As soon as you see that pink line on your pregnancy test, you know that your life is about to change in a big way. However, before deciding how to share the news of your pregnancy, panic ensures! You start taking a trip down memory lane, wondering what was your last meal, when was the last time you drank alcohol or how many cups of coffee did you have in the morning.
Pregnancy is both an exciting and a terrifying moment in your life, because the good news is that if everything goes according to plan, you’ll have at least a baby in nine months. The bad news is…that you will have at least a baby IN NINE MONTHS. Nine months means that there are so many things that can go wrong, because every single thing which you come in contact with has the potential to harm you or at least to freak you out. You must pay attention to both what you put in your body and to what you expose it to. The official term for something that might harm the fetus is teratogen, but it’s not as bad as it sounds, because you don’t actually have to go to great lengths to keep your baby safe – in most cases, it’s just a matter of adjusting habits.
The first three months of pregnancy are the hardest, because that’s when your baby’s organs start to form; while you need to be careful throughout the whole pregnancy, those three months are the most crucial ones. To keep you and your baby safe, we compiled a list of 10 pregnancy precautions you need to be aware of – either because they might be harmful or because they are not as bad as everyone makes them sound.
1) CERTAIN ALIMENTS
It’s recommended to avoid during pregnancy foods that might be contaminated with bacteria or heavy metals, like soft cheeses, unpasteurized milk, raw eggs (including desserts using raw eggs), Sushi and everything involving raw fish and processed meats (they should be cooked really well to be safe). As for fish to be avoided, count swordfish, king mackerel, tuna steak (although canned tuna in limited quantity is all right) are all no-gos. While fish is recommended during pregnancy for the omega-3 fatty acids and the high level of protein, these species should be avoided because of their high level of mercury they contain, which could be dangerous for the baby’s brain development. Regarding the rest of the foods, you want to avoid them because of food-borne illnesses like listeriosis or salmonella, which can lead even to miscarriage or birth defects. Make sure to always wash your fruits and vegetables and when choosing seafood, limit yourself to 12 ounces per week. Or, to put it in perspective, two weekly meals. Canned tuna, catfish, shrimp and salmon are all fish low in mercury.
Avoid it? Yes, yes, yes yes! Seriously, this is precaution during pregnancy 101. Even if you think that drinking moderately could do no harm, there is no such thing as a “safe amount”. Alcohol is one of the most common causes for birth defects, causing even more severe abnormalities than drugs like marijuana. Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is caused by alcohol consumed in large quantities during pregnancy, leading to slow growth, learning problems and abnormal facial features for the baby. The reason why it’s so dangerous is that the baby while still in the womb develops a higher concentration of alcohol, not being able to eliminate it as fast as the mother. Moderate or periodic drinking can permanently damage a baby’s nervous system.
We hope you can live without your coffee, because otherwise things get more complicated. While it’s best to eliminate caffeine from your routine altogether – at least for the nine months, if you absolutely can’t do it, just make sure you don’t drink more than 2-3 cups per day, which is the equivalent of 200-300 milligrams, otherwise you increase the risks for a miscarriage. If you are having a hard time giving up, try to decrease the number of daily cups, by combining regular coffee with decaffeinated one, until you manage to completely get the regular coffee out of your system. And remember that caffeine does not equal coffee, even though it’s mostly associated with it. It’s also green/black tea, cola or other soft drinks, so make sure you don’t go overboard and actually try drinks without it. As for chocolate, unless you eat 10 chocolate bars a day, you should be fine. The average chocolate bar has less than 30 milligrams of caffeine, so you’re probably safe with that.
You should have given up on cigarettes even before getting pregnant, so it’s even more advisable to stop smoking once you know you’ll be having a baby. The reason for this is that women who smoke during the pregnancy usually give birth to babies who weigh less than they normally should and this might lead to health problems like infections, feeding and breathing issues, as well as the horrible Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Make sure that you avoid passive smoking as well, because even just inhaling the smoke from others has been linked to SIDS. If you have trouble giving up on cigarettes, try to motivate yourself by thinking that it’s for the health of your baby. Rely on friends and family to support you and enter community programs if you need that extra push. Nothing better than receiving the advice of peers going through the same thing.
