Pregnancy: Is It Safe to?

This topic is one of the most popular pages on, so I thought I would include it in my blog… to expand its web footprint. Moreover, the “plain list format” seems to be especially helpful to second and third time Moms looking for a quick, pregnancy refresher.  You don’t have to click-through 30 links (and 30 ads), you don’t have to re-read “What to Expect?” (all 587 pages), and you can copy and paste anything that you might need to reference later (what fish can I eat?).

Finally, please consult a physician for specific questions pertaining to your individual pregnancy. The following list is a compilation of government sources and generally accepted guidelines for a maintaining a healthy pregnancy.

Is It Safe To?

Drink Alcohol
No. There is no known amount of alcohol that is safe to drink during pregnancy. Therefore, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and U.S. Public Health officials agree that it is best to avoid it entirely.  Nevertheless, if you must have a few sips of wine here and there to satisfy your sacrificial well-being (key word: sips) then so be it. Just be especially careful during the first trimester.

A little bit. Caffeine can pass through the placenta and affect fetal heart rate and respiration, so pregnant women should definitely limit their consumption. Thankfully, up to 300mg of caffeine a day is generally considered to be okay…though research studies vary on the exact amount (for reference, an 8-ounce cup of coffee has about 150mg, a 12-ounce can of soda has 35 to 50mg, and an 8-ounce cup of black tea has about 40mg).

Do not eat raw/rare sushi or shellfish.  You can eat cooked sushi (look on the menu for maki rolls, such as a California Roll or a dragon roll with cooked eel and avocado. However, make sure that you are dining in a restaurant that you trust (with cleanliness and good food preparation standards).

(quick tip: copy and paste this “fish” section and email, or text, it to yourself for easy access while dining at a restaurant or visiting the seafood counter)

: Shark, swordfish, king mackerel, fresh tuna, tilefish, mahi-mahi, grouper, amberjack, and fish from contaminated waters

Eat sparingly (6 oz. or less per week)
: Canned (or packaged) albacore tuna and freshwater fish caught by family and friends

Eat carefully (up to 12 oz. per week): 
Shellfish, canned (or packaged) light tuna, smaller ocean fish, farm-raised fish, and store-bought freshwater fish

Eat freely
. Salmon (opt for wild or organically farmed), sea bass, sole, flounder, haddock, halibut, ocean perch, pollack, cod, and trout

Pregnant women (due to their suppressed immune systems) are 20 times more likely to contract listeriosis, a bacterial infection and food-borne illness that can be found in unpasteurized soft cheeses (and other unpasteurized dairy products), hotdogs, and lunch meat… unless cooked. Listeria infections during pregnancy can result in premature delivery, miscarriage, severe illness, or death of the baby.

Cheeses made in the U.S. must be made from pasteurized milk (this process kills the listeria organism), so they are considered safe. Imported soft cheeses may be problematic: Brie, Camembert, feta, goat, Montrachet, Neufchatel, and queso fresco. Listeria may also be found in unpasteurized semi-soft cheeses, such as asiago, blue, brick, Gorgonzola, Havarti, Muenster, and Roquefort.

Bottom line with cheese….Cheddar, mozzarella, cream cheese, and cottage cheese = GOOD.  Yummy soft, imported cheeses that you can’t pronounce = UNKNOWN.

Hot Dogs
Hot dogs must be thoroughly cooked, or reheated, prior to consumption.

Deli Meats
Deli meats must be broiled in the oven or heated to a steaming hot temperature in a pan or microwave.

Yes, jogging is permitted with your doctor’s approval, as long as you are not a high risk pregnancy (preeclampsia, placenta previa, bleeding, preterm labor, etc.). It is generally recommended that you keep the distance to < 2 miles/day, preferably level terrain.

Mountain Biking
It depends. Riding a mountain bike can be risky, even when not pregnant, so there is always the potential for injury. As you move into your third trimester, you also would not want to bump around on your bike and prematurely separate the placenta or induce premature labor. Nevertheless, a benign trail ride on a hard tail bike may be just the low impact exercise that you are looking for early on in your pregnancy.

Weight Lifting
Light weight training can a healthy way to stay fit during pregnancy. However most Doctors recommend that you use lighter weights (3 – 10 pounds) and you will not want to lift while lying flat on your back, as your enlarged uterus will rest on your vena cava, restricting proper blood flow (like a squished water hose).

Exercises to Avoid
Downhill skiing, cross-country skiing >10,000 ft, waterskiing, diving or jumping into pools, horseback riding,  bicycling (where a fall is likely), sprinting, thrill riding (roller coasters), and scuba diving.

Exercises (that everyone should do during pregnancy)
Swimming, walking at a brisk pace, cycling on a stationary bike, rowing machine, pregnancy yoga, pregnancy calisthenics, relaxing stretching routines.

