If you’re expecting, you’re probably hoping to hear a lot more “yes” in your life (*ahem* Creating life here! Worship me!). Unfortunately, there are quite a few “no”s that come with that positive pregnancy test result.
Not only does your body change while carrying your new addition (duh), but the way you live also needs to change to make sure that little peanut is safe.
Since navigating the seemingly endless list of do’s and don’ts can feel like fighting an uphill battle (while pregnant, no less), here’s a list of the big no-no’s to avoid when you have a bun in the oven.
While your diet will probably stay much the same during your pregnancy, there are quite a few foods you should steer clear of.
When you’re pregnant, your immune system is actually weakened to allow the baby to grow inside your body, which makes you way more susceptible to foodborne illnesses than your non-pregnant self.
Here are the main foods to avoid:
Unpasteurized milks and cheeses
Soft imported cheeses like brie, feta, Gorgonzola, Camembert, Roquefort, and Mexican-style cheeses (yes, the beloved queso blanco and queso fresco for taco Tuesday) are all no-gos unless they say they’re made with pasteurized milk.
Unpasteurized milks and cheeses put you at risk of Listeria, which is a nasty bacteria that can make pregnant women really sick.
Your deli days are over — for the next 9 months, anyway. Like unpasteurized dairy, deli meat can carry Listeria. If you really can’t give up the cold cuts, try heating your deli meat in the microwave until it starts steaming. That will kill any Listeria hanging around.
Mooing steaks are a thing of the past, and “well done” is your new reality. Rare and undercooked beef put you at risk of coliform bacteria, toxoplasmosis, and salmonella, all of which can lead to miscarriage-causing illnesses and complications.
Again with the dang Listeria. Eggs that aren’t fully cooked put you at risk (farewell, comrade cookie dough). Even your favorite sunny-side-up eggs can put you at risk.
Sushi and undercooked seafood
Like undercooked beef, raw or undercooked seafood is a big nope because of bacteria and parasites. Undercooked fish and shellfish — including oysters, clams, and mussels — also put you at risk of illness that could hurt your baby.
Smoked seafood is also on the Do Not Eat list. Make sure to order your salmon well done.
Fish high in mercury or pollutants
Cooked fish is OK during pregnancy, and fish high in omega-3s (like salmon) actually has a lot of benefits, but be picky about which types of fish you eat.
Fish from polluted waters can impact your health. Remember when the Gulf had that giant oil spill? Yeah, you wouldn’t have wanted your seafood dinner coming from that ocean in 2004, and you may still not today.
To be safe, stick to wild-caught, sustainably sourced fish without added colors or hormones.
You’ll also want to nix fish that can be high in mercury. Mercury can lead to brain damage and developmental delays, and when a pregnant woman consumes fish with mercury, she passes these effects on to her unborn baby.
Fish that contain mercury include:
- king mackerel
Canned chunk light tuna is typically safe to eat in moderation because it has lower levels of mercury.
Unwashed fruits and veggies
You’re going to hear a lot about toxoplasmosis, but let’s start here. If your feline friend Snowball is infected with toxoplasma and poops in your veggie garden, the soil is now contaminated.
If you go to get a fresh tomato and don’t thoroughly wash the dirt off before you eat it, you are also now infected. Pregnant women who are infected with toxoplasmosis can have severe complications, like fetal development issues or miscarriage.
Make sure you wash any fruits or veggies, especially from home gardens, thoroughly with mild soap and water or a veggie wash before eating them.
You gotta wash that food down with something, right? So what drinks are off the menu?
You might have thought you’d be that cool European mom who could still drink a glass of red wine with a cute little bump, but no, actually there isn’t enough research to prove any amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy.
Drinking alcohol gives your baby a straight shot of those boozy effects via the placenta, which can lead to fetal alcohol syndrome.
Too much coffee (or caffeine in general)
Let’s get this out of the way: It’s a myth that you can’t drink coffee when you’re pregnant. You can have coffee! Go tell the old lady who’s mean-mugging you for that small latte to take a hike.
You will need to significantly cut back, though, if you’re a multiple-cups-a-day coffee drinker or a Diet Coke fanatic.
Too much caffeine can cause problems because caffeine can pass directly through the placenta to your unborn baby. Studies have even linked caffeine to miscarriage.
A 2015 study found that miscarriage risk increased by 19 percent with every caffeine increase of 150 milligrams a day and by 8 percent for every additional two cups of coffee per day.
