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Things You Should and Should Not Do During Pregnancy

There are quite a few things you can do during your pregnancy to help improve your and your baby's health. You can also avoid risks that can complicate or terminate a pregnancy. For example, you probably know that getting enough Folic Acid is important. But did you know it is just as important to avoid cats? You probably knew that X-Rays are harmful to the fetus, but did you know about electric blankets?

Some of the items listed here (such as avoiding microwaves and electric blankets, fish, etc.) are controversial. Some studies have shown they are dangerous, others not. It is up to you to do the research and decide if the risks outweigh the benefits.

This page contains an extensive catalog of the different activities you should encourage or avoid during your pregnancy. Many of the recommendations link to articles on the web. Once you know about these activities, you can also easily search for more information in search engines. For example, once you know that electric blankets are harmful, you can go searching for more information by using "electic blanket" with "pregnancy" as the search terms.

One of the best reasons for you to plan your pregnancy (rather than having it happen by accident) is so that you can have control of all of these different factors starting from conception.

Things You SHOULD Do

  • You Should Get Regular Medical Exams
      One of the easiest and best ways to avoid problems and complications during pregnancy is to get regular medical exams from your doctor or midwife.
  • You Should Get the RDA (Reccomended Daily Allowance) for Folic Acid
      By getting the proper amount of Folic Acid you significantly reduce your baby's risk for spinal bifida. The current recommendation is 0.4 mg of folic acid daily. See the CDC's recommendations for more information. See also this page and this page.
  • You Should Check Your Immunity to German Measles (Rubella)
      German Measles (Rubella), if caught during pregnancy, can lead to miscarriages and fetal deformities. The best way to avoid this possibility is to be vaccinated for Rubella prior to getting pregnant. See this CDC article for more information, as well as this article.
  • You Should Take Prenatal Vitamins
      Both you and your baby need plenty of vitamins during pregnancy, and by taking special prenatal vitamins you guarantee that you are getting everything you need. Getting the proper vitamins can also help you avoid diabetes.
  • You Should Eat Plenty of Protein
      The RDA of protein for pregnant women is 75 grams but 100 grams is often recommended. Adequate protein is essential for the development of the baby (especially the brain) and may help protect against preeclampsia during pregnancy. See this page for information on protein.
  • You Should Eat Well and Get Plenty of Exercise.
  • You Should Be Sure to Get Enough Fat in Your Diet
      Fat and cholesteral, which you normally try to avoid, are important for absorbing the fat soluable vitamins (A,D,E, and K) and for strechable skin. Fat is also necessary for the developing baby brain. That does not mean you want to be over-consuming it, but you need to make sure you are getting enough. There are so many fat-free foods on the market today (fat free milk, butter, ice cream, meat, bread, cookies etc.), it is very easy to consume a fat-free diet without realizing it. 2 tablespoons of fat a day is recommended for pregnant women. Also, certain types of fat are important as described in this article.
  • You Should Do Kegal Exercises
      Weak kegal muscles can contribute to pain during birth, premature flexion of the baby's head and a prolonged second stage. Childbirth can also weaken these muscles and cause discomfort afterwards. The following show how to do the kegal exercises. See this article and this page.
  • You Should Use House Plants
      A modern house is full of hundreds of hidden chemicals that are emitted by paints and stains, carpet, particle board, household cleaners and so on. One of the best ways to filter and remove these chemicals is with house plants. Spider plants, for example, are known to be good at removing formaldehyde (which is quite common in paints).
  • You Should Focus on Your Child and Avoid Negative Thoughts and Actions
      This article discusses pernatal bonding and the benefits of avoiding stress and negative thoughts. See also this article.
  • You Should Take Care When Traveling
  • You Should Talk to Your Doctor about Existing Conditions and Your Family History
      If you have any pre-existing conditions, chronic problems or a family history of reproductive problems, you should let your doctor know about them so that he/she can take appropriate action. Pre-existing conditions include things such as diabetes, herpes (and other STDs), heart problems, epilepsy and high blood pressure.

