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What Foods, Medications, and Exercises to Avoid During Pregnancy

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Marissa is the writer of ThePracticalMommy and the blog Mommy Knows What's Best. She is a stay-at-home mom to four and was a teacher.

What to Avoid When Pregnant

List of things you should avoid while pregnant

List of things you should avoid while pregnant

What Pregnant Women Should Avoid

During pregnancy, every mother should try to keep herself and her baby as healthy and safe as possible. To do that, the mother needs to take certain precautions when eating, moving, working, and socializing.

What should be avoided during pregnancy? Below you will find a list of foods, drinks, medicines, vitamins, illnesses, work conditions, and exercises to avoid during pregnancy to keep you and your baby safe and healthy.

Keep Your Baby Healthy During Pregnancy

During pregnancy, it should be a goal for moms to keep their babies healthy!

During pregnancy, it should be a goal for moms to keep their babies healthy!

Foods to Avoid When Pregnant

During pregnancy, women need to be very aware of what they eat. They are no longer eating just for themselves; anything that is ingested makes its way to the baby as well. To keep the mother and baby healthy, there are certain foods to be avoided during pregnancy.

Here are some foods to avoid and why pregnant women should avoid them:

  • Foods that may contain salmonella: Raw eggs, raw poultry, Caesar salad dressing, cake batter, cookie dough, hollandaise sauce, sunny side up eggs, homemade ice cream
  • Foods that may contain listeriosis: Soft cheeses, undercooked poultry, red meat, seafood, hotdogs
  • Fish that may contain mercury: Shark, swordfish, tuna
  • Fish that may contain parasites or viruses: Freshwater fish, sushi dishes, raw shellfish, ceviche, and mahimahi
  • Herbs that cause distress to mother and baby: Echinacea, ginger, raspberry leaf, jasmine, arbor vitae, caraway, pennyroyal, wormwood, etc.

What Can You Eat While Pregnant?

You can eat anything that is healthy for both you and the baby but keep in mind that you should not double your food intake. You should only need approximately 300 extra calories a day, depending on your doctor's orders.

Keep your diet balanced and nutritional, eating as many fruits and vegetables as you can. You can occasionally indulge in some sweets, but be careful not to have too many!

Drinks to Avoid

There are a few drinks to avoid when pregnant to protect the health and well-being of your baby.

  • Alcohol (beer, wine, distilled spirits): There is no set safe amount of alcohol for a pregnant woman to drink. The risk with alcohol is that it can cause FAS (fetal alcohol syndrome) so it's best to avoid all alcohol. Of course, there are some who say that a little wine once in a while might be okay, but in my opinion, why take the risk?
  • Unpasteurized milk, juice, or eggnog: Pasteurization is a process used to reduce the amounts of microorganisms that could make people sick, namely E.coli, listeria, salmonella, and toxoplasmosis. Make sure any milk, fruit juice, or eggnog you drink is properly pasteurized to remove the microorganisms that could make you sick and potentially damage your baby's neurological system.

Medications to Avoid During Pregnancy

Medications taken by pregnant women do cross the placenta and can affect the growing baby. Basically, any medication taken by the mother can be harmful to the baby, especially if directions are not followed.

Two medications you will be told to avoid are aspirin and ibuprofen, which work by thinning the blood. Avoid taking these for pain.

Other medications to definitely avoid are:

  • Herbal pills, minerals, amino acids, 'natural' medicines: Not approved for pregnancy
  • Regular vitamins: Too strong for pregnant women

If you have a condition that requires medication, speak with your doctor. You may have to either continue taking the medication while being monitored or stop taking the medication.

What Medications Are Safe During Pregnancy?

What Can Pregnant Women Take for a Headache?

If you develop a headache while pregnant, you can take acetaminophen (Tylenol) as directed. Other remedies include using a cold compress on your neck, a gentle massage, and resting when possible.

