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Here's What to Avoid in the Two-Week Wait


First off, let me just get something out there right now—I didn't follow these rules. I was definitely taking hot baths, cleaning up after my cat, and grabbing Subway and boxes of pregnancy tests like I was stocking for the apocalypse in the days leading up to finding out I was pregnant, and my kids are fine.

This list isn't meant as a fear-monger. Take it as a resource for the things doctors suggest you avoid in the two weeks between ovulation and a positive pregnancy test (and why!), and if you have any concerns, make sure to bring them up with your doctor.

What Is the Two-Week Wait?

The two-week wait (TWW) starts the day after your ovulation and ends on the day of your missed period. It's the time between possible conception and when you can typically get an accurate result from a pregnancy test.

What to Avoid in the Two-Week Wait

  1. Smoking
  2. Saunas, hot tubs, and hot baths
  3. Aspirin and ibuprofen
  4. Caffeine
  5. Deli meats and soft cheeses
  6. Drinking
  7. Cleaning litter boxes
  8. Symptom spotting
  9. Taking tons of pregnancy tests

1. Smoking

This is the one you hear over and over, so we'll just get through it quickly. If you smoke and you're trying to conceive, now's the time to look into quitting.

Why Doctors Say You Should Avoid It

Although this seems less relevant in the first couple weeks of pregnancy, studies show that smoking while pregnant can increase your risk for premature birth, which can have an array of negative impacts on the baby.

2. Saunas, Hot Tubs, and Hot Baths

What's more relaxing after a long week of TTC than a hot bath?

Why Doctors Say You Should Avoid It

Long story short, if you're pregnant, then letting your body temperature get too high for too long can cause birth defects. And who isn't getting super hot in a hot tub or sauna?

3. Aspirin and Ibuprofen

Feel a PMS cramp coming on and now you're reaching for the ibuprofen? Not so fast—cramping can actually be one of the earliest signs of pregnancy, and a surprising amount of over-the-counter (OTC) medications, including ibuprofen and aspirin, aren't recommended during pregnancy.

Why Doctors Say You Should Avoid It

The warning about ibuprofen and other OTC meds is actually more specific to late pregnancy rather than early pregnancy, since some of these painkillers have been linked to birth complications, including heart issues for the baby. When it comes to taking meds during pregnancy, it's always a good idea to consult with your OB or midwife first.

4. Caffeine

For some of us, an aversion to caffeine can actually be one of the earliest signs of pregnancy before you've even missed a period. For others, they may still be craving their morning cuppa joe.

Why Doctors Say to Avoid It

It's recommended that pregnant folks try to keep their blood pressure even to avoid complications like premature birth or Intra Uterine Growth Restriction (IUGR), and since caffeine is a stimulant that raises blood pressure, doctors suggest avoiding it during pregnancy. If you can't get around without a sweet sip of morning coffee, ask your provider if they have a recommended limit.

Coffee isn't the only caffeinated beverage you might be craving - many colas are also loaded with it.

Coffee isn't the only caffeinated beverage you might be craving - many colas are also loaded with it.

5. Deli Meats and Soft Cheeses

When I first became pregnant with my eldest kid, I couldn't stop obsessing about blue cheese dressing, to the point where I was emailing Marzetti to find out if they pasteurized the blue cheese in their dressings since I'd heard I wasn't supposed to eat unpasteurized foods. It was a miserable time.

Why Doctors Say You Should Avoid It

Unpasteurized foods like soft cheeses (think the aforementioned blue cheese, feta, queso, etc.) and deli meats can carry a bacteria that causes Listeria. In healthy people, Listeria isn't usually more than a passing illness, but if a pregnant mother contracts it, it can cause miscarriages, premature birth, and stillbirths.

6. Drinking

It's highly (and hotly) debated as to whether this "rule" is really necessary at all, since most women know to stop consuming alcohol as soon as they get a positive pregnancy test, when they're usually only 4–6 weeks pregnant anyway.

How much damage can drinking in those first few weeks before you know for sure that you're pregnant really do? That's the problem—no one really knows, since there isn't an ethical way to research alcohol use and how it affects a fetus in those earliest weeks.

Why Doctors Say You Should Avoid It

Although no one can blind test a bunch of pregnant women and gamble with their baby's futures, doctors and researchers do know that alcohol consumption during pregnancy can result in Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs), causing a potential range of issues for the baby, including:

  • Low body weight
  • Speech and language delays
  • Heart conditions
  • Low IQ

7. Cleaning Litter Boxes

If you must do it (I know it's your favorite chore), suit up with cleaning gloves, taking care not to touch your face and making sure to wash your hands really well with soap and warm water afterward.

