When you are pregnant, you often read about what you should be doing to maintain a healthy pregnancy, but what about what not to do when pregnant. You know about the nutritional changes and other things that will help to keep your baby healthy, so now it is time to learn more about what you should kick to the curb for the next nine months. There are a number of lifestyle choices and other things that can be dangerous for a developing fetus. You want to know what these so that you can not do them until you give birth.
Smoking and Your Unborn Baby
You surely know that you should not smoke when you are pregnant, but it is important to understand exactly why. There are 4,000 chemicals in an average cigarette, including things like lead and cyanide. When you are smoking, all of these chemicals flood your bloodstream. Remember that your bloodstream goes directly to your baby, so your baby is being doused in these chemicals.
All of the chemicals in cigarettes are bad for your baby, but two in particular are especially bad, including carbon monoxide and nicotine. Almost every pregnancy complication associated with smoking are due to these two chemicals. Both of these chemicals will decrease how much oxygen your baby is getting by narrowing the blood vessels.
When your baby is not getting enough oxygen, both development and growth are adversely affected. Every cigarette smoked contributes to the risk that your baby will have problems in the womb and after birth. The following show how your baby can be affected by cigarette smoking during pregnancy:
- Size and weight: Low birth weight is one of the most common effects of smoking during pregnancy. You can decrease weight by at least one pound if you are smoking two packs per day.
- Lungs and body: If you smoke when you are pregnant, your baby’s lungs and body can be underdeveloped. This can result in your baby needing to spend time on a respirator after birth.
- Brain function: Women who smoke during pregnancy are putting their baby at risk for lifelong brain function issues. These can include things like behavioral problems, learning disorders and relatively low IQ.
- Heart: Heart defects are a major issue to be concerned about if you smoke while pregnant. In fact, there is up to a 70 percent chance of this issue in women who smoke.
Drinking Alcohol and Your Unborn Baby
You have probably heard that a glass of red wine per night during pregnancy is okay, but experts and public health officials disagree. Do not drink any alcohol during pregnancy because even the smallest amount might negatively affect your baby.
When you drink, the alcohol rapidly makes its way through your bloodstream and gets to your baby by crossing the placenta. This increases your baby’s blood alcohol level and their level increases more quickly than your does.
Stillbirth and miscarriage are two very prominent concerns if you choose to drink when you are pregnant. Even a single drink per day makes it more likely that your baby will have low birth weight. Other issues associated with a single drink per day include issues with learning, attention span, hyperactivity, speech and language.
Women who have a single drink per week are putting their children at risk for delinquent and aggressive behavior later in life. One study discovered that girls are at a higher risk for mental illnesses if their mom consumed alcohol while pregnant.
Other issues that your baby might experience as a result of drinking during pregnancy include:
- Poor growth
- Central nervous system damage
- Abnormal facial features
- Abnormally small brain and head
- Anatomical defects
- Intellectual disability
- Behavioral problems
- Hearing and vision problems
- Birth defects
Excessive Exercise and Your Unborn Baby
If you are exercising during your pregnancy, this can certainly be a good thing. However, you have to take it easy and make sure that you do not exercise excessively. Excessive exercise during pregnancy may cause the following:
- Decreased fetal movement: If your baby’s movement reduces suddenly, this is a sign to stop what you are doing. You should also be mindful if your baby starts to move less than he or she normally does, even if this is not sudden.
- Dizziness: It is easier to get dehydrated and experience anemia when you are pregnant, and both can cause dizziness, especially during intense exercise. This is especially concerning if it occurs along with headaches and fatigue.
- Overheating: Getting warm during exercise is common, but if you are getting too hot, you must immediately stop. This occurs when your body is unable to regulate your internal temperature. It can cause things like nausea, racing heart, headache and cramping.
- Heart palpitations: Heart palpitations during exercise can signal severe anemia, a heart problem, dehydration or thyroid disease. It is important that heart palpitations are promptly checked out to determine the underlying cause.
- Calf swelling: If you experiencing swelling in this area after exercise, you should get immediate medical attention. This could indicate a deep vein thrombosis. This is a type of blood clot that can be life-threatening.
- Vaginal bleeding: If you notice vaginal bleeding during exercise, this might indicate a miscarriage. Later in your pregnancy, it might indicate things like placenta abruption or placenta previa, both of which must be immediately treated.
- Blurry vision: This is often due to your blood pressure dropping and it might indicate dehydration or preeclampsia.
- Fainting: This can indicate circulatory problems or dehydration.
- Abdominal or chest pain: This can actually indicate labor or something very serious like placental abruption.
- Fluid coming from the vagina: This indicates that you are going into labor.
When any of these issues occur, it is a good idea to call your doctor. You want to make sure that your baby is okay.
