When you are pregnant, it’s important to consider how the foods you eat, the medicines you take, and the things you do, cumulatively affect both your own body and the body of your unborn child. While your own adult body may be able to handle quite a bit, that’s not always the case for a developing infant. For this reason, it’s important to be aware of the things that can be harmful to a fetus, and to avoid them while you are pregnant.

Things You Can’t Eat While Pregnant

When you’re pregnant, the food you eat will also end up nourishing and affecting your growing child. This is also the case for some time after pregnancy, while you are breastfeeding your baby. As such, it’s important to watch what you eat during pregnancy, and is important to avoid:

  • Alcohol: Alcohol or drinks containing alcohol can have severe, adverse developmental effects on your baby, so it’s best to avoid them entirely while pregnant.
  • Coffee and Soda: These drinks often contain high amounts of caffeine. There are some studies showing that caffeine is related to birth defects and low birth-weights.
  • Deli Meats: Deli meats, such as sliced ham, turkey, and roast beef, may be contaminated with a bacteria called listeria, which can make it into the body of your developing baby and spread as an infection.
  • Fish That Contain Mercury: Shark, Swordfish, King Mackerel, and Tilefish contain high levels of mercury, a toxic metal that can have adverse developmental effects on your child.
  • Raw Eggs: Raw eggs may contain salmonella, a bacterial infection that is most dangerous for people with compromised immune systems. Be aware that raw eggs are an ingredient in a lot of different foods, such as homemade mayonnaise, Caesar dressing, or carbonara.
  • Raw Meat: Uncooked meats or even meats that are cooked rare can contain certain harmful bacteria that your adult immune system can handle, but your baby’s cannot. This is also true of raw fish, which is featured heavily in sushi.
  • Shellfish: Certain shellfish like clams, mussels, and especially oysters are often eaten uncooked or undercooked. These should be avoided while pregnant.
  • Some Cheeses: Some cheeses, especially soft cheeses or cheeses that contain mould may have listeria, which can spread as an infection to your baby.

If you have already eaten something on this list, don’t panic. Eating these foods presents an elevated risk of complications during pregnancy, but not a guarantee. If you have been eating something listed here, it’s simply best to stop now, and to inform your doctor while you both monitor your situation.

Medications You Can’t Take While Pregnant

Medications can affect your body in unique ways. For grown adults, this can help to numb pain or reduce inflammation, for example. However, these same helpful medications can negatively affect a baby’s developing body, whether transmitted from mother-to-child while in the womb, or via breast milk after after the child is born.

If you are pregnant, you should avoid the following medications during pregnancy:

  • ACE inhibitors: These medications, such as benazepril and lisinopril, lower blood pressure, which can have an adverse effect on your baby’s health.
  • Antidepressants: Some antidepressants have been associated with birth defects when taken during pregnancy. Speak with your doctor about your antidepressant prescription if you are pregnant or are trying to become pregnant.
  • Anxiety medications: Prescription medications used for anxiety, such as Xanax or Valium, should not be taken during pregnancy.
  • Aspirin: High doses of aspirin may cause defects in a fetus’s circulatory system. Speak to your doctor before taking even low doses of aspirin.
  • Bismuth subsalicylate: This medication, found most commonly over-the-counter in Pepto-Bismol, may cause birth defects in infants.
  • Decongestants: Some decongestants, such as phenylephrine or pseudoephedrine have been associated with birth defects in infants. This is also true of some cough medicines that contain the substance guaifenesin.
  • Ibuprofen: This commonly used painkiller, which appears in generic form or under the brands Motrin and Advil, has been associated with birth defects when taken in early stages of pregnancy.
  • Isotretinoin: This acne medication, which appears most commonly in the brand Accutane, is likely to cause birth defects and should be avoided during pregnancy.
  • Lithium: Lithium is sometimes used to treat bipolar disorder with a prescription. Speak to your doctor about whether or not you should continue your prescription if you are pregnant or are planning on becoming pregnant.

It’s important to understand that our knowledge of how certain medications interact with pregnancy is constantly evolving. In 2014, for example, researches released two studies concerning the effects of Tylenol use on pregnancy. Even these papers, as well-researched as they were, contained strong caveats about their results. If you’re taking any medications while you are pregnant, it’s best to consult with your doctor to stay up to date on the latest research and to understand what doses may be safe or unsafe for you and your baby.

Things You Can’t Do While Pregnant

Certain activities may cause undue stress on your body or the developing body of your child during pregnancy, while certain environments can expose you to unhealthy substances or situations. It’s important to know what activities and situations to avoid so that you can have the healthiest pregnancy possible.

Activities To Avoid

  • Activities With High Risk of Falling: Activities like skiing, skating, and rock climbing all carry risk of high impact falls. These falls could be dangerous for both you and your baby.
  • Contact Sports: Contact sports can present a large risk of injury to you, but you may also suffer trauma to the abdomen, which can put your baby at risk as well.
  • High Altitude Sports: Some activities like hiking, rock climbing, and mountaineering can take you to very high altitudes where the air is relatively thin. Exercise at high altitudes can lead to both you and the baby not getting enough oxygen.
  • High Impact Activities: Some recreational activities, such as aerobics, can contain a lot of jumping and other high impact movements. These can increase your risk of injury while you are pregnant and your center of gravity is shifted.

Situations and Settings To Avoid

  • Cats: Cats themselves are not a danger to pregnant women. However, the toxoplasmosis infection can be spread from cat feces or cat litter. If you have a cat, you may consider asking your spouse to take over litter duty for the duration of your pregnancy.
  • Cleaning Products: Some cleaning products contain fumes that can be toxic when inhaled in large quantities. To an adult these may be of no concern, but they can be harmful to a developing infant. Check the labels of any cleaning products you use for warnings and try to leave doors and windows open when you clean so that chemicals can air out.
  • Fresh Paint: Wet paint can also give off noxious fumes. Although most modern paints are very low-risk for pregnant women, some older paints contain traces of lead, which can be dangerous to a fetus. You can minimize this risk by waiting until after the first trimester to do any painting, using water-based paints, and working in a well-ventilated room with appropriate protection.
  • Hot Tubs and Saunas: While you are pregnant, you run a greater chance of fainting from overheating. As your body’s temperature rises from the hot tub or sauna, you can risk hurting both the baby and yourself.
  • X-Ray Imaging: There is some risk of complications arising during pregnancy due to exposure from x-ray radiation. However, the risk is fairly low for most x-rays. If you are in a situation where you may be x-rayed, you should inform your healthcare provider that you are pregnant so that you and they both can make the best decision about whether or not and where you should be x-rayed.

There are some risky activities and situations a pregnant woman can find herself in, but most of them can be avoided in daily life with minimal effort. Ultimately, it’s best to listen to your body — do what’s comfortable for and don’t push yourself too hard — and listen to your doctor as well.