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Pregnancy No-No’s

By Leah Hennen

Pregnancy No Nos When I was expecting my first child, threats to my baby’s health seemed to lurk everywhere. I knew, of course, that alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs of any kind were off-limits. But what about those lattes I’d chugged before I knew I was pregnant? Did I need to get rid of my beloved cats? What sort of environmental hazards was I unwittingly exposing my fetus to? Nine months of caffeine withdrawal, cat avoidance, and breath-holding-around-noxious-odors later, my strapping baby boy arrived.

Unlike me, you don’t have to be paranoid when you’re pregnant. “You can’t put yourself in a glass bottle during pregnancy—all you can do is avoid known risks,” says Dr. Robert Resnik, a professor of reproductive medicine at the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine. Since some women, such as those with high blood pressure or gestational diabetes, need to take extra precautions, talk to your doctor about special circumstances that relate to you. Also steer clear of the following:

Too Much Caffeine
For java junkies like me, the research on caffeine during pregnancy has been maddeningly contradictory. Some studies point to problems such as miscarriage and low birth weight, while others show no such relationship. The latest consensus is that only excessive amounts of caffeine (more than 300 milligrams a day) are likely to cause these problems, says Dr. Kathleen Bradley, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist and assistant clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the UCLA School of Medicine. 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 5-ounce cups of coffee or tea or a few 12-ounce cans of soda. (Since even non-colas can pack quite a caffeine punch, check the label before you imbibe.) And while chocolate does contain caffeine, it typically has much less—1 to 35 milligrams per one ounce—than coffee.

Cat Litter
Cat feces may play host to a parasite that causes toxoplasmosis. The symptoms (fever, fatigue, and sore throat) are similar to those of a garden-variety flu, but the results (miscarriage, preterm labor, or serious health problems in the newborn) can be devastating. Even so, having a baby on board doesn’t mean you need to send your puss packing, says Marion McCartney, a certified nurse-midwife and the director of professional services at the American College of Nurse-Midwives in Washington, D.C. It simply means you should put your mate on litter-box duty for the nine-month duration. It’s also a good idea to wash your hands after heavy petting sessions with the cat and after handling raw meat. Don’t feed yourself or the cat undercooked meat (which can harbor the parasite). Wear gloves when you’re gardening and avoid children’s sandboxes. (Roaming cats may use these as litter boxes.)

Certain Foods
Beware, foodies: Uncooked, soft cheeses (such as feta, Camembert, Brie, and blue-veined varieties), unpasteurized milk and the foods made from it, and raw or undercooked meats, fish, and poultry may contain listeria bacteria. During pregnancy, listeriosis (symptoms include fever, chills, diarrhea, and nausea) can cause miscarriage, preterm labor, or stillbirth. Some seafood may also contain high levels of mercury, PCBs, and other toxins. If these foods are consumed during pregnancy, the baby is put at risk for developmental delays. (Your local health department may be able to tell you which fish to avoid.) Experts recommend that expecting mothers limit their servings of shark and swordfish—which contain higher levels of mercury than other fish—to one three-ounce serving a month. Finally, lab tests have linked heavy consumption of saccharine to cancer. Though you’re not likely to swill enough of the artificial sweetener to equal several times your body weight, you may still want to forgo those little pink packets for now.

Herbal Remedies
You know that many prescription drugs are off-limits during pregnancy, but the natural remedies you can pick up at health-food stores are okay, aren’t they? Guess again: Herbal remedies can have a potent effect on your body—and your baby’s—cautions McCartney. Don’t take anything without running it by your health-care provider first. She’ll most likely tell you not to use any during your first trimester. Throughout your pregnancy, steer clear of goldenseal, mugwort, and pennyroyal, all of which have been associated with uterine contractions (which could possibly lead to miscarriage or preterm labor); Asian ginseng (which interferes with metabolism); and feverfew (though popular for migraine headaches, it has unpredictable effects on pregnant women). It’s also wise to avoid herbal teas that purport to have medicinal benefits.

Home Hazards
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. And avoid aerosols (which disperse more chemicals into the air than pump bottles do), oven cleaners, paint fumes, solvents, and furniture strippers. Although frequent, heavy exposure to chemicals in the workplace (home workshops count, too) has been linked to birth defects, Bradley explains, home use of most products is more likely to make you feel faint or nauseous—not a great proposition when you’re nine months pregnant and perched high on a ladder or wedged behind the toilet.

