Way back when, women who were expecting weren’t given a lot of freedom, and medical advice was often pretty restrictive. They couldn’t exercise or have intercourse, were advised to gain a lot of weight (“feed that baby!”), and basically had to lie on their backs and rest for 9 months waiting for the baby to come. To be pregnant could feel somewhat stifling.
Well, our current era is an exciting time to be having a baby!
This is the 21st century, and we have so much more information about pregnancy and pregnancy health than ever before. What was once considered taboo is now a green go-ahead. Pregnant women hear cries of envy from their mothers and grandmothers, “I was NEVER allowed to do that while I was pregnant. How lucky you are!”
Even though times have changed, there are still some things that you need to keep in mind when you’re expecting. Here are some of the most important.
Watch your caffeine intake.
If the thought of ditching your morning cup of “liquid enthusiasm” drives you to insanity, don’t fret! You have to limit your caffeine while you’re pregnant, but you don’t have to eliminate it altogether.
Studies show that caffeine, in excess, can have some ill effects on you and your baby. It’s a stimulant and a diuretic, so it increases heart rate and blood pressure and causes you to urinate more—which can cause dehydration.
Although you may feel like you can handle your big morning cup of joe, your baby can’t.
Caffeine crosses over into the placenta and affects the baby as well. Studies show that up to 200 milligrams of caffeine is fine (equivalent to a grande cup of Starbucks coffee). Just be careful, because caffeine is present in things other than coffee and tea (like soda, chocolate, and certain medicines) and can put you over your daily limit.
Watch these foods.
What you eat influences your baby now—and possibly forever. Essentially, what you eat, your baby eats too; so you need to be mindful about certain unhealthy choices.
Most medical professionals recommend that pregnant women avoid the following foods.
Raw or undercooked meats, etc. Rare meat, raw oysters and clams, and sushi can contain bacteria, viruses, or parasites that can cause food poisoning and worse.
Deli meat. Deli meats, hot dogs, and unpasteurized dairy (Roquefort, feta, Gorgonzola, Camembert, and Brie cheeses) can be contaminated with listeria—bacteria that can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, and other major problems.
Certain seafood. Large fish like shark, king mackerel, swordfish, and tilefish have high levels of mercury that can interfere with your baby’s brain and nervous system development.
Raw vegetable sprouts. Raw alfalfa, clover, radish, and mung bean sprouts can have harmful bacteria that’s impossible to wash out and can cause serious illness.
Raw eggs. Homemade Caesar dressings, Hollandaise sauce, mayonnaise, raw cookie dough, and homemade eggnog can contain unpasteurized raw eggs that pose a risk of salmonella and other illness from harmful bacteria.
Watch hot tubs.
You’re feeling sore, and what would feel better than soaking your achy, pregnant muscles in a nice hot bath? Don’t be too quick to jump in!
Studies show that an elevated body temperature during pregnancy, especially the first trimester, can lead to hyperthermia (an abnormally high body temperature) that can increase your blood pressure and heart rate—and also increase the risk of birth defects.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that pregnant women not allow their core body temperature to rise over 102.2 degrees F. Since hot tubs are normally programmed to 104 degrees, it can take only 10 to 20 minutes for your body temperature to rise too high.
If you’re going to soak in a tub, reprogram it to a lower temperature, limit your time to 10 minutes or less, and monitor your body temperature so that you don’t overheat.
Watch kitty’s litter.
For most people, toxoplasmosis, a parasitic disease found in birds and animals, doesn’t pose a problem—but in pregnant women it can cause severe problems for her growing baby, like brain damage and vision loss.
Although the chance of infection is low, it’s good idea to take care to avoid getting exposed. Ways that you can get infected are:
–Changing an infected cat’s litter box (the feces carries the parasite)
–Getting scratched by an infected cat (they can have feces under their claws)
–Eating food that has touched the counters your cat has walked on
–Digging in soil where an infected cat has left feces
–Eating infected meat that hasn’t been fully cooked
If you’ve been exposed to any of the above, you can see your doctor to get tested. Many women don’t present symptoms upon infection, and others feel like they have the flu.
Watch people who smoke around you.
Most women know that smoking is awful for a pregnant woman and her unborn child, but what many don’t realize is that secondhand smoke can be nearly as bad. Indirect contact with cigarettes can have severe effects on a mother and her baby’s health.
There are 4,000 chemicals in secondhand smoke, and cancer is only one consequence of inhaling it. The others are premature delivery, low birth weight, miscarriage, learning or behavioral issues, and sudden infant death syndrome. If someone is smoking near you, avoid them and the environment altogether.
As a side note, there is also something known as thirdhand smoke. This is the residue that’s left behind by cigarette smoke on furniture, rugs, and paint. These toxins can enter your bloodstream when you touch something that contains it or if you breathe it in. Studies show that thirdhand smoke can have detrimental effects on prenatal lung development.
Watch what you drink.
In the past, doctors have recommended moderation during pregnancy, but studies have shown that drinking can have serious detrimental effects on a developing fetus.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Surgeon General state, “There is no known safe amount [...] to drink while pregnant. There is no known safe time during pregnancy or safe type ...”
The American Academy of Pediatrics warns that "drinking even small amounts [...] while pregnant can increase the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, prematurity, or sudden infant death syndrome." The substances in adult beverages have been shown to be a neurotoxin to developing babies and can cause the death of developing brain cells.
A study at the University of Queensland found that women who regularly drink as little as two glasses at a time can adversely affect their child’s educational development.
Watch high heels.
It may be tough to let go of those beautiful platforms while you’re pregnant, but you may thank us for our advice to ditch them until you give birth. As you move further in your pregnancy and your belly grows, your center of gravity changes and you can become unbalanced and unsteady on your feet.
When you wear heels, the chances of losing your balance and falling are greater. Additionally, being pregnant comes with calf cramping, back pain, water retention, and sore muscles. All of these get exacerbated when you wear heels. This will not only cause you more pain, but perhaps injury as well.
Watch well-meaning people with well-meaning advice.
Your friends and family love you. And they love that you’re pregnant. And they love to “help” you during your pregnancy. This often involves the (over generous) giving of advice.
We agree that they are well meaning and have only the baby and your best interests at heart. We also sympathize that said advice oftentimes becomes a bit—shall we say—overwhelming. We find that one of the best ways to handle this situation is to calmly defer to your obstetrician and firmly respond with, “Thank you. My doctor and I have it all taken care of.” That should do the trick!