Food and Your Unborn Baby
When you think about things that are potentially dangerous to a fetus, food is something that is likely not on your mind. However, it is important that you do not eat certain foods or use certain food preparation methods when you are pregnant because there is the potential for harm to your baby.
You know that there are certain types of seafood that you have to be mindful about when you are pregnant. Keep the following information in mind:
- Undercooked or raw shellfish or fish
- Unless you heat it completely, you must avoid unpasteurized pickled or smoked fish
- Fish that includes a high amount of mercury, including swordfish, tilefish, shark and king mackerel
- When it comes to albacore or solid white canned tuna, keep your consumption to under six ounces per week
You have to be careful when it comes to eating meat during pregnancy. Keep the following in mind:
- Undercooked or raw poultry or meat
- Undercooked or dry sausages unless you cook them completely
- Unless heated completely, avoid refrigerated meats
Eggs are great for pregnancy nutrition, but you can never eat them raw. This increases the risk of you experiencing salmonella. You also have to be mindful about foods that contain raw eggs, such as various homemade sauces and desserts, and raw cake batter or cookie dough.
When it comes to cheese and milk, avoid those that are unpasteurized. Just read the label to ensure that these products are pasteurized before eating them.
There are 10 specific foods that you must avoid completely and these include:
- Feta cheese: This food increases your risk of listeriosis
- Brie cheese: This food can also increase the risk of listeriosis
- Deli meats: These can increase the risk of listeriosis
- Liver: This food will provide too much vitamin A
- Unwashed produce: This might have pesticides present
- Raw sprouts: They can cause bad food poisoning
- Pre-made salads: You have no way of knowing if these were properly cleaned
- Herbal supplements: These can be very dangerous for you and your baby
- Nitrate-rich foods: These foods do not have nutritional value and can potentially cause problems in high quantities
- Leftovers: Due to the risk of improper storage, it is best to avoid leftovers and stick with fresh foods
Caffeine During Pregnancy
You can consume some caffeine during pregnancy, but you must keep it to a minimum to ensure safety. The general recommendation is that you do not get more than 200 milligrams per day. On average, this is approximately 12 ounces of coffee.
Remember that coffee is not the only thing that contains caffeine either. You also have to be careful with things like tea, chocolate and carbonated beverages.
If you consume too much caffeine during pregnancy, you are at risk for stillbirth and miscarriage. Low birth weight and preterm birth are also possible in women who drink too much caffeine during pregnancy.
Stress During Pregnancy
Stress is something that everyone experiences, but if your stress is excessive or chronic, it might have negative effects on your baby. Low birth weight and premature birth are the two biggest concerns when it comes to stress during pregnancy. Both of these can cause issues throughout your baby’s life.
Stress might contribute to issues with your pregnancy due to causing problems with your hormones and your immune system. As of today, researchers are still trying to determine exactly how stress affects your baby and how these affects occur. Some research shows that chronic stress might also cause problems with your child later in life with things like attention span, immune system and brain development.
Other Things to Avoid During Pregnancy
In addition to the information above, you also have to avoid other things during pregnancy to make sure that you and your baby stay healthy. These include:
- Never take any illegal drugs because these can cause central nervous system damage, withdrawal effects, heart murmurs, low birth weight, impaired neurobehavioral development, physical malformations, facial feature abnormalities, problems with internal organs, eye defects and cleft palate.
- Unless your doctor prescribes them or tells you it is okay to take them, avoid medications during your pregnancy. This is because certain medications are known to be dangerous for unborn babies.
- Do not hold reptiles when you are pregnant. There is the potential for you contracting salmonella from them.
- Do not take any vitamin A supplements unless your doctor prescribes them, especially during your first trimester. This supplement can cause birth defects.
- Do not get X-rays when you are pregnant, especially in your first trimester. While the risk of problems is small, there is still a risk.
- You should avoid electric blankets for the same reason you should avoid X-rays.
- Be mindful of pesticides and avoid areas where they are sprayed. Pesticides can be very dangerous to a developing baby, having the potential to cause everything from miscarriage to birth defects, depending on the exact pesticide used.
- Do not expose yourself to household chemicals, such as paint thinner and ammonia. There is the potential for problems for a developing fetus.
- Do not clean your cat’s litter box during pregnancy. This increases your chance of developing toxoplasmosis.
- Avoid increasing your body temperature when you are pregnant and anything that might cause you to overheat.
Now you know what not to do when pregnant. When you avoid all of these things, you are working toward maintaining a healthy pregnancy. Make sure that you take note of all of these and if you are doing any of them, stop right away and talk to your doctor. If you stop as soon as you learn that you are pregnant, you and your baby are surely going to be okay. Remember that you only need to avoid these things for the next nine months, so it is a temporary change in your life to ensure a healthy baby.