The March of Dimes recommends you stick to 200 milligrams of caffeine a day, which translates to about a 12-ounce cup of coffee, depending on the brew strength. Make sure you also account for caffeinated soda and tea in your caffeine quota.
Do we really need to explain? Do you need Red Bull to give your baby wings? Energy drinks and pregnancy don’t mix.
A 16-ounce energy drink can contain 240 milligrams of caffeine, not to mention a bunch of other stimulants your growing fetus definitely does not need.
There are a lot of things you shouldn’t do while pregnant that we hope we don’t have to explain (bungee jumping, for example). Here’s a narrowed-down list of the no-no’s when you’re bumpin’.
Smoking is not a good idea for anyone, pregnant or not. But it’s extremely important not to smoke and to avoid being around smoke when you’re pregnant.
According to the CDC, smoking and secondhand smoke can hurt an unborn baby. That goes for cigarettes, weed, and anything else you might smoke.
And don’t get us started on vaping. While it’s marketed as a safe alternative to smoking cigarettes, vaping still comes with risks that could hurt your pregnancy.
Just don’t do drugs, kids. And definitely don’t do drugs for your kids. The CDC outlines that substance use of any kind is straight-up not good for your baby.
Tattoos and piercings
Because being pregnant makes you much more susceptible to infections, tattoos and piercings are out. Many antibiotics are off the table when you’re pregnant, so clearing up an infection could become a major problem.
Flying in your third trimester
Flying while pregnant is totally fine, but flying near the end of your third trimester is a no-go. Wanna take that Instagram-friendly babymoon of your dreams? Do it before you’re about to pop (before week 36, according to the Mayo Clinic).
While the act of flying itself doesn’t pose a health risk, you don’t want to risk going into labor on a plane in case something goes awry. Since delivery at 30,000 feet isn’t a great birth plan, schedule trips accordingly.
Hot tubs and saunas
According to the CDC, a body temp above 102.2 degrees Fahrenheit puts pregnant ladies at risk of dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke — and a hot tub or sauna will definitely raise your temperature.
Amusement park rides
You’re probably not going to be feeling well enough while you’re pregnant to even think about riding a roller coaster — but just in case, you can’t do that either. The belly, the jerky movements, the barf-inducing flips, your belly… it’s just an all-around bad idea.
Pregnant women are by no means weak (you are literally building a human being!), but when you’ve got a baby brewing, it’s not the time to overexert yourself.
You can still pick things up, but make sure to bend at your knees, not your hips, and leave the heaviest lifting to your family and friends.
Rigorous exercise you’re not used to
Good news: You can still work out while you’re pregnant!
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, exercise doesn’t increase your chance of miscarriage or early delivery or your baby’s chance of having a low birth weight. So why is this on the list?
When you’re pregnant, most doctors will advise that you can continue your current fitness routines with modifications where needed. That means this isn’t the time to start training for a marathon if you’ve never run a day in your life.
And it’s best to avoid contact sports (and any other activities that pose a risk of falling) to avoid injuring yourself and the bump.
You’ll also want to make sure you’re not overheating and be mindful of your balance and high-impact activities. Your preggo hormones relax your ligaments, which can increase your risk of injury.
Talk to your doctor or midwife about what activities are safe for you and your pregnancy. Then, consult any trainers or instructors you work out with for any additional modifications you might need to keep you and baby safe.
Exercise is incredibly important, so make sure you’re incorporating some pregnancy-friendly workouts into your routine. Even elite athletes continue to work out during pregnancy, and studies have shown that things turn out just fine.
While essential oils have tons of health benefits, many healthcare providers will tell you to stay away from them while pregnant because there isn’t enough research to say they’re totally safe.
However, you don’t necessarily have to write off all essential oils. The Mayo Clinic recognizes that there are safe ways to use essential oils in pregnancy.
The International Federation of Professional Aromatherapists advises that you avoid oils containing high amounts of phenols, ethers, and aromatic aldehydes and make sure to always dilute topical oil applications by 1 percent or less.
The main essential oils to stay away from include:
- anise star
- sweet Birch
Just because you can buy it at Target doesn’t mean it’s safe when you’re pregnant. Talk to your doctor or midwife before taking any medication.
Here are some that are definitely on the Do Not Take list and can increase your chance of miscarriage or cause fetal development issues.
Over-the-counter medicines to avoid:
- pain meds like aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen
- cough and cold medicines with guaifenesin
- decongestants like phenylephrine or pseudoephedrine
Prescription medicines to avoid:
If you’re pregnant, chances are you probably don’t feel quite like yourself, so completely changing your self-care routine sounds like a major bummer. But, sadly, it may be necessary.
