The dos and don'ts of being pregnant can be a total minefield. Can I drink? Are highlights a no no? Am I still allowed to take baths?
We’ve been busy busting some pregnancy myths for you, to set the record straight once and for all.
You can’t drink
The jury is still out with this one. Some people choose to have a few glasses of prosecco throughout their pregnancy, some cut alcohol out completely. But what do the experts say? Well, the Chief Medical Officers for the UK recommend that the safest approach is not to drink alcohol at all, to keep risks to your baby to a minimum.
Why? When you drink, alcohol passes from your blood and to your baby via the placenta. Because the baby’s liver hasn’t fully formed, it can’t process alcohol as well as you can, meaning too much drinking could affect its development.
A recent study, published in January 2020, has added to concerns that alcohol may harm unborn babies. The NHS have advised that the safest option is still to: ‘not drink alcohol at all at any stage of the pregnancy’.
You can’t eat cheese
Generally, soft cheese are out when you’re pregnant. The NHS advises avoiding mould-ripened soft cheeses such as brie, camembert, goats cheese and blue cheese (although some blue cheese can be eaten if cooked). But it’s not all bad news – you can still chow down on hard cheeses such as cheddar, parmesan and stilton – these types don’t contain as much water as soft cheeses, so bacteria is less likely to grow. Here’s a full list of cheeses you can and can’t eat.
Sushi is a no-no
The NHS states that on the whole, sushi is allowed, but it’s wise to be careful – lots of sushi contains shellfish (shrimps, prawns, crabs, scallops), and raw shellfish could contain harmful bacteria – if you order sushi in a restaurant, ask if the shellfish has been cooked. Mackerel, swordfish, shark and marlin are all no-nos. And don’t go mad on the tuna – stick to no more than four cans a week due to the high levels of mercury present in the fish.
Manicures aren’t allowed
It’s fine to get your nails painted during pregnancy, as long as you’re careful. However, it’s worth knowing that chemicals in nail polish (formaldehyde and toluene) can be harmful if you’re regularly exposed to them in large doses, so stick to brands that don’t use them (Butter London is a good one). ‘You would need massive and long-term exposure to the products before there was a chance of problems,’ health expert Dr. Fischbein tells TIME.
Exercise should be minimal
Exercise is not dangerous for your baby. Actually, the more active you are during pregnancy, the easier you’ll find it to adapt to your changing shape (and to keep the weight off after giving birth). The NHS advises normal daily activity such as running, walking, yoga and dancing – swimming is also good. Just don’t exhaust yourself, exercise in hot weather or attempt anything where you could be hit or fall (boxing, horse riding) and be aware that you may have to slow down as your pregnancy progresses.
You can’t fly
Don’t let pregnancy myths get in the way of a holiday! You totally can fly. Some women just prefer not to in the first 12-15 weeks of pregnancy, due to nausea and tiredness. Some airlines might be reluctant to let you on past 28 weeks, but this is more to do with the fact that they’re probably terrified you’ll go into labour mid-flight. Which is kind of understandable.
Dying your hair will harm the baby
Speak to your GP if you’re concerned, but in general, research shows that it’s safe to dye your hair whilst pregnant. ‘Some studies have found that very high doses of the chemicals in hair dyes may cause harm’, the NHS says. ‘However, these doses are massive compared with the very low amount of chemicals a woman is exposed to when colouring her hair.’ Most women tend to wait until the first 12 weeks of pregnancy have passed, as the risk of chemical substances harming the baby is lower.
You shouldn’t have sex
This one is one of the biggest pregnancy myths – and it’s all lies! There’s a thick mucus plug that seals up your cervix when you’re pregnant, which means that your man couldn’t possibly ‘hit’ the baby. It also helps to guard the foetus from infection. So you’re good to go! (NB: Just make sure you haven’t been experiencing any heavy bleeding). Finding a comfortable position is probably the trickiest part – lying on your side seems to be a firm pregnancy favourite.
You should avoid coffee
False. One small cup a day is perfectly acceptable. However, it’s worth noting that a recent study at McGill University in Montreal found an increased risk of miscarriage when pregnant women drank more than 200 mg of caffeine per day. But in general, moderate coffee consumption is unlikely to harm the baby.
Baths are dangerous
This is one pregnancy myth that is actually true, but only if they’re super hot. Try to should avoid saunas, jacuzzis or anything that raises your body temperature over 102 degrees for longer than 10 minutes – this is because itcan cause your heart rate to increase, causing stress to a baby because it reduces their blood flow.