Pregnancy and Children

Common Concerns of Pregnancy

Common Concerns of Pregnancy     Common Concerns of Pregnancy

Questions abound regarding what you can and can not do during pregnancy. Knowing what could truly be harmful to you and your baby is important in keeping your mental and physical health and taking care of your developing baby.

Pregnancy Concerns and Precautions

When you are pregnant, what you don't put into your body can be almost as important as what you do. But being concerned about everything you come into contact with can make for a very worrisome and unsettling pregnancy.  Below is a list, adapted from the websites listed at the bottom of the page, of the things that pregnant women are concerned and ask about.  These include:

Alcohol
Aspirin
Caffeine
Cat litter and litter boxes
Prescription and Store-Bought Medicines
Vitamins, Herbs and Herbal Supplements
Smoking
Recreational drugs
Certain Foods
Computer Monitors (VDTs)
Flying
Hair Dyes
High-Impact Exercise
Folic Acid
Household Chemicals (Cleaners, Paint, etc.)
Bug Sprays (Insecticides/Pesticides/Repellents)

Organic Solvents
Lead
Mercury Exposure
Overheating (Hot Tubs, Saunas, Electric Blankets, etc.)
Sex During Pregnancy
Tap Drinking Water
Rubella (German measles)

Vaccinations
X-Rays

Alcohol

You should avoid alcohol during your pregnancy. The March of Dimes recommends that no alcohol be consumed during pregnancy. They have stated, "No level of drinking has been proven safe. The full pattern of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) usually occurs in offspring of chronic alcohol abusers, most often in women who drink four to five or more drinks daily. However, it has occurred in women who drink less. Alcohol-related behavioral disorders (ARBD) and alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorders (ARND) can occur in babies of women who drink moderately or lightly during pregnancy." Visit alcohol during pregnancy for additional information.

Aspirin

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued the following warning about aspirin use during pregnancy: "It is especially important not to use aspirin during the last three months of pregnancy, unless specifically directed to do so by a physician because it may cause problems in the unborn child or complications during delivery."

Caffeine

The March of Dimes notes that during pregnancy, caffeine easily passes from the mother to her unborn child through the placenta.  Accordingly, it is wise to cut down or eliminate caffeine intake during your pregnancy. For additional information, visit pregnancy issues: caffeine.

Cat Litter and the Litter Box

An infection called toxoplasmosis is caused by a parasite spread through soiled cat litter and can cause serious problems in a fetus.  Pregnancy is an important time not to be cleaning a cat's litter box. But that doesn't mean that you have to keep away from your cat, only the litter and litter box.

Prescription and Store-Bought Medicines

Many medicines are relatively safe to take while you are pregnant, but some are not. Even common over-the-counter medications that are generally safe may be considered off-limits during pregnancy because of their potential effects on the baby.  Be sure to talk to your health care provider about which prescription and over-the-counter drugs you can and can not take.  Please also visit pregnancy and medications.

Vitamins, Herbs and Herbal Supplements

The right kind and amount of vitamins and minerals are critical and your health care provider will suggest supplements you should take.  For example, Vitamin A is a chemical that is essential to sustain human life and must be provided in adequate amounts through food or other dietary supplements. However, excessive consumption of vitamin A can cause birth defects. Women can take vitamin A in many forms.  Please check with your health care provider regarding vitamin A and other vitamins.

Also, although they may seem harmless, herbal remedies and supplements are not regulated and may be problematic.  Click on the following links for beneficial vitamins, herbs and supplements and those that are dangerous. 

Recreational Drugs During Pregnancy

You should avoid all recreational drugs. Pregnant women who use drugs may be placing their unborn babies at risk. For detailed information please visit the link drugs and pregnancy.

Smoking During Pregnancy

Smoking by pregnant women limits the amount of nutrients and oxygen that reach the unborn child. Effects of smoking while pregnant may include stillbirth,premature birth, low birth weight, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), asthma and other respiratory problems.

Exposure to second hand smoke, also called involuntary smoking, occurs when non-smokers breath in the cigarette smoke from others around them. Second hand smoke is harmful to both pregnant women and infants. The risks to a fetus from regular exposure to secondhand smoke include low birth weight and slowed growth. Please visit pregnancy and smoking for additional information.

Certain Foods

Foods that are more likely to be contaminated with bacteria or heavy metals are ones you should try to avoid or limit your exposure to. Those you should steer clear of altogether during pregnancy include:

  • soft, unpasteurized cheeses (often advertised as "fresh") such as feta, goat, Brie, Camembert, blue-veined cheeses, and Mexican queso fresco

  • unpasteurized milk, juices, and apple cider

  • raw eggs or foods containing raw eggs, including mousse, tiramisu, raw cookie dough, eggnog, homemade ice cream, and Caesar dressing

  • raw or undercooked fish (sushi), shellfish, or meats

  • paté and meat spreads

  • processed meats such as hot dogs and deli meats (these should be very well cooked before eating)

  • shark

  • swordfish

  • king mackerel

  • tilefish

  • tuna steak (limited amounts of canned, preferably light, tuna is OK)

Visit eating and nutrition for additional information.