While we aren’t going to tell you what you can and can’t wear, we are going to go into what you should avoid when it comes to beauty. (Although stilettos are probably a bad idea with your balance thrown off by a growing bump.)
Tanning beds and self-tanner
Like hot tubs and saunas, tanning beds likely increase your temperature too much for a developing babe to handle. Additionally, too much UV radiation (fake bake or the real thing) can deplete folate, which is vital to your baby’s development.
Tanning also comes with plenty of risks that aren’t specific to pregnant folks — including an increased risk of skin cancer, possible damage to your eyes, and immune system suppression. Why take the chance?
Self-tanning lotions and gels aren’t necessarily a no but more of a maybe. While these products are generally considered safe, there hasn’t been much research on whether they’re specifically OK during pregnancy.
The ingredients do absorb into your skin and will likely pass to your baby in some capacity. The same goes for spray tans — and avoid inhaling the spray at all costs, because the dihydroxyacetone (DHA) in tanning products can be harmful if ingested.
Certain skincare/cosmetic ingredients
While we skin care mavens may love our retinol and hyaluronic acid, growing babies may not. Again, there isn’t a definitive ruling that certain skin care ingredients are bad when pregnant.
But based on several studies linking some ingredients to fetal irregularities and complications, most doctors err on the side of caution and tell you to nix some ingredients in your routine.
It’s time to put some skin care to rest when you’re pregnant. Acne-fighting ingredients like hydroxy acids, salicylic acid, and benzoyl peroxide are out.
Topical retinoids like retinol don’t show much risk in studies, but because of the known connection between fetal development issues and retinoids taken orally, doctors may advise you not to use retinol when pregnant just to be safe.
Botox (cosmetic procedure)
Botox is actually a toxin, so it seems pretty obvious that it’s a no when you’re pregnant.
Botox is made from a purified toxin of the same bacteria that can cause botulism (a super rare, deadly form of food poisoning), but this doesn’t seem to be a problem when it’s injected in small amounts.
While there isn’t any research specifically stating that Botox isn’t safe during pregnancy, many medical authorities, including the Cleveland Clinic, say to skip it. Cosmetic surgery and procedures like lip fillers need to be put on hold as well.
Unfortunately, many environmental factors that could be a threat to your pregnancy haven’t been properly researched or screened by doctors. Here are some things you might not even think about that are off the table for the next 9 months.
Toxic cleaning supplies (without gloves or ventilation)
Have you ever scrubbed your shower with something extremely chemical-y and felt pretty lightheaded or maybe even winded afterward? Yeah, probably don’t do that while you’re pregnant.
While it’s most likely safe to continue using cleaning products like bleach in small amounts, make sure you’re being smart or ask your partner or a friend to help out.
Ventilate the area you are cleaning and wear gloves. If you can’t ventilate a tight space like a stall shower or the oven, ask for help.
Read the labels on any cleaning products you use to make sure you can safely use them while pregnant. And don’t mix chemicals like ammonia and bleach, which is a toxic combination for anyone to breathe in.
Gardening and pesticides
OK, so technically you’re allowed to garden while pregnant, but we won’t tell anyone if you want to skip the yard work this year.
The reason gardening can pose a health risk to you and your unborn child is again that pesky toxoplasmosis. If you’re gardening, wear gloves and make sure to wash your hands thoroughly afterward.
Gardening with pesticides is an absolute no. According to the CDC, pesticide exposure can increase the chance of a miscarriage or fetal development issues.
Pest control sprays
As with pesticides, you’ll want to avoid inhaling any fumes from ant and roach sprays in your home. If you need to get rid of a nasty uninvited guest, have someone else spray the house for you and ventilate it before you return.
Some research links exposure to paint fumes in the first trimester of pregnancy to a risk of fetal development issues, but overall there isn’t enough data to fully support this claim.
Your doctor will likely tell you to stay away from paint fumes and to let someone else paint the nursery, just to be safe.
Changing the kitty litter
Remember good ol’ toxoplasmosis? It’s back. Just as your cat can contaminate your garden, Toxoplasma bacteria can be present in kitty litter.
If you can’t get someone else to take care of your cat’s sand toilet, the CDC recommends you change the litter box daily, use gloves you can toss, and wash your hands afterward.
We hope this list has left you feeling empowered instead of bummed. A good “no” can do wonders for your mental health, so don’t be afraid to speak up and ask for help while you literally perform a miracle and create life.