What to Avoid During Pregnancy

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If you are pregnant or considering becoming pregnant you are probably thinking about the various dos and don’ts when it comes to eating, drinking, medications, and anything else that might affect your growing baby. Alcohol is definitely something that should be avoided during pregnancy as no level of alcohol has been shown to be safe for your baby’s development. Smoking cigarettes and exposure to secondhand smoke also pose dangers to your and your baby’s health, so take steps to quit if you do smoke and try to stay away from others who do. These aren’t the only health risks you have to worry about, though, and some of the following dangers might surprise you.

What Else Besides Alcohol and Cigarettes?

Heat – Whether it is from the hot tub at the gym or a sauna on vacation, excessive heat should be avoided during pregnancy. In fact, spending as little as 10 minutes in a hot tub can raise your body’s temperature to a dangerous 102 degrees F. This type of heat exposure has been linked with an increased risk of miscarriage and neural tube birth defects. These birth defects can cause life threatening abnormalities in the brain and spinal cord, especially when there is exposure to excessive heat during the first trimester.

Caffeine – Even though you might really crave that extra cup of coffee or soda, caffeine can pose risks to your developing baby. It can cross the placenta and affect your baby’s heart rate, which is why many healthcare professionals recommend limiting or avoiding caffeine during pregnancy.

Park Rides – If you’re pregnant during the summer months it might be tempting to spend a vacation day at the amusement park, but you’re going to need to avoid many of the rides. Many theme parks even post signs warning pregnant women not to ride on the rides because there are too many risks of injury from jerking, jarring movements and hard landings, especially in more uncontrolled rides such as those at water park.

Building Renovations – Even though the substance lead has been removed from many new construction materials, there are still risks, especially during projects such as home renovations. The poisonous metal can be passed from your system to your growing baby and have severe consequences, including miscarriage, premature birth, low birth weight, damage to kidneys and the nervous system, and even developmental delays. Avoid paint areas where there is paint peeling or chipping, and avoid dietary supplements that contain bone meal (which may contain lead).

Reptiles and Amphibians – Your pet lizard, iguana, turtle, frog, or snake can be hazardous to your growing baby. Many of these animals carry the bacteria salmonella which can be dangerous to your pregnancy (and to your young child). If you are around these exotic animals during pregnancy, avoid coming in contact with their living environment and don’t allow the animals to get near any eating surfaces.

Cats – The feces of cats can cause toxoplasmosis, a disease that can be transmitted from a mother to her baby during pregnancy. This can then result in brain damage, epilepsy, and other abnormalities in the baby. If you are around cats, do not be the one responsible for changing litter boxes, where the transmission is most likely to occur.

Cleaning Supplies – Cleaners such as oven cleaner, dry cleaning fluid, and spot removers can be toxic when inhaled or absorbed through the skin, and these toxicities can be transferred to your baby. Wear gloves when handling any type of cleaning supply and avoid aerosol cleaners because the fumes are too easily inhaled. Keep all areas you clean well-ventilated.

Pregnancy is a time when your body is responsible for sustaining the healthy life of another, and it is important to avoid an array of chemicals, exposures, and even pets during this time. The list of things to avoid goes beyond alcohol and cigarettes, but with minimal lifestyle changes you should be able to do most of what you enjoyed doing before pregnancy and rest easier knowing that your growing baby is being given a healthy start.

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Dr. Gareth Forde

About Dr. Gareth Forde

An obstetrician-gynecologist, a clinical professor, a researcher, and a father of five—and he delivered them all! He speaks and publishes extensively on maternal and child health issues, where he emphasizes the role of a healthy maternal lifestyle, good nutrition, and breastfeeding on infant development. He chose the field of obstetrics because it is a celebration of life, a happy and exciting profession. “Children are a blessing and they bring joy and laughter to the world,” he says. “I cherish my work, as a doctor and a dad.” The study of genetic imprinting is a major focus of both Dr. Forde’s research and medical practice. This looks at what happens in the womb, how the genes a baby inherits are expressed (turned on and off), and how this influences the child’s health after birth. “This field holds great promise, shedding light on many unsolved mysteries in health and disease from infancy to adulthood,” he adds. Dr. Forde grew up in London, England and Orlando, Florida. He received his medical degree from the University of Minnesota Medical School and is currently pursuing a fellowship in gynecologic oncology at the University of California, Irvine. Prior to this, he practiced with Grand Rapids Medical Education Partners, a consortium of Saint Mary’s Health Care, Spectrum Health, Grand Valley State University, and Michigan State University College of Human Medicine—where he was a clinical professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive biology. He also has a master’s in molecular and cellular biology from Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University; a Ph.D. in environmental science (computational chemistry) from Jackson State University; and a post-doctoral fellowship in biophysics from Mount Sinai School of Medicine, in New York.”