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What Pregnant Women Should Really Avoid

pregnant woman making healthy breakfast

How an expectant monther should eat, dress, sleep, and exercise seems to be up for constant public debate. There is plenty of advice out there, but in the sea of opinions are also some hard facts. Among these are the list of things pregnant women should avoid.

“There shouldn’t be hardly any variance because we really have pretty good guidelines about what women can and can’t do in pregnancy,” says Dr. Lisa Masterson, OB/GYN and host of the podcast, Health in Heels with Dr. Lisa. Here, with the help of Dr. Masterson, is a refresher course on the things that should be completely avoided during pregnancy and other habits that just need some tweaking.

what pregnant women should avoid infographic

Infographic designed by Leah Freeman-Haskin

What To Avoid Completely

Unpasteurized dairy: Milk and soft cheeses are common unpasteurized foods. They can carry listeria, which can cross the placenta and increase the risk of premature delivery, miscarriage, or infection in the newborn.

Uncooked meats: This applies to land and sea creatures. Meats that are uncooked (or undercooked) could expose a fetus to bacteria. Even deli meats should be cooked to the point of steaming to avoid listeria contamination.

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Cat litter boxes: It’s a myth that pregnant women should get rid of their cats altogether. What they should avoid is the litter box, which may harbor toxoplasmosis, a parasitic disease that can cause miscarriage. Gardening is another way toxoplasmosis is transmitted, so pregnant women with green thumbs should always wear gloves and wash their hands.

Smoking: Smoking during pregnancy increases the possibility of miscarriage, early birth, placental problems, and certain birth defects. Exposure to smoking during and after pregnancy also makes a baby more at risk for Sudden Infant Death Sydrome.

Alcohol: Women who drink during pregnancy are more likely to have babies with fetal alcohol syndrome. This syndrome can cause poor growth, developmental problems, heart defects, and facial abnormalities in babies. As you’ve probably heard, some alcohol may be okay but science has yet to nail that down. “We don’t what that limit is and that’s why we say absolutely no alcohol,” says Masterson. So, to be safe, pregnant women shouldn’t drink at all.

What To Mostly Avoid

Fish: Fish is full of good fatty acids that can help the development of your baby’s eyes and brain. Still, women should limit their fish intake to once or twice a week because fish can contain high levels of mercury. Mercury exposure can cause developmental delays and brain damage.

Caffeine: Masterson says the limit for pregnant women is one cup of coffee a day. Too much caffeine can increase the baby’s heart rate and cause growth delays. It can also cause dehydration and calcium loss.

Travel: Travel in the beginning of pregnancy is fine but once a woman passes the 36-week mark, she should stay close to trusted medical care in case of pre-term labor or other complications.

Hazardous or jarring exercises: There is a human being attached to your insides! That means exercises with a risk of falling or too much jarring movement could cause internal damage. So, once the first trimester is over, so are your pregnant kickboxing day.

Something Not To Avoid

Recent research has come out in favor of a peanut-y pregnancy. “What we’re finding is the more exposure a mom can do, it will actually pass on to the fetus,” says Masterson. So, if you’re not already allergic, popping some peanuts may help your child avoid this extremely hazardous allergy.

What To Do If You Slipped Up

Eating one piece of sushi may seem like a very minor offense but it’s still something you should own up to. “[Pregnant women] should always inform their doctor if they’re having problems,” says Dr. Masterson. That way, the doctor can pay extra attention to any possible consequences, run appropriate tests, and help their patient change their behaviors in the future.

Quality communication between a pregnant woman and her doctor is extremely important. “If for some reason you question your doctor or you don’t feel comfortable with your doctor, go do interviews with other doctors because it’s a real intimate relationship and trust is a huge part of it,” says Masterson. She also advises women to ask their doctor for outside resources — including websites — they can consult during at-home research.

The desire to scour the internet for advice is natural but it’s best to know the good resources from the bad before you get in too deep.

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10 Things Even Your Mom Didn’t Tell You About Pregnancy

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