Air Travel
International travel is generally considered safe until 35 weeks, and domestic trips are fine through 36 weeks.  “No later than flying rules” vary from airline to airline. The second trimester might be the best time to plan a vacation (your nausea and fatigue have usually subsided and your belly and “cankles” are not in full glory yet). Just be sure to choose an aisle seat to facilitate frequent bathroom trips. You will also want to wear loose clothing (tight jeans across your femoral artery are not going to work), and you will want to stand and stretch often to keep your blood flowing (to avoid blood pooling). Finally, program your OB’s number into your cell phone for those just in case questions.

Artificial Sweetners
There is no data to suggest that artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame or Splenda, cause harm to babies in utero. However, many experts still caution against them, recommending that you choose healthier beverages like water and juice. In my opinion, “if there is a doubt, there is no doubt”. So if you are suspicious about the chemical side effects of artificial sweeteners, then I would recommend stocking up on Sparkling Mineral Water for your pregnancy.

Cold Medications
There are some generally approved medications for treating cold and flu symptoms during pregnancy, such Tylenol Sinus, Robitussin, Dimetapp, Drixoral, and Chloraseptic throat spray. (Sudafed should be avoided during the first trimester).  However, please check with your Doctor before taking any type of medications while pregnant. Also, for the FDA list of drugs and their risk categories for pregnant women, click HERE.

Pain Medications
Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is typically recommended, if needed. However avoid aspirin and ibuprofen (Advil, Aleve, Motrin), as they can affect fetal circulation.

Please check with your Doctor before taking any type of medications while pregnant. For the FDA list of drugs and their risk categories for pregnant women, click HERE.

Allergy Medications
Continue allergy shots with your doctor’s supervision, however don’t begin new medicines for the first time now. Chlortrimatron, Benadryl, and Claritin are believed to be safe, though my opinion is “If you do not absolutely need medication, then don’t take it”.

Herbal Medicines
Don’t take herbal medicines unless prescribed by your doctor.  There is not enough information known about their safety.

Cleaning Products
Most cleaning products, including bleach, are typically safe if used carefully. However, make sure there is good ventilation in the area where you are cleaning, and wear gloves to protect your skin. Always read the labels before use and avoid mixing chemicals, such as ammonia and bleach, which can produce toxic fumes.

Painting and Finishing Furniture
Avoid unnecessary chemicals and fumes, let someone else do the nursery painting (and by all means, avoid stripping or chipping paint from a home built before 1978 to avoid lead exposure).  Also, if you must assist, limit your nursery makeover duties by going outside often, or working in well-ventilated rooms.

Changing the Cat’s Litter Box
No. Someone else needs to change the litter box while you are pregnant. Cat feces can transmit toxoplasmosis, a parasitic infection that can cause birth defects.

Manicures and Pedicures
Manicures are okay, however bring your own instruments from home if you are serious about reducing infection risk and steer clear of nail salons with a strong chemical odor. If you do your nails at home, open a window or apply polish in a well-ventilated area.

Coloring Your Hair
While research suggests that coloring your hair during pregnancy is safe, I would schedule all hair appointments after your first trimester (major fetal organ development is complete by then).  You might also want to consider getting highlights, as opposed to full color, simply to reduce the overall chemical exposure to your body.

Hot Tubs and  Saunas
Avoid hot tubs and saunas while you are pregnant. Studies show that water >105 deg can be damaging to developing cells and embryos. Additionally, hot water or hot steamy air can cause you to overheat…which increases your heart rate, reduces blood flow to your baby, and potentially can put the baby under stress.

Hot Baths (at home)
This one was tough for me because I like my bath water hot (105-110 deg hot)!  However, most OBs agree that you should keep your bath water to < 100 degrees (around your own body temperature).

You generally should be safe if you use a masseuse trained in prenatal massage. Just make sure you’re propped up on your left side (lying on your right side can obstruct flow of your vena cava, the vein that drains the entire lower half of the body), or ask for a maternity table, which has a hole in the middle for your belly.

Daily Skin Care Regimen
Did you know that what you put on your body can affect your baby as much as what goes into your body? Yes, skin care products are filled with topical ingredients that do get absorbed into the bloodstream.  Products to avoid: Retinoids, Retin-A, Salicylic acid (especially when taken orally, or in a facial peel or soak), Beta hydroxy acid, and other prescription acne medicines.

Simple home facials and all natural ingredient spa facials are generally safe. However, I would skip professional facials that use a galvanic current, herbal facials during your first trimester (who wants to smell gardenia and rosemary when you are nauseated?), and peels containing glycolic acid.

Perfumes are generally thought to be safe for topical use. However, you may find that you have become strangely averse to your signature scent and other strong perfumes during pregnancy. Therefore, you might consider using a lightly scented lotion during this time. Many pregnant women are drawn to citrus scents, chamomile, or lavender…typical spa-type aromas that bring about a sense of tranquility and relaxation.


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