Why Doctors Say You Should Avoid It

Common parasites found in your kitty cat's poop can carry an illness called Toxoplasmosis, which is generally no big deal unless you're pregnant. If mom comes into contact with the germs by somehow touching infected cat feces, Toxoplasmosis can be deadly to a growing fetus.

This adorable fluffball's poop could be teeming with Toxoplasmosis. Ew.

This adorable fluffball's poop could be teeming with Toxoplasmosis. Ew.

8. Constant Symptom Spotting

Is the two-week wait killing you as you frantically Google every symptom you've experienced in the last ten minutes, from a twitching eye to a dry tongue? That's called symptom spotting, and it happens when you're either terrified that you may be pregnant or desperate to finally get a positive pregnancy test.

Why You Should Avoid It

Oh boy. Even though doctors could probably care less about your symptom spotting, it's probably making you miserable. Remember that a lot of common early pregnancy symptoms are also common PMS symptoms. That's because the rise of hormones in early pregnancy is similar to the rise in hormones before you start your period. Although it can be fun, and even a little helpful (recognizing that I wasn't feeling like myself alerted me to my first pregnancy), the good doesn't outweigh the stress of analyzing each little twinge.

9. Taking a Bunch of Pregnancy Tests Like It's Your Job

One before breakfast, two after dinner—you know the drill! You're obsessed with taking pregnancy tests.

Why You Should Avoid It

Um, because they're expensive! And because HCG, the hormone needed to turn a pregnancy test positive, needs two to three days to double. That means if you have an HCG count of 5 tonight (the bare minimum to be considered pregnant), you may only be at a 10 two days from now. In those first days of pregnancy, HCG levels remain relatively low until you get closer to your missed period. Taking test after test won't make your levels build any quicker.

Questions About The TWW

Is it okay to have sex in the two week wait?

Of course it is! Unless you've been told explicitly by your doctor that you should avoid intercourse during your TWW, it's fine to do so.

Is it okay to workout in early pregnancy?

Yes. If you're just in the two week wait, before you know for sure if you're pregnant or not, stick to your typical workout routine unless you find that it's physically too much. Listen to your body, stop and rest when it tells you to. If you confirm that you are pregnant, continue moderate exercise like:

  • Walking
  • Attending fitness classes
  • Prenatal yoga
  • Gentle Pilates

The key here is that early pregnancy isn't the time to take up new, hardcore fitness routines.

Pregnancy Test Timing in The Two Week Wait

Why can't you take a pregnancy test early?

You can take a pregnancy test early, but how early is debatable. That's because unless you know exactly when you ovulated, you don't really know how far along you are in your monthly cycle and you need to be far enough along for a fertilized egg to start sending pregnancy hormones out. Those hormones are necessary for a test to turn positive. That's why, if you test too early you could be newly pregnant but still getting a negative result.

Can you really find out if you're pregnant before your missed period?

Yes, you can but only if you accurately understand when your period is due.

For instance, if you ovulated four days late and you already have a long luteal phase, then what you perceive as a late period may actually be your period getting ready to start on time for how late you ovulated. Likewise, if you ovulate earlier than you expected than your period will be due earlier than you expect. When you are supposed to start menstruating is dependent on when you ovulated.

How can I figure out when to take a test?

By Date of Last Ovulation

If you track your ovulation using basal body temperature or ovulation tests, then you have a good idea of when you last ovulated and can use this info to decide whether or not it's been long enough for you to whip out a magic pee stick. The general consensus is that you can start testing with early result tests at right around 9-10 days past ovulation (DPO), or about five days before your period is due to start. Remember though that this is only under the most ideal circumstances, so if you start testing and get a negative result don't automatically give up. Yes, it's science, but weirdly, it's not an exact science.

By Luteal Phase

Luteal phase is just the time between when you ovulated and when your period starts. The average luteal phase is 14 days. If you're not sure when you ovulated, you can use a pregnancy test calculator like this one (which is my favorite because it will explain to you what your odds of getting an accurate result are for each day of your cycle) and input 14 days as the length of your luteal phase. Even if it's not accurate by a couple of days, you'll at least get an idea of when you can start testing.

By the Date of Your Last Period

The default way to calculate when to take a pregnancy test is just to know how late (or not late) you are for your next period. The problem with this is that the answer is based off averages and as we all know, our bodies don't always follow those "average" standards. If you get your period every 28 days on the dot then on day 29 you know you're late! Most of us do not have a period that starts on time down to the hour though so this method isn't for everyone.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2019 Kierstin Gunsberg


Poppy from Enoshima, Japan on November 06, 2019:

Good article. I don't smoke and no longer own pets so that part is fine. The first time I was pregnant I didn't know. We went on vacation, so by the time we got back we realized it had been weeks and weeks since my last period, so I didn't have to do the two week wait and the test was positive right away.

After losing that baby, we've been trying again and have done the TWW three times in a row... it sure is long.