Things to Avoid during Pregnancy

Pregnancy can be wonderful, it can also be terrifying. Like it or not, a pregnant woman tends to become ‘public property’ in that everyone, from your parents, friends and work colleagues, to the milkman and strangers on the bus (and the majority of people in between) will be offering advice on what to do, what not to do and it’s easy to be completely overwhelmed.

Your midwife should be able to talk you through most things, however, here’s a list of a few things that often come up:

* Cigarettes, recreational drugs and alcohol

Different people will tell you “so-and-so smoked all the way through and was fine” or “it’s okay to have the occasional drink”. There is no “safe” amount of these substances, that has been scientifically proven. The normal, healthy, human body has no need of these substances, so they are all best completely avoided. 

* Stress

The Babylab in London, UK is one of the many facilities globally that are looking into the effects of stress on pregnancy. The BBC’s “Child of Our Time Series” which began in 2000, referred to some of this research in one of its early programmes. It seems that there is a correlation between excessive levels of stress in the pregnant mother and anxious or fretful babies.

Obviously some stress is normal in day to day life, but when you are pregnant, it is important to remember that your body is under a great deal of strain already, before we take into account stress levels, so it is important to be careful to avoid any extra stress wherever possible. It may be beneficial to take up meditation or perhaps a course of pregnancy Yoga (as with all changes in exercise routine, your Midwife or Primary Physician’s advice should be sought before commencing.

* Toxoplasmosis

Toxoplasmosis is a bacteria that can be found around certain farmyard animals (such as sheep) and in the excretions of domestic pets, particularly cats. If at all possible, you should minimise contact with these animals (if you live on and/or normally work on a farm, your midwife will advise you) and someone else should deal with clearing dog mess and/or cat litter. If it’s completely impossible for someone else to take over these tasks, then you should wear gloves.

* Listeria

Listeria is another bacteria to which pregnant women are particularly sensitive. It is because of this bacteria that you will be advised to eliminate (if possible) and certainly limit your intake of certain foods, including soft cheeses, pate and ‘soft’ eggs.

* Retinol

Too much retinol or vitamin A can be harmful to your pregnancy. It is for this reason that pregnant women should avoid offal products such as liver and kidneys.

* Caffeine and caffeinated soft drinks

Caffeine is another of those items where the “official” position continues to change as to how much, if any is safe. The rule of thumb that should be applied with this, as with everything is: If a normal, healthy human body does not need it, I should avoid it while I am pregnant. Fortunately there are now many de-caf options and these are easily and cheaply available.

* Measles, German Measles (Rubella), Chickenpox and Shingles

If at all possible, you should avoid contact with anyone who has one of these conditions. If you are exposed, talk to your midwife who will probably keep a slightly closer watch on you and your baby.

* Mercury

Modern lifestyles have lead to a huge amount of Mercury being present in our Oceans. For this reason you will be recommended to exclude deep see fish such as Marlin, Shark and Tuna while you are pregnant.

* Lead

Fortunately, awareness of the bad effects of lead on everybody’s health has led to most sources of lead being removed. However, if you have a craft-based job, such as glass working or jewellery making, or if you work in radiography, you may be exposed to lead in the course of your duties. Your midwife will advise you and if you work with an employer, they are usually legally bound to support you by taking all possible steps to avoid you being exposed.

* Medicines/remedies

If you are on a regular medicine (prescribed or “alternative”) including any supplements, you should notify your midwife as soon as possible. Certain treatments are counter-indicated for pregnancy. Cold and Flu sachet drinks should also be avoided.

* Herbs

There are many herbs that must be avoided during pregnancy. Your midwife will give you as detailed as possible a list, as will your herbalist.

The lists are by no means exhaustive and if you’re not sure, you should ring your midwife or maternity unit for advice.

One herb that merits a particular mention is Raspberry Leaf. – Raspberry leaf is often advised AFTER 32 weeks of pregnancy as it mimics light contractions and can help to condition the womb for birth. It is because of this that it should be avoided before 32 weeks and certainly must not be used in the first trimester. It is probably advisable to avoid raspberry teas up to 32 weeks as well, because you can never be completely sure that raspberry leaves have not been used in the preparation of the tea.

* Hair dye

Again, this is an area where the “official” line on safety changes continually. Your midwife and hairdresser will advise you. Certainly the use of peroxide should be avoided, but there are dyes, including herbal based natural dyes that are safe to use during pregnancy.