Things You Can and Can't (Or Shouldn't) Do During Pregnancy

checklistJust a few changes during your pregnancy can improve your and your baby's health. For example, you probably know that getting enough folic acid is important. But did you know it is just as important to avoid your cat's litter? You probably knew that abdominal x-rays might be harmful to your baby, but did you know some researchers are concerned about electric blankets?

A few of the items listed under "Think Twice" are controversial. Some studies have shown they are dangerous, others not. It's up to you to do the research and decide if the risks outweigh the benefits.

Here's What You'll Find Below:DO's: These actions will help you and your baby have a great pregnancy:
DONT's: Precautions while you're pregnant
THINK TWICE about these controversial subjects

Plan Ahead

The ideal situation would to be able to plan our pregnancies down to the last dot over the "i". However, life, let alone babies, seldom let us do that. This is why it's so important to be aware about everything that can or will directly affect you and your baby. While we can't plan everything, being prepared and having the tools and knowledge you need really helps! Here are some good reminders about the do's and don'ts for moms and their babies.

Positive Steps: Things You SHOULD Do

share ideasTake an Active Part in Your Pregnancy Health Care
Choose a provider that fits your ideal philosophy of care. From midwife to OB/GYN, personality and communication are key ingredients to a great relationship and a healthy pregnancy.

  • Schedule regular prenatal visits: Checking in regularly with your provider helps avoid problems and complications during pregnancy.
  • Start folic acid early: Folic acid significantly reduce your baby's risk for spinal bifida. Begin this supplement when you think of having a baby.
  • Take prenatal vitamins: These specially formulated multivitamins help make up for deficiencies in your diet.
  • Talk about pre-existing conditions and family history: Pre-existing conditions include things such as diabetes, herpes (and other STDs), heart problems, epilepsy and high blood pressure.
  • Test Immunity to German Measles: If you're not immune, try to avoid contact with anyone who has symptoms of rubella. After baby is born, consider vaccinating so your next baby will be protected.

healthy dietEat Well and Get Plenty of Exercise
A healthy pregnancy diet focuses on whole grains, lean proteins, healthy fats, lots of vegetables and fruits. Just 300 extra calories a day! Need to know more? Ask for a referral to a nutritionist.

  • Eat plenty of protein: The RDA for pregnant women is 75 grams but many practitioners suggest more. Protein helps your baby develop and may protect against pregnancy complications and pre-term labor.
  • Include healthy fats in your diet: Fat and cholesteral are essential for baby's developing brain. Learn which fats are best for your baby's brain development.
  • Fitness: Regular exercise eases pregnancy discomforts and prepares your body for labor and motherhood. Need fitness ideas?
  • Do Kegel Exercises
    Kegel exercises can not only prevent or treat pregnancy incontinence, they can make birth itself easier. Here's how to do kegel exercises.

upbeat faceStay Positive
Pregnancies aren't always joyful. Surround yourself in a positive environment. It can help you relax and enjoy your pregnancy better, flooding your baby with pleasant emotions.

air purifierBreathe Clean Air
Furniture, cleansers, carpets can give off toxins. Chances are the air in your home is less pure than outside air. Make it healthier with this home makeover.

  • Enjoy with house plants! Spider plants, for example, are known to be good at removing formaldehyde and other common impurities.
  • Open a window: Airing your home just a few minutes a day significantly lowers the level of impurities.
  • Take off your shoes: Leave your shoes at the entry way to avoid tracking around whatever you've been walking through.

towerTake Care When Traveling
Traveling when pregnant requires some special considerations, especially when traveling to foreign countries.

Things You Should NOT Do

stop and research before you eatLimit or Avoid these Foods
Some foods like sushi, deli meats or feta cheese can be challenging to your immune system. Others may be high in harmful chemicals that are bad for the developing brain.

This list will help you make wise food choices:

  • Avoid raw, unpasteurized cheeses and meats: Heat deli meat to 145 degrees before eating.
  • Certain types of fish: Avoid fish high in mercury -- shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish, Limit other fish and shellfish to 12 ounces a week. Read more.
  • Junk food and fast food: As your stomach size decreases during pregnancy, junk food takes up room and prevents you from eating the foods you really need for your and your baby's health.
  • Extra vitamin supplements: Too high a dosage of fat soluble vitamins can be dangerous. Talk with your provider if you are taking supplements in addition to prenatals.

towerLimit Exposure to Toxins
What you breathe and what you touch can affect your baby. Learn how to create a healthier environment for your growing little one.