Things You Should NOT Do

  • You Should Not Smoke or be Around People Who Do
      Smoking is such a well-known hazard to the mother that it only follows that it is also harmful to the baby. Yet hundreds of thousands of pregnant women still smoke. Secondhand smoke from smokers who live or work with a pregnant women can also affect the fetus. Exposure to smoke can result in spontaneous abortion, pre-term births, low-weight full-term babies, and fetal and infant deaths. See this article, this article, this article, along with thousands of others on the web, for more information.
  • You Should Not Drink Alcohol
      Alcohol has a variety of negative effects on your developing baby depending on the dose and frequency. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is the worst-case scenario, leading to severe retardation and other abnormalities. A quote from this article describes the dangers: "FAS is linked to birth defects and is the leading known cause of preventable mental retardation. It is characterized by a number of congenital birth defects which include prenatal and postnatal growth deficiency, facial malformations, central nervous system dysfunction, and varying degrees of major organ system malfunctions. " Also see this article.
  • You Should Not Take Illegal Drugs
      A quote from this article states: "In utero drug exposure is associated with an increased rate among newborns of low birth weight, central nervous system damage that may delay or impair neurobehavioral development, mild to severe withdrawal effects, and physical malformations such as cleft palate, heart murmurs, eye defects, and abnormalities of facial features and other organ systems." See also this article.
  • You Should Not Take Presecription Drugs or Over the Counter (OTC) drugs, Including Aspirin, Unless Told to Do So by Your Doctor
      Drugs that are safe to take when not pregnant can cause devasting effects to a fetus when you are pregnant. If you are even thinking of becoming pregnant, you should discuss the use of any drugs you currently take with your doctor beforehand. See this page for general information on OTC drugs in pregnancy including a list of safe OTC drugs to take. They recommend not taking any OTC drugs during the first 8 weeks of pregnancy when the heart, lung, and brain is being formed. See this article about effects of Accutane, see this article about the diet drug fen-phen, see this article about taking drugs during breastfeeding.
  • You Should Avoid Hot Dogs
      Hot dogs have been implicated in several studies. (Note: It has also been found that children under the age of five who eat more than 1 hot dog a week may have an increased risk of cancer). See this article and this note.
  • You Should Avoid Caffeine
      Caffeine taken during pregnancy is thought to increase the probability of a child contracting diabetes. See also this article about coffee and tea.
  • You Should Avoid Contact with Reptiles
      Be sure to tell your doctor if you have any contact with lizards, iguanas, turtles, or snakes as the salmonella virus is transfered through their feces and can affect your pregnancy. Also, children under the age of 5 are also at risk for contracting salmonella if they are in contact with reptiles.
  • You Should Avoid Tick Bites
  • You Should Avoid Fish
      This warning comes from the November 27 issue of Time Magazine (page 31). Fish concentrate methylmercury, which is known to affect the developing child's brain.
  • You Should Not Eat Junk Food
      The basic problem with junk food is that it fills you up but does not provide vitamins or protein. As your stomach size decreases during pregnancy, junk food takes up room and prevents you from eating the foods you really need for your and your baby's health.
  • You Should Avoid Vitamin A Supplements
      By consuming as little as 4 times the RDA of vitamin A, you greatly increase the risk of having a baby with birth defects or other problems. Exposure during the first trimester is the worst. Natural sources of vitamin A are OK - it is foods that are artifically supplemented that cause the problem, and most foods are. You need to start reading packages to make sure you are not getting too much Vitamin A. Other fat-soluable vitamins such as D,E, and K can also accumulate in the body organs and tissues and high-dosage supplementation should be discussed with your doctor. See this article, this article, this article, this article, and this article.
  • You Should Avoid X-Rays
      According to the book What to Expect When You're Expecting, the risks posed by X-Ray exposure are fairly small, with the greatest risk occuring early in the pregnancy. Informing your doctor or dentist of the fact that you are pregnant is probably the best way to control your risk. If an X-Ray can be postponed until after the pregnancy, then that would eliminate the risk.