Illnesses to Avoid During Pregnancy

Pregnant women are more susceptible to illnesses since their immune systems are not at their best. Here are some illnesses to avoid if at all possible:

  • Chickenpox. For most women who have had chickenpox or the vaccine, this is not a concern, but for those who have had neither, it can cause birth defects in the baby, especially in the first few months of pregnancy. If you have come in contact with someone who has chickenpox, speak with your doctor immediately.
  • Fifth disease (or parvovirus B19). This illness comes in the form of a rash, one that forms for the most part on the face. It causes a reduction in the number of blood cells that the body makes. Small children are the usual carriers. It is spread from nasal secretions, so it's best to avoid being near a person who has the illness and to avoid touching anything they may have touched. In the most severe cases (pretty rare), this illness can cause stillbirth or miscarriage if the mother contracts the virus before 20 weeks gestation.
  • Sexually transmitted diseases. Protect yourself and your baby by being safe during sexual intercourse with a partner who may have an infection or disease of this nature. Babies can become severely impaired or be stillborn if infected during the birth process or if the illness passes through the placenta. Be aware that these illnesses can be passed also by unclean needles and other ways as well.
  • Toxoplasmosis. This illness is caused by a microscopic parasite. Most of the time pregnant women hear it in reference to handling cat litter, but it can also be found in contaminated produce or water, contaminated meat, or contaminated soil.
  • Malaria. Malaria is an infection that is widespread on the African continent, claiming the lives of hundreds of thousands of newborns every year. It causes severe anemia for the mother and can cause the baby to be stillborn, premature, or born with low birth weight. Avoid traveling in such countries that have malaria during pregnancy if possible.
  • Dehydration. This is such a simple illness to avoid, yet many women find themselves suffering from it. Dehydration is caused when the mother does not drink enough water, which is vital for her health and the overall health of the baby. Solution? Drink a lot of water!


Work Conditions to Avoid While Pregnant

Most pregnant women are able to work until they go into labor, but it's best to be careful when taking on certain tasks or handling materials.

There may come a time when you need to discuss your duties with your boss. Do not be afraid to do so; pregnant women are protected under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Here are some things to consider:

  • Sitting or standing for long periods of time. Sitting or standing for long periods of time can cause muscle strain and cramps, and restrict circulation. Take breaks every 30 minutes.
  • Being exposed to harmful chemicals. Fumes from chemicals can be harmful to you and the baby. Wear the proper protective gear when working with chemicals and talk with your doctor about the risks.
  • Lifting heavy items. Lifting heavy items can cause unnecessary back strain, especially in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters when you're already carrying extra weight.
  • Traveling. Traveling in the first two trimesters shouldn't be a problem, but once you enter into the 3rd trimester, you will want to stay closer to home. Plus, sitting in a car or on a plane for long periods of time isn't good for circulation.

FMLA and Maternity Leave from Work

  • How Does FMLA Work?
    Learn how FMLA, the Family Medical Leave Act, works and how employees are protected under the law. Information about maternity leave and FMLA is provided.

How to Avoid Fatigue During Pregnancy

  • How to Fight Fatigue While Pregnant
    Pregnancy fatigue is often one of the first symptoms of pregnancy. Learn how to fight fatigue during pregnancy and keep your pregnant body feeling refreshed.

Sports and Exercises to Avoid When Pregnant

It is very important to get exercise during pregnancy, but there are a few exercises and sports to avoid.

  • Exercises that require you to lay flat on your back. When you lay on your back, especially in mid to late pregnancy, you are putting pressure on the vena cava, a vein that carries blood back to your heart from the lower half of your body. If you restrict the circulation of blood in that manner, you are also restricting the flow of blood to your baby.
  • Sit-ups, double leg lifts. Aside from the difficulties that you would have simply from the obstruction of your large belly, these exercises require you to lay on your back.
  • Exercises that require jerky, bouncy, or high-impact moves. Any exercises that cause you to move suddenly can cause you to fall and potentially harm the baby.
  • Contact sports. This should be self-explanatory, but any sports that require you to be in contact with an object or other people should be avoided so that neither you nor the baby is injured.
  • Downhill snow skiing, snowboarding, in-line skating, skateboarding, horseback riding, or gymnastics. These sports may cause you to fall and greatly injure yourself or the baby.
  • Water skiing, diving, or surfing. Hitting water surfaces at a high speed can harm you or the baby.
  • Scuba diving. The deeper you go in the water, the more pressure is put on you and your baby. This pressure is not good for the baby and can cause decompression sickness, which is when gases in the body can form bubbles, disrupting skeletal, muscular, and neurological systems in the body.

Best Exercise for Pregnancy

Walking is the best exercise for pregnancy as it poses almost zero risk to the mother and baby. Walking is an aerobic exercise that anyone can do. It helps to improve circulation, helps to prevent fatigue, and helps with the movement in the digestive tract, which is all perfect for a pregnant body.