  • Smoking and second hand smoke: If you smoke, get help trying to stop. Secondhand smoke is also dangerous for you and your baby. Ask others to smoke outside.
  • Personal care products: Reduce how much you use and to choose the safest products -- ones with fewer ingredients or the USDA Certified Organic Seal.
  • Paint fumes: Look for low VOC paints when decorating your nursery. Or have your partner or a friend paint for you.
  • Garden and lawn: Watch labels on products and try to avoid contact with pesticides, herbicides and fungicides.
  • Household cleansers: Basic ingredients like baking soda and vinegar can tackle most household chores. Avoid products that say poison, warning, or danger and products with unidentified "fragrance."

glass of wineAlcohol and Drugs
The placenta doesn't filter all chemicals. Substances that can pass through to your baby and can be damaging include:

  • Alcohol: Alcohol can have a variety of negative effects on your developing baby. The bottom line is researchers have never been able to establish what is a "safe" amount of alcohol to consume during pregnancy.
  • Illegal drugs: The use of street drugs during pregnancy is associated with developmental impairment for the baby and pregnancy complications for the mom.
  • Use prescription or over-the-counter drugs with caution: Drugs that are safe to take when not pregnant can cause devastating effects to your baby. Talk with your midwife or doctor before using OTC drugs.

bulldogPet Precautions
From flea collars to taxoplasmosis, pet sprays to salmonella, your furry (or not so furry) friends bring challenges along with their love and companionship.

  • Reptiles: Lizards, iguanas, turtles, or snakes may transfer salmonella bacteria through their feces. Use gloves and wash well after handling.
  • Cat litter: Let your partner handle it or wear disposable gloves to lower the risk of toxoplasmosis.
  • Avoid Tick Bites: Tick bites open you to the risk of lyme disease. Proper clothing and a "tick check" after hiking reduce risk.

cooling fanDon't Overheat
Your baby doesn't have the ability to sweat and cool down in the womb. Higher temps can raise the baby's temp to dangerous levels. Try to keep your temp below 101°F.

  • Sauna and Hot Tubs: Hot tubs and hot baths have a tendency to raise your body temperature.
  • Check your core temperature during workouts every 20 minutes using a rectal thermometer. You might not feel hot, but remember your baby can't cool down by sweating. Slow down or rest if your temperature reaches 101°F.
  • Hot weather: Drink plenty of water and plan work early in the day during extreme temperatures.

dark chocolateWatch Out for Stress
Try to avoid major upheavals like moving or changing jobs while you're pregnant. If stress creeps into your life, minimize it with these relaxation tips.

Think Twice

x-rayMinimize X-Rays
The risks posed by x-ray exposure are fairly small. You and your dentist or doctor might decide to postpone or use shielding to lower exposure. Learn more about x-rays during pregnancy.

electric fieldMinimize Exposure to Low-Level Electromagnetic Fields
Compared to x-rays, cell phones, computers, microwaves (and more) emit much less energy. Everyday radiation may impact the way DNA replicates or how cells grow and perform.

  • Cell phones and computers: Regulatory agencies find no compelling evidence of health risks when devices are used properly but they still recommend following precautionary. These steps can lower your baby's exposure to low-level radiation.
  • Electric blankets and water bed heaters give off low-level electromagnetic fields which may be harmful to a developing baby. A regular bed with a quilt or extra blanket might be your best plan during pregnancy.
  • Dopplers and ultrasounds: These noninvasive procedures, when used properly, have not shown harm. Because the long term effects of repeated, more frequent scan on the growing babe in utero remain unknown, ultrasounds are recommended only to be used if medically indicated. Read our keepsake ultrasound checklist.
  • Microwave ovens are shielded to reduce microwave radiation levels. If your microwave is older, check or replace the door seals. Because of uncertainty about danger to your baby, it's wise not to stand directly in front of a microwave. Move to the opposite side of the room while it's in use.

cup of coffeeCaffeine
Studies of caffeine intake disagree regarding fetal health. Because of the controversy, many sources advise reducing caffeine during pregnancy. Get more details.

blob of waterAvoid Drinking Unfiltered Tap Water
Filtering your tap water can reduce harmful contaminants to your baby. See if your system removes fluoride, lead and other heavy metals. If your home is older, run the water for a minute.

muffinGenetically Modified Foods
Producers and regulatory agencies assume that if the original foods were safe, the new product will also be safe. Opponents believe this might not be true. Safety tests/labeling is voluntary.

Looking Ahead

We'd like to encourage you to continue your research during your pregnancy. Find out more about the subjects that directly affect you and your baby. From labor options and breastfeeding, to diapers, saving cord blood and other related subjects. Our pregnancy, as well as our labor and deliver articles cover everything you're curious of, concerned about, or looking for. Congratulations on your pregnancy!

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