As someone remarked “I can’t put myself in a glass bottle during pregnancy – all I can do is avoid known risks.” You should not have:
Too Much Caffeine
Views on caffeine during pregnancy are maddeningly contradictory. Some researchers point to problems such as miscarriage and low birth weight, while others show no such relationship. According to Dr Kathleen Bradley, a maternal-foetal medicine specialist and assistant clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the UCLA School of Medicine, “Only excessive amounts of caffeine (more than 300 milligrams a day) are likely to cause these problems.
The caffeine content of different brews varies, but you should be able to stay under the 300-milligram mark by limiting your daily quaffing to one or two cups of coffee or tea.” Since even non-colas can pack in quite a caffeine punch, check the label before you start. And while chocolate does contain caffeine, it contains much less caffeine – 1 to 35 milligrams per one ounce – than coffee.
Animal faeces may host a parasite that causes toxoplasmosis. The symptoms (fever, fatigue and sore throat) are similar to those of a garden-variety flu but the results are usually devastating. It could lead to a miscarriage, intra-uterine death, pre-term labour, or serious health problems in the newborn. Even so, having a baby on board doesn’t mean you need to send your pets packing. All you have to do is put your partner on litter-box duty for the nine-month duration. It’s also a good idea to wash your hands after heavy petting sessions and after handling raw meat. And avoid undercooked meat (which can harbour the parasite) either for yourself or for your pet. Wear gloves when you’re gardening and avoid children’s sandboxes as roaming animals may use these as litter boxes. It would also be a good idea to disallow the pet into your bedroom.
Uncooked, soft cheeses, unpasteurised milk and milk products, raw or under cooked meats, fish and poultry may contain listeria bacteria. During pregnancy, listeriosis (symptoms include fever, chills, diarrhoea, and nausea) can cause miscarriage, pre-term labour or even stillbirth.
Avoid seafood as it may contain high levels of mercury and other toxins which could delay foetal development. Experts recommend expecting mothers to limit their servings of shark and swordfish – which contain higher levels of mercury than any other fish.
As you already know, most drugs should be avoided during pregnancy, but are the natural remedies you pick up at health-food stores harmless? Herbal remedies can have a potent effect on your body and your baby’s. Don’t consume anything without running it through your doctor first. Herbal remedies have an unpredictable effect on pregnant women. It’s wise to avoid herbal teas that apparently have medicinal benefits.
If you haven’t been gripped by that famous pregnancy cleaning-and-nesting frenzy, chances are you will be soon.
Safety tips for those 3 a.m. floor-scrubbing and nursery-decorating sessions: Read labels carefully. Wear gloves and work in well-ventilated areas. Avoid aerosols, which disperse more chemicals into the air than pump bottles do, oven cleaners, paint fumes, solvents, and furniture strippers. Frequent, heavy exposure to chemicals in the workplace (home workshops count too) has been linked to birth defects. Home use of most products is more likely to make you feel faint or nauseous.
Soaking in the hot tub or relaxing in a sauna may seem like the perfect way to pamper yourself, but raising your core temperature – especially during the first trimester – may not be wise. Soak yourself in a lukewarm bath. Just make sure that the temperature is not above 100 degrees and that you get out after ten minutes. Sustained exercise in very hot, humid weather can also raise your core temperature. When you are exercising, be sure to drink liquids before, during, and after, and if you find that you’re heating up, take a five or ten minute breather.
Lead exposure has been linked to miscarriage, pre-term labour, low birth weight and mental and behavioural problems in children. Residue from the toxic metal can lurk in places you might not suspect. A few precautions will reduce the amount of lead you come into contact with. Filtering your water may help, or have your tap water tested.
Certain Over-the-Counter Drugs
Your back is aching, your heart is burning, and your stomach feeling queasy. Do you have to forgo all pharmaceutical relief? Not necessarily. But since even benign-seeming remedies, such as aspirin, ibuprofen and certain cold preparations can cause problems for your baby, don’t pop any pill without your doctor’s approval.
You may have given up cigarettes, but if your partner is still puffing away, your baby’s getting hefty doses of cancer-causing tobacco. In fact, exposure to secondhand smoke during pregnancy raises the risk of low birth weight, sudden infant death syndrome and other health problems. So ask your partner to quit or to cut down – if not for his own health, then for yours and your baby’s. And tell anyone who lights up around you to kindly take it outside.
Every time you look down, your growing belly reminds you of just how much your life will change once your baby is born. Exciting, yes. Stressful? You bet. Even so, try to take it easy. Stress causes the release of hormones that reduce blood flow to the placenta and triggers contractions, and it has been linked to miscarriage, pre-term birth, and low birth weight. If you hold a high-pressure job, do try to take it easy. If you’re feeling the heat in your personal life, practice relaxation techniques like yoga, surround yourself with supportive people.