Only equipment required: A good pair of walking shoes!

What a Pregnant Woman Should Avoid

Remember, if you are in doubt about anything you think you should avoid, call your doctor for clarification. He or she will be able to give you the most accurate information concerning your particular health condition or question.

Have a healthy pregnancy!


Pregnancy Sources

FDA Medicine Fact Sheet

Your Pregnancy Week by Week by Glade Curtis

What to Expect When You're Expecting by Heidi Murkoff

Your Pregnancy and Childbirth Month to Month by the American College of Gynecologists

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.

Questions & Answers

Question: I drank a lot of alcohol and ate seafood during the first five weeks of my pregnancy not knowing I was pregnant. Will my baby be in danger?

Answer: Believe it or not, this happens to a lot of women. It happened to me during my second pregnancy, before I knew I was pregnant. Thankfully, at such an early stage, the baby shouldn't be affected. It's important now that you know that you avoid alcohol and eat seafood that is thoroughly cooked.

Question: What is the best sleeping position for a pregnant woman?

Answer: Many medical professionals will tell you that sleeping on your left side is beneficial for both you and the baby. As a mom who has had four kids, I suggest that you sleep however you find yourself comfortable. I used a large pregnancy pillow that supported both my back and my legs when I slept on my side. I also found comfort when I slept in a reclining chair.


Marissa (author) from United States on September 29, 2014:

SoSweet, I'd love to help, but there's nothing in your profile. I believe you need to be 18 to join and write on HubPages. I suggest you go to the Learning Center and check on the age restriction and see what they say about writing more hubs. Best wishes!

Maddeline Jenkins from South Africa on September 29, 2014:

May I ask you a question?

Well I'm only 12 and I would love some advise on my next Hub.

If that's possible, if you read my 1st one you'll se something you really didn't know.

Maddeline Jenkins from South Africa on September 29, 2014:

Thank you, I hope you check it out.

Marissa (author) from United States on September 29, 2014:

Sosweet, It gets easier the more you write. Best wishes!

Maddeline Jenkins from South Africa on September 29, 2014:

It's a pleasure I have only just recently published my first hub! So my Hub is rubbish compared to yours!

Marissa (author) from United States on September 29, 2014:

Sosweet, thank you for your kind words!

Maddeline Jenkins from South Africa on September 29, 2014:


I really loved your hub i'm still new here and also still young,

but still it's the best hub I've read! You are really good at writing hubs! :)

Marissa (author) from United States on September 07, 2013:

Valleyobcare, thank you!

valleyobcare on September 07, 2013:

Well written and very useful post for any pregnant woman.... keep writing such great post!!!

Marissa (author) from United States on May 28, 2013:

JamiJay, wow! You had quite a time with your pregnancy! I hope everything turned out alright for you. I'm glad you thought the hub was informative for women! Thanks for reading!

Jami Johnson from Somewhere amongst the trees in Vermont. on May 25, 2013:

This is a very good and informative hub. You have included a lot of information that seems so basic but not a lot of women know these things (especially if it is her first child). When I discovered I was pregnant I did have a very hard job. I worked at the Subway franchise and I had to stand for eight to nine hours a day and lift up to fifty pound boxes over my head during the morning deliveries twice a week. I was only given one fifteen minute break to eat my lunch (which I rarely kept down) and I had to work in front of a bread oven all day. I never had an issue, but during the ninth month I did suffer from braxton hicks contractions a lot, so I did have to calm down a bit. I also suffered from dehydration since I was sick for the entire nine months and it was even hard to keep water down. When I went into labor the dehydration made the labor pains way more intense and I had to get IV's just so they could get fluid into my system to try to control the pain and I was eventually talked into getting an epidural since I was vomiting with every contraction. It can be difficult to avoid such things while pregnant such as illness, work related dangers, etc, but it is good to know that you should try to avoid these things to ensure the health of the child.