Computer Monitors (VDTs)

There is no evidence that computer monitors (also called video display terminals, or VDTs) cause any problems in unborn babies. 

Flying

There should be no problem in flying unless your due date is near or your doctor tells you that you or your baby has a medical condition that warrants keeping you near home.

Hair Dyes

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists dying your hair is "most likely safe".

High-Impact Exercise during Pregnancy

Regular prenatal exercise positively affects the mother in the short term by increasing energy, relieving backaches, leg cramps, and breathlessness, stimulating the baby, and conditioning for the physical exertion of labor. High-impact exercise is a different story.  Unless your doctor tells you otherwise, stick to low-impact exercise. It's wise to avoid some exercises and activities such as:

  • weight training and heavy lifting (after the first trimester)

  • sit-ups (also after the first trimester)

  • contact sports

  • scuba diving

  • bouncing

  • jarring (anything that would cause a lot of up and down movement, such as horseback riding)

  • leaping

  • a sudden change of direction (such as downhill skiing)

Folic Acid

Folic Acid is a B vitamin which is found naturally in leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, beans, and whole grains. Folate and folic acid are interchangeable terms.  It is recommended that a woman of childbearing age (15–45 years old) take folic acid as a part of her daily diet, not just when they become pregnant.

Household Chemicals

A pregnant woman should read labels carefully and avoid products (such as some oven cleaners) whose labels indicate they are toxic.

Bug Sprays

Pregnant women should bug repellents and bug killers whenever possible.  High levels of exposure may cause miscarriage, premature delivery, and birth defects.  As for insect repellents (which may contain DEET, or diethyltoluamide), the risks are not fully known. So, it is best to either not use them at all during pregnancy or to wear gloves to place a small amount on socks, shoes, and outer clothing instead of putting repellant's directly on your skin.

Organic Solvents

Organic solvents are chemicals that dissolve other substances. Common organic solvents include alcohols, degreasers, paint thinners and varnish removers. Lacquers, silk-screening inks and paints also contain these chemicals. Studies have shown that women who were exposed to solvents on the job during their first trimester of pregnancy were much more likely than unexposed women to have a baby with a major birth defect.  To learn more about chemicals contact the National Institute for Occupational Safety.

Lead

Lead is a naturally occurring metal that in some grades of gasoline, paint and other products. Exposure to high levels of lead during pregnancy contributes to miscarriage, preterm delivery, low birthweight and developmental delays in the infant. Lead toxicity in children is characterized by behavioral and learning problems and anemia.

If your home was built before 1978, it could have lead-based paint. Some homes also may have lead pipes or copper piping with lead solder that can allow lead to enter the tap water. Lead crystal glassware and some ceramic dishes may contain lead. Other unexpected sources of lead in the home may include the wicks of scented candles (which release lead particles into the air when burned) and the plastic (polyvinyl chloride) grips on some hand tools.  Some arts and crafts materials (e.g., oil paints, ceramic glazes and stained glass materials) contain lead.

Mercury Exposure

People can be exposed to mercury by breathing in air, eating food, or drinking water contaminated with mercury compounds or through skin contact with mercury. Mercury occurs naturally in the environment, and the levels are increased by certain human activities such as the burning of coal by power plants. Fish absorb mercury through their gills and by eating contaminated food sources. Exposure to mercury is also possible through dental amalgams (fillings), which contain 50% mercury. Occasional exposure to mercury can also occur from broken thermometers.

Overheating (Hot Tubs, Saunas, Electric Blankets, etc.)
 
You should limit activities that would raise your core temperature above 102 degrees Fahrenheit (38.9 degrees Celsius). They include using saunas or hot tubs, taking very hot, long baths and showers, using electric blankets or heating pads, and becoming overheated in hot weather or when exercising.

Sex During Pregnancy

Most pregnant women having a "normal" pregnancy can continue having sex even up until the delivery. You may, however, need to modify positions for your own comfort. For additional information, visit sex during pregnancy.

Tap Water

In recent years there have been concerns about possible pregnancy risks from by-products of chlorinated drinking water. While different studies show different things, there is no proof that normal tap water is a problem to you or your baby. It is important to remember that just because water is bottled does not necessarily mean it is safer. If you have well water you should have it checked regularly.

Rubella (German measles)

Rubella is a mild childhood illness that poses a serious threat to the fetus, if the mother contracts the illness during pregnancy. The March of Dimes recommends that all women be tested for immunity to rubella before they become pregnant, and that they consider being vaccinated at that time if they are not immune. 

Vaccinations

It is best to wait until after your pregnancy for most vaccines, but a few are considered safe. Make sure to discuss vaccinations with your heal care provider.

X-Rays

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), X-rays are most likely safe during pregnancy. 

Overview

Although some things are certainly considered unsafe during pregnancy, try not to spend too much time wondering and worrying. When in doubt, use common sense and hold off at least until you have had a conversation with your health care provider.  Above all, make sure to follow the most important healthy pregnancy habits: eat right, get some exercise and a lot of rest, steer clear of drugs, alcohol, and tobacco, and make sure to start prenatal care as soon as possible.

Additional Information

Kids Health: Pregnancy precautions

March of Dimes: Environmental risks and pregnancy

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