Anyone currently expecting will tell you that pregnancy isn’t exactly a bed of roses.
Firstly, there’s morning sickness to deal with and the burgeoning waistline that necessitates a maternity-friendly shopping spree. Then, there are the multiple bathroom trips to relieve yourself and sitting through birth vlogs to prepare yourself for the real thing. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
So, what should pregnant women try to give up for the next 10 months? From the obvious ones like alcohol and raw foods to the subtle ones like hot yoga, this list will help you stay on track to birthing a new human being. Plus, there’s one thing health experts recommend you to do in your current state. Read on to find out more.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is not intended as medical advice.
Here’s What You Should Try To Avoid When Pregnant
At this point, we’d like to point out that this list is by no means exhaustive regarding what pregnant women have to avoid in their current condition. Remember, your pregnancy journey is unique to you and your unborn child. Please speak with your primary care physician if you have any questions or concerns about what you can and can’t do.
Let’s start things off with an obvious candidate: alcohol.
If you’ve been wondering whether an occasional glass of wine is OK while pregnant, here’s an update to end all debates.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there’s “no known safe amount of alcohol use during pregnancy.” (Bear in mind that this rule also applies to those trying to conceive). Neither is there a safe time for alcohol use. Safe to say, booze in all forms – sparkling wine, champagne, and martinis – is off the market when you’re carrying a bun in the oven.
But why can’t you indulge in a drink when pregnant? A 2014 article in the Journal of Canadian Family Physician explained that alcohol consumption during pregnancy might lead to fetal alcohol spectrum disorder that manifests as:
- Physical health conditions, like low body weight and poor coordination
- Cognitive issues, such as poor memory, learning difficulties, and low IQ (intelligence quotient)
- Behavioral problems, like hyperactivity and attention deficit
The same article also warned that drinks labeled as “non-alcoholic” or “alcohol-free” drinks may still “contain higher-than-expected amounts of ethanol.” Thus, it’s best to avoid such beverages when pregnant or breastfeeding.
2. Raw Eggs and Sashimi
Raw eggs, runny eggs, and sashimi (read: raw seafood) are some foods to avoid in pregnancy, as they pose a risk of salmonella infections, aka food poisoning.
Due to the weakened immune system that comes with carrying a child, pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to such food-borne diseases. Cue the high fever, vomiting, and dehydration. (As if morning sickness isn’t bad enough!) Although rare, extreme cases may lead to preterm labor and even miscarriages.
The best way to eat eggs is to cook them until the yolks and whites are completely firm without moisture. Try hard-boiled, scrambled, and fried eggs.
Besides runny or undercooked eggs, pregnant women should also stay away from anything made with raw eggs as an ingredient. This includes mayonnaise, raw cookie dough, and eggnog. When in doubt, avoid the food or drink altogether.
Exception: If you live in the U.K., you may get away with eating raw or lightly cooked eggs, even when pregnant. The catch? Tommy’s, a pregnancy charity based in the U.K., highlighted that the eggs must be “produced to Lion code or equivalent.”
3. Certain Fish Varieties
Fish is indeed a nutritious food during pregnancy as it’s a rich source of:
- Zinc, and
- Omega-3 fatty acids
These micronutrients are essential to your baby’s brain development and overall growth.
That said, some varieties of fish typically possess high mercury levels. Mercury is a toxic substance that can accumulate in the human body. When there’s mercury overload in your bloodstream, this spells trouble for the baby in your womb.
A 2022 systematic review found that mercury exposure in expectant mothers was linked to the following:
- A lower birth weight
- Poorer grades in neuropsychological and developmental tests
Based on these findings, it’s wise for pregnant ladies to exclude predatory fish species from their diet. This includes:
- King mackerel
- Bigeye tuna
Also, freshwater fish caught from a local body of water should only be consumed after checking advisories from relevant authorities. Recent research in the Journal of Environmental Research shows that locally caught freshwater fish in the U.S. contain unsafe levels of PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonic acid), aka “forever chemicals.”
4. Hot Tubs & Hot Yoga
Pregnant mums should also temporarily give up their hot tub and hot yoga sessions.
Per a 2019 scientific article, pregnant women are more susceptible to heat exposure as their bodies undergo natural changes in regulating their body temperatures.
