Things to avoid when pregnant – how many of these are you aware of?

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  • Do you feel confused about what you can and can’t do while you’re pregnant? You’re not alone – there are regularly news stories advising women what to avoid when pregnant and it all can be pretty overwhelming.

    When you first find out you’re expecting it can feel like you’re inundated with information, from what foods to avoid in pregnancy to foods you can eat when pregnant and everything in between. But when it comes to little things that crop up in daily life – painting your nails and using cleaning products, for example – it can all start to get confusing.

    We’ve taken a look at common everyday things that you can and can’t do now that you’re pregant, to bust those myths for good!


    Large quantities of alcohol in pregnancy can lead to your baby having Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), but no one is sure how small amounts affect a baby. There is no way to know how much alcohol is safe during pregnancy, which is why generally experts advise that you don’t have any alcohol at all while you’re expecting – especially in the first trimester. The NHS state: ‘Experts are still unsure exactly how much, if any, alcohol is completely safe for you to have while you’re pregnant, so the safest approach is not to drink at all while you’re expecting.’
    Verdict: Proceed with caution


    Some essential oils are incredibly beneficial in pregnancy, but others aren’t safe, so don’t use massage oils, pillow sprays or bath products that contain them without first getting the advice of a qualified practitioner. Use blends specially designed for pregnancy, containing oils that are known to be safe.
    Verdict: Proceed with caution

    Asthma medicine

    It’s important that you control your asthma, because it’s dangerous for your baby to be deprived of oxygen if you have an asthma attack. Let your GP know you’re pregnant, and discuss ways that you can manage your asthma and stay safe. Remember to tell your antenatal midwife and the one with you during labour that you’re asthmatic, too.
    Verdict: Go for it


    Tea and coffee are safe as long as you don’t have more than 300mg of caffeine a day – the equivalent of three cups of coffee, six of tea, or eight cans of coke.
    Verdict: Proceed with caution

    Cat litter

    Cat poo can carry toxoplasmosis, which may harm your baby if you contract it during pregnancy, although the risk of this is very small. So ask someone else to empty the cat litter, or wear rubber gloves if you really do have to do it yourself.
    Verdict: Steer clear

    Cleaning products

    As long as you’re not cleaning in an unventilated space where you could inhale fumes, most products are safe to use. Wear gloves, and get someone else to clean the oven, as oven cleaners are strong and you can inhale a lot with your head stuck right in there!
    Verdict: Proceed with caution

    Cystitis remedies

    Sachet medications such as Cystemme and Cymalon aren’t recommended, as they have a very high salt content. Try cranberry juice instead and drink lots of fluids. If it doesn’t clear up, see your GP who can prescribe safe antibiotics.
    Verdict: Steer clear!

    Diarrhoea medicines

    You can take rehydration powders, such as Dioralyte, but not tablets like Imodium or Lomotil. Ask your pharmacist if you’re not sure.
    Verdict: Proceed with caution


    Keeping fit and active during pregnancy is good for you and your baby, with a few provisos: avoid high-impact exercises, don’t do any sit-ups or crunches (your abdominal muscles separate during pregnancy and you risk tearing them) and stop whenever you feel tired or too hot. Also, don’t start anything new – stick to what your body’s used to.
    Verdict: Go for it

    Fake tan

    The chemicals in fake tanning products aren’t absorbed into your bloodstream, so they’re safe. Don’t go on sunbeds, though, because as well as being bad for your skin, they could cause you to overheat. Tanning pills are also a no-go area.
    Verdict: Go for it


    It’s safe in the first two trimesters, but most airlines have restrictions on flying in the last trimester, so it’s important to check beforehand. It’s a good idea to get a letter from your GP giving you permission to fly if you’re obviously pregnant, to avoid delays at the check-in desk.
    Verdict: Proceed with caution

    Flu jabs

    The flu jab is considered safe, but healthy adults don’t normally need it. However, if you’re in one of the at-risk groups (if you have an existing medical condition like asthma, for example) then talk to your doctor.
    Verdict: Proceed with caution

    Hair dye

    There’s no evidence that the chemicals in hair dye are unsafe in pregnancy. But if colouring your hair is going to make you worry, give it a miss for the first trimester to put your mind at rest.
    Verdict: Go for it and find out which hair dyes are the safest to use during pregnancy