Soaking in the hot tub or relaxing in a sauna may seem like the perfect way to pamper your pregnant body, but raising your core temperature—especially during the first trimester—may boost the odds of birth defects. It’s safe to soak in a lukewarm bath, though. Just make sure that the temperature is not above 100 degrees and that you get out after about ten minutes, Resnik advises. Sustained exercise in very hot, humid weather can also raise your core temperature. When you do exercise, 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, preterm labor, low birth weight, and mental and behavioral problems in children. Residue from the toxic metal can lurk in places you might not suspect: houses built before 1978 (the year lead paint was banned), tap water, even calcium supplements. A few precautions will reduce the amount of lead you come into contact with: Call in a lead-abatement specialist if you live in an older home with chipping or peeling paint. (Whatever you do, don’t try to sand or scrape it off yourself.) Filtering your water may help, or have your tap water tested. (Call the Environmental Protection Agency’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 800-426-4791 for a testing lab in your area.) Finally, if you take a calcium supplement, ask your doctor to recommend one that’s low in lead, such as Tums 500 Calcium Supplement.

Oral Sex
Don’t worry, you needn’t swear off oral gratification entirely. (After all, when you hit that physically awkward last trimester, there may not be much else you can do between the sheets.) But when he’s pleasuring you, your mate should be careful not to blow air into your vagina, if that’s something that’s part of his, uh, repertoire. Why? Your blood vessels are dilated during pregnancy, and, though the chances of this happening are very rare, a fatal air bubble could potentially enter your bloodstream, McCartney explains.

Certain Over-the-Counter Drugs
Your back is aching, your heart is burning, and your stomach is roiling—do you have to forgo all pharmaceutical relief? Not necessarily, says Bradley. 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. If one medication is off-limits, she can suggest an alternative. Acetaminophen (Tylenol), for instance, is fine.

Secondhand Smoke
You may have given up cigarettes, but if your mate’s still puffing away, your baby’s getting hefty doses of the 43 cancer-causing chemicals in cigarette smoke. 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, preterm birth, and low birth weight, Bradley explains. If you hold a high-pressure job, do what you can to scale back. If you’re feeling the heat in your personal life, practice relaxation techniques, surround yourself with supportive people, and seek counseling if need be.

Vitamin A
As is the case with its chemical relative Accutane (a prescription acne drug), high doses of vitamin A during pregnancy can cause heart and facial defects, says Resnik. How much is too much? Some studies have indicated that problems can occur when pregnant women take more than 10,000 international units (IU) a day, while others list 25,000 IUs and even 50,000 IUs as the threshold. You get a fair amount of vitamin A from the food you eat, and though the dose in your prenatal vitamin should be fine, your doctor can tell you whether it’s an excessive amount.

About the Author
Leah Hennen is a writer and editor in San Francisco and the mother of two, ages four and one. Copyright © 1999-2002 ClubMom, Inc. All rights reserved.

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65 Comments on "Pregnancy No-No’s"

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5 years 11 months ago
It’s all about using your common sense. You allready know the basics of not smoking,drinking,drug use,dangerous sports etc. Everything else is available online or in a book. If you take it easy and follow what the books say,then you shouldn’t have any problems. I bought the book of what to expect when you are expecting from amazon for under $10 and one titled your pregnancy day by day. I was told not to get advice from other pregnant women because no pregnancy is the same nor took advice from parents on child raising. Every child is different and not all… Read more »
6 years 8 months ago
@ miles..try chantix…makes cigs taste like you’re licking an ashtray…i’m a nurse and there’s nothing more that screams “neglect” on a child that comes in smelling like a marlboro…even if you don’t smoke in the house, it’s on you, which will in turn get on the baby.,,you’ll love that baby more than anything so you’ll do what it takes…i’ll never forget my husband telling his mom (who is a heavy smoker) “i want you to quit so you’ll be able to be a grandma”…he’s so scared she’ll pass away or not be able to function as an adequate grandma (lots… Read more »
6 years 9 months ago

hi im miles im 19 and me and my gf found out shes 4 weeks today is there anything i can do to help her and make things easyer on her and im a smoker does any one have any ways of quiting ive tried before and the stuff ive tried doesnt work any help im really excited but im stressed i might do something wrong

7 years 2 months ago

To the women worried about the pregnancy, I’m not going to say don’t worry. It’s natural, everybody worries, just try not to dwell on it. As for the women concerned with the delivery, you will also naturally worry about this, but the closer to the due date it gets, you’ll be so tired of being pregnant , you won’t care at that point as long as baby comes out healty.I’m pregnant with my 3rd child and am happy, although wasn’t planned at my age of 35.My best advice is lots of prayers. Children are a gift from God.

