5 Things You Definitely Shouldn’t Do When You’re Pregnant

5 Things You Definitely Shouldn’t Do When You’re Pregnant

Can you take CBD or get in a hot tub when you’re expecting? Learn more about these big pregnancy no-nos.

When you’re expecting a baby, everyone’s an expert, from the elderly lady at the grocery store who scolds you for wearing yoga pants to the Facebook friend who sends alarming messages asking why you’re still dyeing your hair.

They’re just trying to be helpful, but the truth is, “most activities that you could do before you’re pregnant you can keep doing while you’re pregnant,” says Adrian M. Roznowski, MD, an OBGYN at Plantation General Hospital and medical director at Advanced Women's OB/GYN Institute of Broward in Plantation, Florida.

Of course, there are some habits you should definitely kick or put on hold when you’re pregnant and breastfeeding, like smoking and drinking alcohol. For your own health and for the sake of your child, it’s important to stay tobacco-free, including steering clear of second- and third-hand smoke. When it comes to drinking, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) points out that there is no known safe amount of alcohol, whether you are pregnant or trying to conceive.

To make sure you and baby stay as healthy as possible until delivery day, here are a few other everyday activities that experts suggest you skip.

Vaping, smoking pot and taking CBD
Don’t let the skyrocketing popularity of vaping—smoking electronic cigarettes—distract you from the fact that it is just a different delivery system for the same dangers of nicotine, says Dr. Roznowski.

Because e-cigarettes are a relatively new type of product, not as much research has been done on how they can harm the fetus. But the fact is that e-cigs contain high amounts of nicotine, not to mention propellants and flavorings, which can be harmful to your growing baby, leading ACOG to recommend you don’t use them at all during pregnancy.

Another tricky topic is marijuana. Pot usage is rising among pregnant women, according to research published in June 2019 in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Looking at self-reported data the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), researchers found that 7 percent of pregnant women surveyed between 2016-2017 said they had used marijuana in the past month. This marks an increase from 2002, when 3.4 percent of pregnant women reported using pot during the past month.

Though marijuana use is now legal in many states and is sometimes touted as a remedy for morning sickness, it is still harmful for fetuses, increasing the risk of stillbirth, low birthweight and attention and behavioral problems in children.

Less is known about the effects of cannabidiol (CBD) on pregnant women and fetuses. Found in a wide variety of products from foot lotion to hard candies, many people claim the chemical compound helps them deal with anxiety, pain, insomnia and a long list of other medical conditions. However, there is almost no concrete scientific evidence that CBD is an effective treatment for most health problems. What’s more, there remain numerous questions and concerns about its safety. Because of this, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration strongly advises against CBD’s use for pregnant women.

Using hot tubs and saunas
When your back aches or you’re dealing with any of the other physical strains of pregnancy, nothing can sound more soothing than sitting in a hot tub. But the high temps of hot tubs and saunas can cause your body temperature to rise above 101 degrees, which is especially risky during the first half of your pregnancy. One study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that women who frequently used a hot tub had double the risk of miscarriage before 20 weeks than women who never took the plunge.

To ease your aching back, soak in a warm tub and use hot and cold compresses, suggests Roznowski, who adds that it’s safe to take acetaminophen (Tylenol) for pain relief throughout your pregnancy.

Cleaning the cat’s litter box
Cuddling with your tabby is perfectly fine during pregnancy, but let your partner do the honors of scooping out the litter box. The risk here is toxoplasmosis, which can be transmitted to your fetus if you accidentally come in contact with the T. gondii parasite in a cat’s feces. If that parasite reaches the baby, it can cause complications including mental retardation, blindness and epilepsy.

The risk that your cat may carry the parasite is much greater if she goes outdoors or eats raw meat. So, you should also avoid gardening or otherwise sticking your hands in the soil without gloves, and doubly so if you know that your cat or other neighborhood felines roam in your yard.

“If you’re a cat owner and are really worried about toxoplasmosis, your doctor can test you for the antibodies in your blood,” says Roznowski. “That will tell you if you’ve previously been exposed to the parasite, in which case you will be immune to the infection now.”

Worth noting: T. gondii can also be found in raw or undercooked meat—particularly pork, mutton and wild game, but also beef, poultry and shellfish. So, make sure any meat you eat is fully cooked to an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees (165 for poultry) and avoid handling meat with your bare hands when cooking. Remember also to always follow good kitchen cleanup practice, including carefully washing your hands, cutting boards, counters and utensils after cooking with raw meats, seafood and unwashed fruits and veggies.

Applying certain acne medications and beauty products
You may have heard that dyeing your hair is a bad idea, but there have been very few studies done on the topic. Dyes are likely safe as long as you don’t have any scalp irritation or breaks in your skin. If you’re concerned, talk to your doctor, or consider highlights instead of a full color to minimize exposure to the chemicals.

One type of beauty product you should shelve for now, says Roznowski, is any prescription or OTC skin product with retinol in it. Oral isotretinoin, in particular—found in several acne medications and commonly known as Accutane—carries a notable risk of birth defects and must not be taken during pregnancy.

“Most dermatologists will ask women if they are planning on getting pregnant before they prescribe these products,” says Roznowski, “but it’s always important to review all your prescriptions when you are pregnant to see if there is a safer option.”

Playing risky sports
Maintaining a regular fitness routine is one of the keys to having a smooth and safe delivery, says Roznowski. “Exercise keeps the blood flowing, so you reduce your risk of blood clots.” Plus, he adds, staying at a healthy weight reduces the risk of pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes and hypertension.

However, there are a few physical activities you should avoid. An obvious risk is any sport where there is a chance that you might get hit in the belly by a stick, bat, ball or fist—think contact sports like ice hockey, baseball, boxing and soccer. It’s also wise to sit out any sports where you could fall, including gymnastics, horseback riding and downhill skiing.

If you’re into scuba diving, hang up the wetsuit until your baby is safely delivered. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), scuba diving creates a risk because the fetus’ pulmonary circulation is unable to filter any bubbles that may be formed. In other words, the fetus could get decompression sickness—aka “the bends”—which can be very dangerous.

Your best bets are sticking with routines you love and already know how to do well, such as swimming, jogging, walking, dance aerobics or yoga. Talk to your doctor about what kinds and intensity of exercise are right for you and when you may need to scale back.

Traveling late in pregnancy
Going on a “babymoon” is a great way to relax and bond with your partner before the baby is born. And as long as you don’t have any complications that need to be closely monitored by your doctor (including pre-eclampsia or multiples), it’s usually fine to travel by plane, train or automobile up to 36 weeks into your pregnancy. (Note that the cutoff can be earlier for international flights, sometimes around 28 weeks.) The ideal time to travel is during your second trimester, according to ACOG, since you will likely be past any morning sickness, filled with energy and still far away from your due date.

Talk to your doctor about your travel plans, and avoid countries where there have been outbreaks of the Zika virus. (Check out the latest travel advisories from the CDC.)

While en route, get up and walk around frequently on long plane rides or take periodic stretch breaks on drives to lower the risk of deep vein thrombosis. It’s also important to drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated, and buckle up when you’re in your seat.

Roznowski also recommends that pregnant women who travel should research where the nearest hospital is with a neonatal intensive care unit—just in case.

Medically reviewed in June 2019.

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