    Hay fever medication

    Steer clear of antihistamine tablets, but you can use nasal sprays such as Flixonase and Beconase, which work directly on the affected area (your nose!) and won’t be passed on to your baby.
    Verdict: Proceed with caution


    As with hot baths and saunas, Jacuzzis aren’t advisable as it’s not a good idea for you and your baby to get too hot. If you want a bath, make sure the water is no hotter than body temperature.
    Verdict: Steer clear

    Nail varnish and nail varnish remover

    It’s ok to use nail polish and nail polish remover as long as you’re careful. The chemicals in nail polish (formaldehyde and toluene) can be harmful if you’re regularly exposed to them, but if you just want to paint your nails every now and then there’s nothing to worry about. Nail polish remover is safe to use while you’re pregnant. They often contain acetone, which occurs naturally in our bodies and in the environment, as well as being manufactured. Being exposed to a lot of acetone for a long time could lead to developmental problems, but even using nail polish remover every day won’t expose you to enough to harm you or your baby.
    Verdict: Proceed with caution


    It’s great to imagine ourselves heavily pregnant and painting the nursery, but solvents in paint can be harmful to your unborn baby if you come into contact with them regularly. While painting the odd room won’t expose you too much, it’s safer to get someone else to do it.
    Verdict: Proceed with caution


    Paracetamol is considered safe, but it’s best to save it for when you really need it. Try other headache remedies such as 4head (a stick you apply to the skin) or the cooling patches you can buy from pharmacists. It’s not safe to take aspirin, ibuprofen or codeine, so check the ingredients of any over-the-counter remedies.
    Verdict: Proceed with caution


    If you’re having a normal, low-risk pregnancy, then sex when you’re pregnant is fine. Your doctor or midwife may advise against it, however, if you’ve experienced any bleeding, have had more than one miscarriage or have a low-lying placenta.
    Verdict: Go for it!


    Smoking when pregnant has been known to damage a baby’s blood pressure control, with some smoke exposed babies having abnormal surges in blood pressure, even when sleeping undisturbed. Smoking also remains the biggest risk factor for cot death, and experts suggest a third of cot deaths could be avoided if mothers-to-be didn’t smoke. It’s also been suggested that all pregnant women should be breath-tested to determine if they smoke by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).
    Verdict: A no, no!

    Smoky places

    A new study by Plos Medical found that premature births have dropped by 10% in Scotland since the smoking ban in public places was introduced in 2006.
    It’s now well known that passive smoking is dangerous, and any toxins from cigarette smoke will be passed through to your baby in small amounts. Ask friends and family not to smoke around you or in your home if you can.
    Verdict: Steer clear!


    Don’t worry, being pregnant doesn’t mean you have to hide away in a dark spot for 9 months avoiding all the sunshine! But it’s worth knowing that being pregnant can make your skin extra sensitive to sunlight and its harmful rays, meaning you’re more likely to burn than you might have been before. Heatstroke is also very dangerous for the baby, so try to stay in the shade, and keep cool and hydrated.
    Verdict: Proceed with caution


    If you’re experiencing pregnancy bleeding and have had it checked out by a midwife, use a sanitary towel or panty liner. Never use a tampon, as it could introduce bacteria into your vagina, which is close to your cervix and uterus. You can’t use tampons for bleeding after the birth, either.
    Verdict: Steer clear!

    Thrush medication

    Anti-fungal creams such as Canesten are fine, as are pessaries, but you can’t take oral thrush tablets like Difflucan. If you’re in any doubt, check with the pharmacist.
    Verdict: Proceed with caution

    Underwired bras

    Your breasts change throughout pregnancy. If anything puts pressure on the new, delicate tissue, it could become inflamed or blocked. So wear comfy, well-fitting bras, get measured regularly and avoid stiff fabrics and underwiring.
    Verdict: Steer clear

    Vaccinations for holidays

    It’s best to avoid having holiday vaccinations, if you possibly can, by only visiting countries that don’t have the risk of serious disease. If you really have to go to a place where jabs are recommended, talk to your doctor first and weigh up whether to have the vaccination or risk the disease.
    Verdict: Steer clear.

    X-rays, microwaves & computers

    The level of radiation in most x-rays is far, far lower than the levels that could present any danger to your baby – just make sure you tell the radiographer that you’re pregnant. As for using microwaves and computers, go for it. There have been no reports of adverse pregnancy outcomes related to these.
    Verdict: Proceed with caution