7 years 5 months ago

tiffany i was on celexa with my first pregnancy i was prego with triplets and i lost them after seven months and they think that the maeds had alot to do with it

7 years 6 months ago

Well I am 27 weeks pregnant. I am soo excited. Been so worrired about every ach, pain, an movement. Deffently need to take time to relaxed. Especially these weeks my hormons really have me worked up!

Christie C
7 years 10 months ago

6 weeks and counting!! 🙂
In regards to the cat litter… husband travels alot for work and isn’t home much – I have been cleaning the cat box wearing gloves and then I wash my hands with the gloves ON and then again with the gloves OFF. Do you (who ever YOU are – lol) think that is ok? Hope so, otherwise Im gonna have to get like 50 cat boxes so it can wait till the hubby comes home. 😉

8 years 10 days ago
ok well i starter feeling my baby move at just under 12 weeks but i am also very skinny the average tim to feel your baby move is between 18 and 24 weeks. as for preventing a misscarrage the best thing you can do is to relax and take things as they come just keep doing what you would normally have done and try to avoid telling everyone, i know its exciting but the more people you tell the more stressfull it is just for at lease the first 2 months. i got really bad cramps at the beginnning and… Read more »
8 years 13 days ago

Just found out i’m 2 weeks pregnant!!! I’ve never been so happy! After trying for over a year thought it would never happen but can’t believe my time has come! after 8 pg tests I think it’s sunk in!!!

8 years 27 days ago

ash, theres really no telling. i would advise to see your doctor or go buy a home pregnancy test. but keep in mind that it could still be too early to tell on the hpt.

8 years 1 month ago

im about 145-150 pounds, ihave a little belly fat, i feel and press on my stomach to feel if my it is hard to find out if im pregnate, but all i feel is belly fat, n when i push on it i feel a wired sensitive feeling, does tht mean im pregnate

8 years 1 month ago
I just want to say, if your doctor has prescribed you medication to deal with stress. Your doctor has probably weighed the risks to decide what will benefit you and your baby the most. The first trimester is the most important time to stay away from environmental risks, because that is when the most basic systems of the body are formed. It’s also when your body is playing a more vital role in forming the fetus. Medication, alcohol abuse, and drugs can cause the most harm as this point in the pregnancy. In the last trimester, the mother is primarily… Read more »
8 years 1 month ago

sorry to infrom u but thats why they say no drinking or smokeing because the first trimester is the most important on how the baby develops there is a high risk sweety that the babay will be born with a defect talk to ur dr. she or he will explain everything better!

8 years 2 months ago
I am at 30 weeks with my third child and when I went in for my glucose test my sugars came back elevated and I had to go in for a 3 hour glucose test the next day only I couldn’t keep the glucose drink down so they sent me home saying they would do a random blood test my next doctors visit. Well with my sugars being elevated I am so worried I have pregnancy diabetes but my Dr. doesn’t seem to be worried at all is it just me or am I freaking out over nothing?? Oh also… Read more »
8 years 6 months ago

Just found out that I’m pregnant. The cramping and back ache is annoying. But I’m excited about this baby and I pray this pregnancy lasts. I’ve lost two already. It very early still not even 4 weeks yet, but I took two preggo tests, both were positive fast.

8 years 7 months ago

am 41, have 4 daughters trying for a boy,having all signs of pg but did a pg test this morning but got one 1 line….i should be 3 weeks is it too soon or am i just anxious??

8 years 7 months ago

Im in my 23 week and my first born is just about two years old. The thing is i experience a lot of abdominal pain and the doctor tells me its normal. I just enjoy bonding with my child

tina le
8 years 9 months ago

Last couple week I feel so sleepy, my lower back hurt so badly at the morning and little at ay time and want to eat more than regular ? sometime I feel very lightly heartburn? AM I PREGNANT?

8 years 10 months ago

I am in my 5th week of pregnacy… Totally new to me. This will be my first one (praying everything goes great) I’ve been to the dr. for the first time. But for the last couple of weeks before I found I have had a brownish dishcharge and still do…. I have read info online and people say that it is normal…. Still makes me quite nervous. Does anyone really know what this is?

mother of 2
8 years 11 months ago

To all the new mothers who feelsick from your prenatal vitiams .. dont worry..
My dr allowed me to take a regular multi vitiam without a lot of extra minerals and iron.
Zinc and iron are the ones making you sick!
I thought it was morning sickness!!!! lol
Try a liquid iron, its so easy on ur tummy!!
Consult ur dr first but this has saved many of my friends!
Good luck to u all.

