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Your Pregnancy Dos and Don'ts

As soon as you get pregnant you’ll feel like there’s a gigantic list of things you can’t do.

You start reading the internet and get confused about what you can and can’t do. And then your Aunty Doris calls and shares her advice from when she was pregnant 45 years ago. 

Yes, there are a few things you should steer clear of and some areas where you need to weigh up and decide what’s best for you and your baby. If you feel a bit grumpy at the prospect of giving things up, remember it’s only 40 or so weeks and all those things will still be there after you have your baby. 

Just remember advice changes all the time so what was right for Doris back in the 1970s probably doesn’t apply now. 

Your no go list

  1. Eat certain foods - there’s a list here.
  2. Alcohol. No one fully understands the effect alcohol has on your teeny developing baby so the current advice is to give it a miss. And don’t panic if you’ve had a drink before you find out you’re pregnant, this happens to lots of women. 
  3. Smoking. It’s not good for you or your baby and can lead to low birth weight, premature babies, breathing problems, miscarriage and SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).
  4. Drugs. If you take something like cannabis your baby does too, so stop. Your GP can help you come off safely. You also need to be careful about taking ‘everyday’ drugs like cold medicine - ask your chemist or GP if you’re not sure. Paracetamol is usually fine but only take it when needed and never more than the recommended amount. 
  5. Cleaning out the cat litter tray. Cat poop sometimes has a nasty parasite that causes toxoplasmosis. It’s rare to get this infection but it can be serious for your baby. If you really can’t avoid it, wear rubber gloves and wash your hands and gloves after. It’s also a good idea to do the same when you’re doing anything in the garden like weeding or cleaning out the sandpit just in case a local cat has used it as their toilet. 
  6. Saunas, jacuzzis, hot tubs and saunas. It’s a good idea to give these a swerve, especially in your first 12 weeks because you can get dehydrated, overheat or faint. If you get the chance to sunbathe then don’t let yourself get too hot and cover yourself in a high factor sun cream to protect pregnancy-sensitive skin. 
  7. X-rays. If you need an X-ray at the hospital or dentist then tell them you’re pregnant (even if you think you might be). There’s a tiny risk of increased childhood cancers so if you can’t avoid it they’ll protect your baby with a special lead apron. 
  8. Dodge the disease. It’s impossible to avoid anyone who’s sick for the next 9 months but if you do know people have certain illnesses then visit at another time. These are chickenpox and shingles, rubella (German measles) and slapped cheek (Fifth’s disease). If you find out after you’ve seen them call your midwife, they’ll tell you if you need to do anything. 
  9. Caffeine. You don’t have to totally ditch your morning triple espresso but stick to around 200mg a day or less. That’s about 2 cups of instant coffee or tea. And don’t forget Coca-Cola and chocolate (sob) also have caffeine. 

Your weigh it up list

You don’t need to avoid these things, but you need to think about them and decide what’s best for you and your baby. 

  1. Underwired bras. This one has been doing the rounds for years but underwired bras are fine. It’s more important to make sure any bra fits well. Your boobs getting bigger is as inevitable as your belly growing so embrace those lovely new curves and get some comfy bras. 
  2. Makeup and hair dye. Pretty much all makeup and body products are fine, apart from skincare that contains retinol and accutane (so watch out for acne creams) and check for phthalates. If you’re having a beauty treatment, like a massage then ask what products they’re using and tell them you’re pregnant. As for hair dye, it’s fine as the chemicals in them aren’t super toxic. But if you’re not sure then wait till after 12 weeks, use gloves and keep a window open. Or embrace your inner natural goddess and save yourself a few quid. 
  3. Bug spray. Whether it’s on you or your plants, some bug sprays have nasty old chemicals like DEET. So ask your GP for a pregnancy-friendly one and get someone else to handle the debugging of plants in your house and garden. 
  4. Chemicals. Sadly, many things today are full of chemicals, from the shampoo we use to cleaning products and food packaging. So unless you want to go fully organic and spend the next 40 weeks in a bubble you’ll just need to use some common sense. Avoid anything with a strong chemical smell and spray products to dodge breathing them in. Work with chemicals? You need to tell your employer you’re pregnant and get a risk assessment done pronto. 
  5. Paint. There are some pregnancy-safe paints but don’t use anything that contains polyurethane. Get someone to remove old paint and paper as you don’t know which chemicals are lingering there. And while they’re doing that they can handle gloss paints, turps, stripper (not the sexy kind) and whiffy varnishes. 
  6. BPA. In the last few years, there’s been a lot in the news about BPA, also known as bisphenol A and phthalates. They’re chemicals found in loads of household products like lotions, toys, baby cups and even in mattresses and floors. It’s a good idea to avoid them where you can, so don’t heat food in plastic bowls and check the labels when you’re buying new products. 

Your can do list - hurrah! 

You might be in a sobbing heap by now, thinking of all the things you can’t do. But there are loads of things you can still do and it’s a great chance to look after yourself too. 

  1. Eat well. Yes, there’s a list of foods to avoid but beyond that anything is fair game. Although we’d advise against a whole pack of digestives as a meal. The key is a nice balance of carbs (rice, pasta), protein (chicken, eggs), dairy (cheese, milk) and fruit and veg. It’s a good idea to try and get iron, calcium, vitamins and minerals from your diet but a pregnancy multivitamin helps too. And take folic acid until you’re 12 weeks along to help prevent neural tube defects like spina bifida.
  2. Work it baby. You can carry on with exercise. It means you go into birth fitter and it can help with postnatal depression. Just listen to your body and if it hurts, stop. 
  3. Self-care. You’re only a few months away from having a person who depends on you 24/7 so this is the time to look after yourself. Get plenty of sleep and relax. But also why not take up a new hobby, something just for you while you have the time? 
  4. Organise your social life. Once you’ve got past the first few weeks when you feel a bit ropey, it’s lovely to catch up with friends. They'll be an important part of your support network and may even have some helpful advice (remember to ignore all horror stories). 
  5. Plan a babymoon. Start thinking about a trip away before you have a tiny human taking up all your time. 

Found this helpful? Read: What to expect in your first trimester

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