What to Avoid During Pregnancy

Many women wonder what’s okay during pregnancy and what is not. If you don’t have to expose yourself to unknown risks, it’s probably best to avoid them.

By giving you a better understanding of some common activities and substances to avoid, these tips will help you have a healthy pregnancy. Talk with your clinician if you have other concerns or questions.

Use a seatbelt
While it may feel funny to wear a seatbelt when you’re pregnant, a seatbelt is still the number one way to prevent injury or death in a car accident and is crucial to protecting you and your baby. Be sure to wear both the lap and shoulder belt and place the lap part under your belly, touching your thighs – not across your belly.

Continue with your regular dental care 
Going to the dentist for your regular cleanings should not be stopped because you are pregnant. Dental care is a critical part of your health.

Avoid cigarettes and Juuling
Smoking increases your risk of miscarriage, premature birth, abruption (when the placenta separates from the uterus), and infant death, including sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS or “crib death”) after birth. Smokers have smaller babies compared to non-smokers. These low birth weight babies are more likely to have health problems than babies of normal weight. Smoke from other household members, or co-workers, is also unhealthy during pregnancy and after birth. Babies exposed to smoke are more likely to get respiratory infections like colds and ear infections.

If you or your partner smokes, quit as soon as you can. Because smoking is addictive, this can be hard. Ask your clinician about “stop smoking” programs and visit smokefree.gov for resources to help quitting.

Avoid marijuana 
Research has shown that marijuana use during pregnancy can also lead to low birth weight and health problems in infants. Just like breathing cigarette smoke can harmful to you and your baby, so can breathing smoke from marijuana. 

Avoid alcohol
Experts aren’t sure if it’s safe to drink any alcohol during pregnancy. But they know too much alcohol can cause birth defects, learning problems, and mental retardation. It is safest to stop drinking alcohol before you even try to get pregnant. If you need help stopping, talk with your clinician or contact Alcoholics Anonymous

Avoid illegal drugs 
Drugs harm you and may cause your baby to be born very sick or addicted to drugs. Even occasional use of illegal substances can hurt. Talk to your clinician as soon as possible. He or she can suggest places to get help – like support groups, counseling, treatment centers and clinics, family service agencies – and make sure you get any extra medical care that you need, or contact Narcotics Anonymous.  

Be careful with medicine 
Talk with your clinician about any medicines you take (even those you take occasionally, like asthma medicine), and be sure to check with your doctor before taking new medicines or stopping medicines you usually take. Some medicines can harm your baby, whereas it is important to keep taking others for your health. This includes prescription drugs and any over-the-counter medicines you buy in a drug store or supermarket. If a medicine you use is not safe, your clinician often can suggest safer ones. Although it is important to take certain medicines, in general, avoid all medicines except acetaminophen (such as Tylenol, Patril, Paroldo), and prenatal vitamins (if prescribed) if possible.

Exercise and physical activity is reasonable and part of a healthy lifestyle. Moderate intensity aerobic and strength training for 30 minutes/day, 5-7 times week is encouraged. 

Avoid overheating in hot tubs, saunas and during extreme exercise 
Because the effects of a high body temperature are uncertain, you should avoid electric blankets, saunas, whirlpools, hot tubs, and steam rooms. You may use a hot water bottle to soothe tired or strained muscles or ligaments. Warm baths at home are also okay. Fevers raise your inner (core) body temperature. Studies link long-lasting fevers in the first trimester to a higher rate of miscarriage and open spine defects like spina bifida.

If you get a fever, drink plenty of fluids and take acetaminophen (Tylenol, Datril, Panadol) to lower your temperature. Lukewarm showers may also help. Call your clinician if your fever is 100°F or more, or lasts more than three days.

Limit caffeine
Most experts agree that moderation and common sense are the keys for consuming caffeinated beverages in pregnancy. We recommend that you don’t have more than 200-300 mg a day. That equals about two five-ounce cups of coffee. (The typical mug holds eight ounces or more.) It is also important that caffeinated beverages do not replace a pregnant woman’s daily intake of water.

Coffee, tea, colas (and some other soft drinks), chocolate, hot chocolate and cocoa all have caffeine. Tea has less caffeine than coffee. Herbal teas like peppermint or citrus can be a good substitute, though you should be careful about which teas you choose and how much you drink. Talk to your clinician about herbal teas—some may cause a reaction if you’re sensitive that that herb.

Click here to see the caffeine content of common foods and beverages.

Prevent infection
Stay up to date with recommended immunizations, such as the flu vaccine. Avoid contact with people who could be contagious and practice good hygiene, such as hand washing. 

Avoid travel to certain areas
Pregnant women or women planning to become pregnant are advised to avoid travels to areas with ongoing mosquito transmission of the Zika virus. For more information on areas with the greatest risk, click here.

Click here to learn more about pregnancy and childbirth at South Shore Health.