Top 5 Things to Avoid During Pregnancy

While most women can keep up their daily routine during pregnancy, some activities—and certain foods—should be avoided.1 A healthcare practitioner can offer expert advice based on your unique circumstances. Generally speaking, however, here are five key things to avoid when pregnant:

  1. Certain foods, caffeine, and alcohol

Pregnant women may experience a change in their sense of smell and even feel nauseous around certain foods.1 These types of symptoms are especially prevalent during the first trimester.1 But ultimately, regardless of the symptoms you experience, you’ll want to avoid the following foods and beverages:

  • Unpasteurized dairy and juices

Unpasteurized (or raw) dairy products, including soft cheeses like Brie and Camembert, may be contaminated with Listeria or other bacteria linked to food-borne illness.1 Unpasteurized juices should be avoided for this same reason.1

  • Raw eggs

Raw eggs may contain harmful bacteria like Salmonella.1,2 Be sure to cook your eggs until both the whites and the yolks are firm.1,2 Be leery of foods made with raw or undercooked eggs, including eggnog, cookie dough, and Caesar salad dressing.1,2

  • Raw meat and fish

From steak tartare to sushi to raw oysters, pregnant women should steer clear of raw meat and fish.1 These items may contain Salmonella and Toxoplasma—pathogens associated with food poisoning—which can cause fever, dehydration, and other conditions that are especially dangerous during pregnancy.1

Pregnant women should also avoid cooked fish that feature high mercury levels, including swordfish, mackerel, and tuna.1 Exposing the fetus to too much mercury can cause neurological, vision, and hearing issues.1

  • Deli meats

Deli meats and premade deli salads should also be avoided during pregnancy.1 Like unpasteurized dairy and juices, they are more likely to contain Listeria than many other food items.1

  • Caffeine

Pregnant women need not forego their morning coffee entirely—limiting caffeine intake, on the other hand, is crucial.1 Research indicates that expecting mothers should limit their caffeine intake to 300 milligrams per day, which translates to three 6-ounce cups.3 Quantities that exceed this amount can be harmful to the fetus, so mothers-to-be must exercise caution when drinking coffee or caffeinated tea.1

  • Alcohol

Unlike caffeine, alcohol should be completely avoided during pregnancy.1 This is because when an expecting mother drinks, the alcohol comes in contact with the placenta and can cause issues like fetal alcohol syndrome.1

Researchers have limited information on how much alcohol is too much during pregnancy.1 This means you must put your drinking on hold until you deliver your child—or, if you plan on breastfeeding, until you stop nursing your infant.1 

2. Certain medications

Certain over-the-counter and prescription drugs, along with many herbal remedies, may be harmful to the fetus.1 Most medical professionals suggest avoiding the following medications during pregnancy:1

  • Most cold medications during the first semester in particular
  • Cold and flu medications that contain specific potentially harmful ingredients
  • Certain acne medications
  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors or medications that widen the blood vessels
  • Ibuprofen and a number of other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

Please note that your doctor may suggest avoiding other medications than those listed above. A physician or pharmacist can offer additional guidance and alternative recommendations as needed.1

3. Hot tubs and saunas

Expecting mothers ought to avoid hot tubs, saunas, and steam rooms until they give birth.1 These warm spaces can cause hyperthermia—the opposite of hypothermia—or exceedingly high body temperature.1

Hyperthermia is linked to a number of congenital abnormalities, so experts highly recommend that pregnant women avoid overheating in general.1 While there’s no need to completely eliminate sweat-inducing activities from your life, you will want to be mindful while engaging in hot yoga, sunbathing, and other forms of strenuous exercise.1

If you are going to engage in a strenuous activity or spend time in extreme heat, be sure to drink plenty of water.1 Staying hydrated can help you maintain a lower body temperature.

4. Litter boxes

Cat owners, listen up: Expecting mothers are welcome to continue caring for their beloved pets—but they should avoid changing litter boxes until their baby arrives.1

What’s wrong with litter boxes? Cleaning dirty litter boxes presents a risk of Toxoplasma exposure, which is especially harmful for pregnant women.1 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that passing Toxoplasma to the fetus can result in severe birth defects ranging from intellectual challenges to brain or eye damage.4

To promote good health during this time in your life, simply ask a trusted friend or partner to take on the litter box responsibilities until the birth of your child.

5. Contact sports, heavy lifting, and other higher-risk physical activities

If you’re pregnant, contact sports like football and hockey are a no-go.1 Specifically, these forms of exercise increase one’s risk of placental abruption—that is, the early separation of the placenta from the uterine wall.1 Placental abruption is linked to several severe conditions, so you’ll want to focus on gentler forms of exercise until you deliver your baby.1

Pregnant women should also avoid lifting heavy objects. Hormonal changes during pregnancy may cause the ligaments to loosen, which makes expecting mothers more prone to injuries like pulled muscles, hernias, and more.5

In brief, with the exception of those facing critical health issues, expecting mothers are encouraged to get plenty of physical activity.1 Certain types of physical activity, however, should be avoided.1 Specifically, activities that include the following ought to be blacklisted until childbirth:1

  • Sharp movements or sudden changes in direction
  • Activities with a high risk of falling like ice skating or horseback riding
  • Bouncing or jumping
  • Abdominal exercises like situps or bicycle kicks after the first trimester

While it may sound like your options are limited, most exercises—including hiking, swimming, and squats—are highly beneficial during pregnancy.1,5 Simply contact your doctor if you have questions involving what’s acceptable.

For more information on pregnancy and general wellness topics, please visit the Metagenics blog.

References

1. Fletcher J. What to avoid during pregnancy. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322873.php. Medical News Today. Accessed August 12, 2019.
2. Mayo Clinic Staff. Pregnancy nutrition: Foods to avoid during pregnancy. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/pregnancy-nutrition/art-20043844. Mayo Clinic. Accessed August 12, 2019.
3. Morgan S et al. Is caffeine consumption safe during pregnancy? Can Fam Physician. 2013;59(4):361–362.
4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Staff. Pregnant women. https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/toxoplasmosis/gen_info/pregnant.html. CDC. Accessed August 13, 2019.
5. American Pregnancy Association Staff. Lifting during pregnancy. https://americanpregnancy.org/is-it-safe/lifting-pregnancy/. American Pregnancy Association. Accessed August 13, 2019.

Submitted by the Metagenics Team

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