Intense heat exposure is one of the things to avoid in early pregnancy as it could “contribute to certain birth defects,” like congenital heart defects. Exposure to high temperatures in the second and third trimesters may trigger preterm birth or stillbirth. Constant heat exposure while pregnant may also cause low birth weight in Junior.
Moreover, mothers-to-be aren’t immune to the dangers of heat exposure too. Think dehydration which can lead to fainting and falls, increasing the risk of an injury.
5. NSAID Pain Relievers
The general population may widely use painkillers such as ibuprofen and aspirin. Still, pregnant Mamas should stay away from them. This class of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) is known to increase the risk of miscarriage and congenital disabilities.
The U.S. FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has also advised against using NSAIDs from week 20 onward during pregnancy. These drugs can cause low amniotic fluid and other health complications for your unborn child.
Instead of NSAID pain relievers, speak with your primary doctor for alternatives that are safe for you to use while pregnant.
6. Raw Sprouts and Cold Cuts
Like raw eggs and sashimi, raw sprouts and cold cuts can pose a danger when you’re expecting, as they may carry food-borne illnesses.
Uncooked and lightly cooked sprouts, like bean sprouts, contain harmful bacteria like E.coli and listeria. Ditto for cold cuts and deli meats such as salami and pepperoni.
That’s not to say you need to ban salad bowls from your everyday meals, though. Just skip the raw sprouts and cold cuts, and opt for pre-washed veggies and fruits. Also, meat and dairy products like eggs should be thoroughly cooked before consumption.
7. High-Risk Sports
It’s probably no surprise that high-risk sports like scuba diving and snowboarding are ill-advised for pregnant ladies.
Biological changes in your body size may affect equipment fitting and balance, making movement more difficult. This could potentially inflate the risk of falls and related injuries. For certain sports, such as scuba diving, your baby may have additional health complications, like fetal decompression illness.
If you’re unsure whether the physical activity is safe, consult your doctor beforehand.
P.S. You’ll want to read our post on the 8 safe exercises for expecting mothers like yourself.
8. Certain Skincare Ingredients
Not everyone benefits from the pregnancy glow. In fact, some of us struggle with skin concerns like acne, dry skin, and melasma during pregnancy. Whether it’s due to hormonal changes during this crucial period, we’re hard-pressed to find solutions to improve our complexion.
That said, not all acne medication is safe for expecting ladies. Stay away from:
- Retinoids and retinol
- Salicylic acid in high doses
- Benzoyl peroxide (usually present in over-the-counter acne products)
The One Thing Experts Recommend You Do When Pregnant
After hearing the various don’ts on your road to childbirth, here’s one thing medical professionals across the board think you should do for Junior’s health.
Take Your Folic Acid Supplements
By now, your OB-GYN has probably told you about the importance of taking folic acid supplements. And we wholeheartedly agree.
Folic acid is an essential B vitamin that helps with blood cell formation and neural development of your growing bump. According to the CDC, adequate folic acid supplementation and dietary folate intake can help prevent neural tube defects.
For the first three months of your pregnancy, the CDC recommends a daily intake of 4,000 mcg of folic acid. Alternatively, check in with your OB-GYN or primary doctor on the suitable dosage for your unique health needs.
It’s a Good Starting Place for Moms-To-Be
While the list of things to avoid during pregnancy isn’t exhaustive, the ones we’ve listed above are a good starting point for many Moms-to-be.
For starters, fine-comb your meal plans to ensure they don’t include any dietary no-nos we’ve previously covered. If your favorite food or drink happens to be on the “No” list, try close substitutes. For example, switch to white grape juice instead of nursing a glass of white wine.
Also, be sure to pregnancy-proof your everyday routine. Avoid high-risk, physically demanding, and sweltering activities. Ensure your medication cabinet is only filled with doctor-approved medications for your current condition. Last but not least, remember to swap out any skincare products unsuitable for you and Junior.
Above all, follow your doctor’s advice and take your folic acid supplements to optimize your baby’s health. Hopefully, by practicing these do’s and don’ts, you will set yourself up for a smooth-sailing pregnancy. BTW, you should totally check out our tips for a healthy and safe pregnancy!
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