8 years 11 months ago
Julie… When I was pregnant with my first daughter I didn’t even know unitl I was almost 12 weeks. I didn’t have any symptoms at all. Then all of the sudden I was sick as a dog. Now I am 25 weeks pregnant with my second child and I knew I was pregnant 3 weeks before the tests started coming back positive. Each and every pregnancy is different and sometimes you get lucky and don’t get all the icky symptoms. With this child (it’s a girl) I had no morning sickness at all, but I’m getting headaches and hip pain… Read more »
8 years 11 months ago

Hi there, I am a preschool teacher with my fifth week of pregnancy. I do paint with my children quite often. Having said that, it may also include hand painting and so on. Of course, these are poster paint and water based paint. Now, I am quite worried if it is safe for my pregnancy ? Please kindly advise. Thanking you in advance.

8 years 11 months ago

im 8 weeks pregnant.For the past 6weeks ive been drinking alcohol and caffein,will this affect my baby in any way.Can you advise please.

8 years 11 months ago
Here it goes… Okay so my LMP was on may 26 lasted about 3 days. My ovulation was June 9th, I am pretty sure. I did have sex on the 8th, 9th and 10th just to make sure we got it. lol But I feel almost NO symptoms at all..I did feel a little cramping about a week after ovulation, and I have been a little tired…Just started having to pee a lot today. My period is due on the 25th, five days away hoping aunt flow is deciding to take a vacation for the next 8 months…Has anyone been… Read more »
9 years 1 month ago
Reading these things makes me laugh. You can do everything 100% correctly, and still have issues. You can do everything 100% wrong and NOT have any issues. I was 12 weeks pregnant when I found out my baby had a rare neural tube defect called “encephalocele” which is where the back of the baby’s skull didn’t fuse together properly, and a portion of the brain was growing outside of it’s head. I WAS doing everything correctly, no caffeine, cigarettes, drugs, alcohol, eating exactly like I was supposed to be, excercising…and STILL something went wrong. I think women stressing about what… Read more »
9 years 4 months ago

I started feeling my daughter at 14 weeks she is very active even now she always moving around

9 years 5 months ago

I am 8 weeks pregnant. And I am in the process of tapering of meds. I suffered a miscarriage 8 months ago, I was not taking paxil at the time. I am concerned about what affect it may have.

9 years 5 months ago

Hi everyone, I’m about 6 weeks pregnant… I’ve been on oxycodone for about 3 yrs. now havent told my dr. about the baby, I’m on 15 mg, 4 times a day. Does anyone know besides possible withdrawal effects, will this medication cause my baby to have birth defects?? I read on Safe that it sucreets into breast milk but there are no long term effects to the fetus is this true???

9 years 6 months ago

i am pregnant again i have recently learned…i have been pregnant with twins triplets the whole thing but i have no kids to show for all of my work …now i am more scared that i will lose again…the doc said i had low progesterone and gave me pills did anyone else have this proble?

9 years 6 months ago

hi. im 6 weeks pregnant with my third baby. my first 2 babys were boys and i was sick from day one.i havent been sick yet. and am wondering is this a good sign or should i be worried about miscarring?

9 years 7 months ago

My husband does! He loves it for some reason and I have no clue why. So this was very useful to me haha.

Also before I found out I was pregnant I went jet skiing, knee boarding and tubing and got flung into the water and skipped like a rock across the water on several differant occasions and I was so worried after I found out I was pregnant but im 12 weeks now and baby is just fine! 🙂

9 years 9 months ago

anyone else LOL at the oral sex thing? who does that!? hahahaha! sorry. that’s weird. lol

9 years 9 months ago


The description of your life sounds exactly like mine! I have been sleeping great though. Good luck to you!

9 years 9 months ago

Carolynn, I don’t know if you’ll ever see this, but I am about 17 weeks along and am working 40 hours a week and taking 15 credits majoring in economics my senior year (many difficult classes). I also haven’t been sleeping well the past two weeks. Anyway, I too have a lot of stress. Sometimes it helps me to distract myself with something interesting to learn. I try to go outside as much as possible because the sunshine makes me feel good. I don’t know if these tips help, but I hope so. Good luck dear!