  • You Should Avoid VDTs
      In this article is the following quote: "Kaiser's researchers tracked 1,583 pregnancies ... [and] were surprised to find a statistically significant 73% increase in miscarriages in working women using CRT-style VDTs (cathode ray tube style video display terminals), compared to other working women." Older VDTs are especially suspect. However, later studies have been less conclusive or contradictory. See also this article and this article.
  • You Should Avoid Microwaves
      An excerpt from this page, states, "Particularly vulnerable to excessive microwave radiation is the developing fetus." For more information also see this article.
  • You Should not Use an Electric Blanket
  • You Should Not Use a Water Bed
      The heaters used in water beds give off the same electric fields as those found in electric blankets (see previous) and should therefore be avoided for the same reasons.
  • You Should Avoid Drinking Tap Water if Possible
      Recent studies have shown that drinking tap water during the early months of pregnancy can increase your risk of miscarriage. If this concerns you or you have a history of miscarriage, you may want to discuss drinking bottled water with your doctor. This article discusses research that showed California tapwater was linked to miscarriages. Also see this article. This article discusses why tap water may cause problems for all people (does not directly discuss miscarriage).
  • You Should Avoid Stress
      Stress at work is defined as, "high psychological demands from work activities, and low decision-making powers on the job". See this article and this article for more information. This article is also interesting.
  • You Should Not Expose Yourself to Pesticides
      Pesticides (including insecticides, herbicides, fungicides and so on) can have a variety of effects on your unborn baby depending on the type of chemical, the length and intensity of exposure and the age of the fetus. In general it is best to avoid exposure to all pesticides. The problem is that pesticide use is extremely widespread in the U.S. You can be exposed to pesticides in your home (ant and roach bait traps, no-pest strips, houshold pest control products and services, flea collars on dogs and cats...), in your yard (lawn care services, do-it-yourself herbicides and insecticides on the lawn or garden), in your neighborhood (especially in rural areas, but also from suburban neighbors spraying their yards), from various food sources... The most you can do is attempt to avoid these dangers as best you can. See this site, this page and this page.
  • You Should Avoid Fumes from Paint, Paint Thinner, Household Cleaning Products and so on
      This article and this article discuss the large numbers of toxic products and by-products found in the home and yard. As with pesticides (see previous) the best you can hope for is educating yourself and trying to limit your exposure.
  • You Should Avoid Raising Your Body Temperature
      There is a potential danger to the developing fetus if your body temperature rises above 102 degrees. You can raise your body temperature to this level by getting a fever, by exercising too strenuously, working outside on hot summer days, and so on.
  • You Should Not Use a Sauna, Hot Tub or Take Long Hot Baths
      Hot tubs and hot baths have a tendency to raise your body temperature and therefore are to be avoided. See the previous item for details.
  • You Should Avoid Cleaning Cat Litter Boxes. You Should Avoid Uncooked Meat.
      Both cat litter and undercooked meat present the risk of toxoplasmosis, which causes birth defects. See this article and this article for details.
  • You Should Avoid Herpes
      Herpes when transfered to the baby during delivery, can lead to severe complications. The easiest way to avoid this possibility is to avoid contracting herpes. If you do have herpes, you should be sure to tell your doctor. See this article for more information.

Other Interesting Sites

Great Books!

What to Expect When You're Expecting by Arlene Eisenberg, Heidi E. Murkoff, Sandee E. Hathaway

    A must have! Goes month by month on what to expect during your pregnancy, including labor, special problems, pregnancy diet, etc.

What to Eat When You're Expecting by Arlene Eisenberg, Heidi Eisenberg Murkoff, Sandee eisenber Hathaway

    This describes the Best Odds Diet in extensive detail (there is a chapter on this diet in "What to Expect When You're Expecting"). Among other things it includes recipes to make, vitamin and mineral requirements, and what food additives/perservatives to avoid during pregnancy.

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