5) CHANGING THE LITTER BOX
Now, now, don’t scream in terror thinking that I will make you get rid of your cat. That’s entirely out of question – we love kitties and we wouldn’t want to misguide. Here’s the thing – when you are pregnant, you need to avoid cleaning the litter box, due to an infection called toxoplasmosis which a cat spreads through its feces. This infection can lead to prematurity, brain and eye damage, as well as slow growth. Again, your cat has nothing to do with it – you can keep Mr. Jinx close to you, just stay away from his litter box and have someone else clean it well, then washing his/her hands afterwards. If toxoplasmosis is found during pregnancy, luckily enough, it can be treated.
Your safest bet here is to talk to your doctor. Don’t try to guess what’s best for you and what’s not, especially because even the most innocently-looking misstep could be harmful for your baby. Remember that during your pregnancy, there is a drastic shift regarding your hormones, so your body might not react to the medicine the way it did before. Don’t take any over-the-counter or prescription medication, no matter how safe they are labeled to be, without previously discussing about the usage with your doctor. Herbal remedies and supplements are not regulated by the FDA, which means that they don’t need to adhere to any safety standards, so you wouldn’t know what you would get yourself into. Whenever you need a prescription, let everyone know that you are pregnant, so that they avoid the medication which is unsuitable.
7) HIGH-IMPACT FITNESS
For the most part, you should avoid high-impact exercise during pregnancy, while on the other hand, low-impact exercise is quite recommended, because you are better preparing your body for giving birth. If you’ve already been active before pregnancy, you might want to continue the same regime – otherwise, a good 150 minutes per week of vigorous training, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is enough. Avoid exercises like heavy lifting, weight training or anything else which poses a risk, because high-impact exercises can put pressure on the structures around the uterus, leading to premature birth or even bleeding. Safe options are walking, swimming, Pilates, Yoga, but as always, talk to your doctor before engaging in any fitness routine.
Again, avoiding them or not depends on the scenario. If you absolutely have to get one during your pregnancy, the chances of it being dangerous are minimum, because the amount of radiation they emit is below FDA’s limit for pregnant women. The exposure rate is related to the X-Ray type. For instance, dental X-Rays aren’t dangerous, because they are far away from the uterus. If you go in, make sure your stomach is covered; if you don’t want to get an X-Ray at all, discuss with your doctors and see if you can use a MRI instead. For any kind of doubts, discuss the issue with your doctor and X-Ray technicians – make sure they all know you are pregnant, so that you can find together the best solution.
9) HOUSE CHEMICALS
If you are wondering whether or not these chemicals are dangerous, it’s the all-too-familiar answer – yes and no. Chemicals like ammonia aren’t toxic, although they might provoke nausea due to the strong smell. However, paints, cleaners, varnish removers or air fresheners could be. To clear any doubt, discuss with your doctor about the products you are using. Read labels and if they say that they are toxic, avoid them at any cost. Also make sure to find out whether or not it’s unsafe just for you to use them or if you shouldn’t be around them either when anyone else is using them. Use plenty of water to wash everything off after using chemicals and use safety measures like wearing a mask or gloves.
Last, but not least in our list of pregnancy precautions, sex during pregnancy is something that many couples have on their minds. OK, when I say ‘many couples’, I am actually referring to the significant other who is not pregnant; there might be times when you have hot flashes at night and you’re totally not feeling it. The good news is that most of the time, there is no safety reason for you to avoid it. However, this depends on the health of your pregnancy and implicitly, of your baby. Your doctor might ask you to put such activities on hold if you have a history of miscarriages (or warning signs), if you’ve previously given birth to a child before term or if the risk is present, if the amniotic fluid is leaking or if you are expecting more than one baby. Needless to say, make sure that your partner is not suffering from any sexually transmitted disease and take your precautions.
When in doubt, always stay in touch with your doctor – during a pregnancy, there is no such thing as a stupid question or a stupid concern. Everything is important when your baby’s life is at the stake!
What were your precautions during pregnancy?
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