9 years 11 months ago
I have yet to go to the doctor.. possibly as far as 13 weeks pregnant.. due to my situation i dont know when i will be able to get to the doctor… i know how serious it is for me to go and considering my symptoms i need to go soon but in the mean time i need advice.. i recently was cleaning and while cleaning i felt fine and for about 30min after i felt fine.. but as we were leaving the house i feel down 2 stairs and twisted my ankle althou in pain i got up and… Read more »
9 years 11 months ago


I lost my 4 month old daughter to SIDS, had an eptopic pregnancy a couple of months later and then a miscarriage a few months after that. I am currently 7 weeks pregnant and not stressed because I know that God has a plan and purpose. I have absolute faith and trust in Him that his plan will benefit me and my husband.

Don’t stress about the things you can not control. Put your trust and faith in God and relax knowing what a loving Father we have.

10 years 5 days ago

Hey guys so Im not supossed to get my period til june 20th which is still 10 days away and my fiancee and I have been trying for months to conceive, but today Ive started bleeding a bit kinda pinkish does anyone think this could be implantation bleeding or just my period real early?

[…] The research on the effects of caffeine during pregnancy seems to change more often than a new mom changes diapers. But the most recent reports state that […]

10 years 28 days ago
hey all, i am 10 weeks pregnant with my second. i lost my first about a year ago to heart failure. i was almost 7 months pregnant. the father has heart failure in his family. i’ve moved on and i believe it was for a good reason. i am stressed out trying to do everything at once i go to school in the mornings then work then home to study for school for the next day. i have no time to talk to my fiance…does anyone have any advice for me to just relax along with everything else?? please help… Read more »
10 years 1 month ago

I read a comment about someone asking about vitamins. I haven’t been able to take prenatal vitamins my whole pregnancy. Now 19 weeks. They make me gage and throw up. My doctor told me to take flintstones chewables plus iron. They have them with Iron already in them. I take two a day and it has everything I need. You should always ask your doctor but i feel great!

10 years 1 month ago

i also am aniemic and am on iron pills they might down them so that u are taking less. Apparently there are risks when taking iron while carrying child , but its more important that u are well while being pregnant !!!
best wishes

10 years 1 month ago

hi i just found out im pregnant and am currently takeing iron pills because of my aniemia. is there risks with iron and if so should i stop takeing it. but also if i stop will the lack of iron carrying oxygen affect the baby?? if you know plese let me know.

10 years 2 months ago

I just found out I am pregnant and am about 6 weeks, is there some vitamin besides prenatal vitamins I should start taking? Eating?

10 years 2 months ago

I felt that same way when I first found out I was pregnant.. I am now 35 weeks and still worry that something will happen. The best thing to do is relax. Let nature take it’s course and just eat healthy. I found that just doing the pregnancy work outs helped a lot and made me feel better about my body and the baby’s health. But talk to your doctor first before doing the work outs.

10 years 2 months ago

I have heard that only prozac is the only safe anti depressant during pregnancy. I was on Lexapro(same maker as Celexa) before I got pregnant and stopped taking it. I am currently 28 weeks along with my 2nd.

10 years 2 months ago

I am 6 weeks pregnant and am worried i will miscarry the baby.Does anyone have any advice?

10 years 2 months ago


If your babys father left you at 24 weeks, then you need to look on the bright side and realize this would be harder if he left after the baby… You should not be on any medications while pregnant!! Try to relax by meditating.. Go on and look up some great relaxation teqniques… youll soon find them helping.

Hope this helps, really!

10 years 2 months ago

I am 24 weeks pregnant my babys father left me, my house burned down,my grandmother just passed away and I am extremely stressed my md put me on celexa but I am scared to take it does any one have any comments or suggestions for this medication or stress relieving remedies or medications that are safe any feedback is greatly apprieciated!

10 years 3 months ago

I just found out that I’ve been pregnant for the last ten weeks, not experiencing flu symptoms! But I’m a little worried, this will be my first and I don’t know what to expect. I’ve got these cramping sensations in my abdomenal area, actually closer to my pelvis. Is this something I should be concerned about?

10 years 4 months ago

Don’t stress about the delivery… everything will be fine. It’s rough, but would compare to really bad period cramps. Im expecting my 2nd child. The cramps you are having, are they like twinges in the very bottom of your stomach, like almost right at your hip bone? I get those too, and did with my 1st. don’t think its anything to worry about, just those muscles stretching. but if it get too painful, ask your doctor..that’s what they are there for! 😉

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