenta to tear away from your uterus. This is called placental abruption and it is a life-threatening medical emergency[2]“Safety Concerns of Riding a Roller Coaster While Pregnant,” American Pregnancy Association, https://americanpregnancy.org/is-it-safe/roller-coasters/.

Another jarring event that carries the same risk is a car accident. While we know you are doing all you can to avoid an accident, it’s a good reminder to always wear your seatbelt and get checked out after any collision, no matter how small.

Illicit drugs.

Just as caffeine can cross the placenta to your baby, so can many other harmful substances. Illicit drugs top our list of harmful substances you should completely avoid. Illicit drug use can have devastating effects on you and your baby. “Almost every drug passes from the mother’s bloodstream through the placenta to the fetus,” according to Stanford Children’s Health[3]”Illegal Drug Use and Pregnancy,” Stanford Children’s Health, Stanford Medicine, https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=illegal-drug-use-and-pregnancy-85-P01208. Drug use in pregnancy puts your baby at greater risk of:

  • Drug addiction in utero and withdrawal at birth.
  • Prematurity.
  • Miscarriage and stillbirth.
  • Placental abruption.
  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
  • Sleep apnea.
  • Feeding difficulties and growth defects.
  • Lifelong emotional/behavioral due to changes in the brain.

Your lifestyle, while using, also puts you at risk of serious disease, addiction and, anemia which can also affect your baby.

Alcohol, marijuana, tobacco, and e-cigarettes.

Illicit drugs are not the only substances that can hurt your pregnancy. Cigarettes and vaping mean serious consequences for you and your baby[4]“Vaping Illness: Stanford Health Warns Against E-Cigarettes,” Tim Gerszewski, Stanford Health, September 19, 2019, https://news.sanfordhealth.org/news/vaping-illness-e-cigarettes-warning/. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cigarette or tobacco exposure during pregnancy is linked to birth defects, premature birth, and a higher risk of SIDS. Even second-hand smoke after the baby is born puts them at a higher risk of SIDS[5]“Smoking, Pregnancy, and Babies,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, January 28, 2019, https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/campaign/tips/diseases/pregnancy.html. Marijuana can lead to lifelong behavioral and emotional difficulties in your child. Alcohol is considered worse than drugs[6]“Alcohol’s Toll on Fetuses: Even Worse Than Thought,” Linda Carroll, The New York Times, November 4, 2003, … Continue reading during pregnancy due to the irreversible effects even just one drink can cause[7]“Alcohol Use in Pregnancy,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, March 27, 2018, https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/fasd/alcohol-use.html. Please know no amount of alcohol is safe at any point in pregnancy.

When it comes to any of these substances, for your health and baby’s, it’s important to stop now.

Changing the kitty litter.

If you ever needed an excuse to pass this chore along to your partner, we’ve got your back. According to scientists, changing kitty litter can expose you to a parasite that can cause a toxoplasmosis infection. Toxoplasmosis can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, and other harm to you and baby[8]“Why Shouldn’t I Change Cat Litter During Pregnancy?,” NHS, January 15, 2019, https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/pregnancy/why-should-i-not-change-cat-litter-during-pregnancy/. If you don’t have a partner to take up this job for you, be sure you use gloves when changing the litter. It’s important to wash your hands if there’s a chance you could have touched cat poop, even in instances such as gardening.

Avoid painting or using toxic cleaners.

If nesting suddenly strikes, take a small measure of precaution before picking up either a paintbrush or your go-to cleaner. You’ll want to avoid cleaning agents that have toxic chemicals on the label[9]Pregnant, With Housework to Do,” WebMD, https://www.webmd.com/baby/pregnant-with-housework-to-do#1. And when it comes to painting, most household paints these days are safe. However, if you are stripping old paint, or are using solvent-based paint, your risk of fumes affecting your baby is a little higher[10]“Can Paint Fumes Affect My Unborn Baby?,” NHS, https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/pregnancy/can-paint-fumes-affect-my-unborn-baby/. Risks also increase in the first trimester. For cleaning or painting, be sure to check the safety of your product then make sure the area is well-ventilated. Then nest away!

Stand still or sit for too long.

When your body aches or your nausea flares, it can be tempting to want to lay down as often as possible. (Binge-watch Netflix, anyone?) But researchers caution against staying too still while pregnant. Laying down for prolonged times can put you at a higher risk of blood clots. And the opposite is also true: Standing still for a long time can cause blood to pool in your overly stretchy veins, which affects how much blood makes it to your organs (and baby.) And long hours on your feet can affect our baby’s growth[11]“Standing for Long Hours During Pregnancy May Affect Babies’ Growth,” Rachael Rettner, LiveScience, May 30, 2013, https://www.livescience.com/36507-pregnancy-working-baby-growth.html.

Do what you can to move around. Take breaks at work for a lap around the office. Do some pregnancy-friendly stretches. Frequently walk the aisle when flying. Use compression stockings if they are recommended by your doctor. And if you find yourself needing to lay down for long times, change positions frequently. (In the case of obstetrician-recommended bedrest, your risk of standing outweighs your risk of staying too still. So always follow their recommendations regarding movement.)

X-rays or radiation.

If you have a test that requires radiation, such as X-rays, be sure to tell the technician before you start. They may consider stopping the test altogether or making modifications to protect your baby.

Sick people.

While in general, avoiding sick people is a smart practice, it’s especially important in pregnancy while your immune system is suppressed. Pregnancy puts you in the high-risk category for infections, some of which can be passed on to your baby through the placenta. If you can’t avoid sick people, wash your hands frequently, especially before eating, and try to refrain from touching your face. Don’t share utensils, food or drink with others. And get your doctor-recommended vaccines.

All the things you need to avoid in pregnancy.

There you have it – all the things you need to avoid in pregnancy. As always, if your doctor has added anything to this list, such as putting you on bed rest or pelvic rest, be sure to follow their orders. We know the list is long and can at times be overwhelming keeping track of it all. But knowing that you are doing everything you can to reduce risk to you and your baby will hopefully give you some extra peace of mind.

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