Marissa (author) from United States on May 25, 2013:

peachpurple , what a great story! I'm so glad to hear that your baby came out healthy! Thanks for reading and commenting. :)

peachy from Home Sweet Home on May 24, 2013:

you know, I had my chicken pox when i was pregnant with my 1st child, at 4 months. Doctor advised me to abort the baby but my hubby was against it. With God's blessings, my baby came out beautiful and bouncy, healthy. Lots of superstitions to follow when pregnant. What to do and not to do, what to eat, etc. It's worth to follow the steps. Voted up

Marissa (author) from United States on February 15, 2013:

Anabia, congratulations! At 6 weeks, the baby is so tiny that bending down or moving fast doesn't affect him or her. At most, doing those things will only cause you some lightheadedness and possible nausea (at least that happened to me). At this point, normal workout routines are just fine, but you still may want to speak with your doctor about what he or she doesn't recommend for workouts. Be careful with jerky movements, etc., just so that you don't injure yourself. Pregnancy tends to make women clumsy!

Best wishes!

Anabia on February 15, 2013:

Thanks for was right .i m pregnant with six weeks...So happy and same time nervous too..Actually now i m concerned about bending down or moving fast.Is that affects my baby??normal rouitne works are ok or i have to slow down...

Marissa (author) from United States on November 05, 2012:

Ruby H Rose, I'm glad you liked it. Thanks for reading, commenting, and sharing! :)

Maree Michael Martin from Northwest Washington on an Island on November 05, 2012:

Wow, that about covers it. Some really great information on here that I am going to pass along. Got 3 ladies that I know of expecting babies soon. Never can get enough information at that stage, thanks.....

Marissa (author) from United States on June 14, 2012:

LikaMarie, strawberries are so yummy! I'm glad you tried to eat healthy during your pregnancy. :) Thanks for commenting!

Marissa (author) from United States on June 14, 2012:

teaches12345, thanks! I'm glad you found it useful! :)

LikaMarie on June 13, 2012:

I loved anything with strawberries on it. Shortcake, vanilla or chocolate ice cream, cereal, plain, with milk and sugar, anyway... If I couldn't get that, then I'd raid the tomatoes. I tried to eat as healthy as possible.

As for constipation, refried beans and guacamole are good ones to help NOT be constipated.

Dianna Mendez on June 13, 2012:

This is such a valuable hub for moms-to-be. You have posted about all the things I would be asking as a new mom. Good design and well written.

Marissa (author) from United States on June 13, 2012:

twoseven, you're right; you can eat soft cheeses ONLY if they are made with pasteurized milk. Without pasteurization, those cheeses could have listeria. Thanks for bringing that up! Lots of luck with your second pregnancy. :)

twoseven from Madison, Wisconsin on June 13, 2012:

Thank you so much for the very nice summary of what to avoid while pregnant! I'm on my second pregnancy and have been meaning to review everything to avoid, so this made it a lot easier! I have also heard more recently that you don't have to avoid all soft cheeses, just those that are unpasturized - does this seem right to you too? Thanks again for the great refresher course!

Marissa (author) from United States on June 13, 2012:

Just Ask Susan, thank you very much for your feedback! Gestational diabetes does limit your diet more, so I'm sure you have to be really careful about what you ate. It was smart of you to follow the same diet for your second pregnancy even though you may not have had it!

Susan Zutautas from Ontario, Canada on June 13, 2012:

Fantastic list. I always was aware of foods that I could and couldn't eat when I was pregnant with my twins as I had gestational diabetes with them. The second pregnancy I followed the same diet to avoid the diabetes.

This is a great resource for anyone wanting to become pregnant and especially for pregnant women.

Marissa (author) from United States on June 13, 2012:

Wow! That's great. I wonder if it's a Europe-wide thing.

Penelope Hart from Rome, Italy on June 13, 2012:

Yes, every woman is tested with it here in Italy I believe. Certainly a test that is recommended (thank God!.)

Marissa (author) from United States on June 13, 2012:

GoodLady, thanks your your perspective. Come to think of it, I don't know if I've ever heard of any pregnant women in the U.S. getting tested for the infection. (Anybody out there have to be tested for it?) Perhaps it should be something to test for since many people, at least around here, have indoor and outdoor cats...

Thank you very much for reading and commenting!

Penelope Hart from Rome, Italy on June 12, 2012:

Pregnant women need to have a Toxoplasmosis test, since it's an illness you pick up without knowing about, or have no defense system against. My nephew has it (slightly) and my daughter in law had no immune system against it - and both caused a lot of worry, since it totally damages the baby.

It's a good Hub, filled with great advice. Voting.