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Is It Safe?

Is sushi off the menu?

When you’re pregnant, there are tons of do’s and don’t’s type lists out there.  It’s hard to keep it all straight.  And frankly what’s right for one woman isn’t going to be right for another.

Why are all those things listed as good…or bad?  And how do you know if it’s okay for you?  Here, I’ll break down the reasons why common concerns are listed as ‘unsafe’ so that you can help determine (with your doctor’s advice too, of course) if any particular thing is safe or unsafe for you!

Eating hot dogs/processed lunch meat: The biggest concern here is that these items contain nitrates and nitrites and sometimes other harmful food additives.  If you can find versions that are free of these chemicals, they should be safe to eat.

Eating deli meats: If they’re not processed, then the biggest concern is that they could contain listeria, which could make you sick and harm your baby.  It is usually safe if you buy it in packages (not from an open deli) and heat it up before eating it.  It’s also perfectly safe to cook and slice your own meat at home and use that for sandwiches.

Eating raw cheeses/raw milk: The concern is that it could be contaminated with bacteria like campylobacter, salmonella, or e.coli.  In this case you’ll need to know your source.  It may not be safe to consume these from a store.  It also may not be safe if you have never consumed these foods prior to pregnancy.  But if you are careful about your source and have consumed them safely before becoming pregnant, it can be fine to continue doing so.

Eating sushi: Concern is, again, contamination, as well as mercury levels.  This means that you may be able to find sushi that is low in mercury and okay to eat.  It’s important to skip fish like mahi-mahi, swordfish, or other large fish that are likely to be high in mercury if you do indulge.

Strenuous physical activities: Like horse back riding, running, skiing, etc.  The concern is that you could hurt yourself or the baby.  If your physical activity is within reason and low-impact (like running), and you did it prior to pregnancy, it’s probably okay to continue (if you’re low-risk).  If it’s high-impact or you’re likely to get injured, you should probably skip it.

Having sex: Most women can safely continue to have sex right up until birth (but not if your water breaks).  Women who are at risk for miscarriage or preterm labor or who have other complications may need to skip having sex, but that’s something to discuss with your doctor.

Climbing ladders or reaching high shelves: Ladders can be dangerous because your balance is off and you could fall.  If you can climb just a step or two off the ground and reach what you need to, and you’re not feeling especially dizzy, it’s probably okay.  If you’d need to climb higher or you feel at all dizzy, don’t.  As far as reaching high shelves (on tiptoes/reaching above your head), it’s an old wives’ tale that the cord will tangle or wrap around the baby’s neck if you do this.  But you don’t need to be concerned.

Driving: As long as you are not in labor or at risk, you should be able to drive up close to your due date.  If you are having contractions or are at risk in any way, it’s probably safer to skip it.

Taking medication: Your doctor or midwife should give you a list of medications that are considered safe in pregnancy.  Do not take anything that is not on this list without consulting a doctor first, no matter what.  Even if it’s on the safe list (and please note in what trimesters it’s safe; certain medications are only safe at certain times), try not to take it if you can avoid it.  i.e. if you have a headache, see if rest, water, a cool compress, etc. will help first.  This goes for herbal or alternative medications, too — never assume safety.  Discuss any medication (alternative or conventional) with a qualified doctor or midwife and do a full risk-benefit analysis before choosing to take it.  In certain situations, your particular needs may outweigh any risks of taking the medication.

Sleeping on your back: If you’re comfortable…you should be fine.  When you get further along, chances are you won’t be comfortable anyway.  Most doctors and midwives say about any sleeping position that if something were wrong, you wouldn’t be comfortable and you would move.  Therefore, sleep however works best for you, unless you’ve been advised otherwise.

Lifting heavy items: The concern is that you might strain your muscles, and late in pregnancy that’s no good.  They’re busy holding up your uterus and don’t get a rest, so straining them will result in long-term pain.  Be careful when lifting items and try not to if you can avoid it, especially when you are far along.  Obviously if you have an older child you may need to carry him/her at certain times.  But if you don’t have to, or it’s really hard for you to lift…don’t.

Using cleaning products: If you can, opt for safer options, like baking soda and vinegar.  It’s not a good idea to expose yourself to toxic fumes.  If at all possible, ask someone else (your husband) to do it for you.  If you must, open all windows and doors and work as quickly as possible to minimize exposure.  Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about any particular chemicals.  This goes for any chemical exposure.

Cleaning the cat box: Ideally, you don’t.  The concern is that as you’re scooping, the dust flies up in the air and toxoplasmosis (which cats may carry) could get to you and make you and your baby sick.  The same is potentially true when digging in a garden.  If you’ve had cats for years, you are likely immune.  If not, using gloves and a face mask could help prevent exposure, in the event that you really need to do this.

What else have you wondered about?

Top image by cool mikeol

This mom can name 10 “unsafe” things she did during pregnancy — and still had a healthy baby

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