Health & Fitness

Things to avoid during pregnancy


Activities with high risks of falling like rock climbing should also be avoided. FILE PHOTO | NMG



  • Tips to help pregnant women navigate away from possible harmful products and activities.

Pregnancy is a wonderful experience for many women. However, most first time mothers are not sure what they should avoid doing during pregnancy. Here is a helpful list tips to help pregnant women navigate away from possible harmful products and activities.

When is the risk of permanent harm to a baby highest?

The baby is most vulnerable during the first three months of pregnancy. During this period, the baby’s vital organs are forming and external factors may result in malformation/birth defects.

Unfortunately, most women only become aware of their pregnancy towards the end of the second month. Often, by this time the baby has inadvertently been exposed to harmful substances.

Drinking alcohol

Pregnant women should not take any alcohol. This is because it leads to a variety of conditions referred to as ‘fetal alcohol spectrum disorders’ including ‘fetal alcohol syndrome’. Alcohol can cross the placenta and affect the unborn baby.

Babies exposed to large quantities of alcohol can develop intellectual disability, physical abnormalities, seizures, behavioural problems, development delays and poor growth.

Eating certain foods

Food selection is critical during pregnancy. Although most foods are safe to ingest in pregnancy, some foods can be harmful to both the baby and the mother.

Seafood/certain fish:

Shark, swordfish and some seafoods contain high levels of mercury, which can affect the growing baby’s brain.

Raw meat/fish/eggs: Pregnant women should avoid raw meat dishes such as sushi and raw oysters as they can harbour harmful germs (salmonella and toxoplasma) which can cause food poisoning.

Avoid eating unbaked cake dough as it may contain raw eggs that may have salmonella. Homemade mayonnaise and salad dressing may also be harmful.

Unprocessed milk products: These can lead to food poisoning. When buying cheese, ensure that it is made from pasteurised milk.

Too much caffeine: This is not only found in coffee and tea. It is also found in chocolate, cola and energy drinks.

Too much caffeine can lead to palpitations, elevated blood pressure and cause you to pee too much. Although you do not have to quit your usage of caffeine, limit it to one or two cups per day.

Remember, caffeine can cross the placenta and enter the baby’s circulation.


Medication should always be discussed with your doctor before your use. This includes the usage of over the counter painkillers (some of them are harmful to the unborn baby).

Avoid herbal medication during pregnancy (there are very few studies to assess their safety during this period).

Some medication to treat cough and cold should not be used in pregnancy (especially during the first three months) — always ask your pharmacist about their safety before purchase.

Always inform your doctor that you are pregnant if they are prescribing antibiotics to you, as some are not recommended in pregnancy.


Pregnant women should not smoke. This is because it is harmful to both the woman and her baby. It can cause physical abnormalities, premature labour and low birth weight.

In addition, pregnant women should avoid exposure to second-hand smoke (this is when a woman is in the same environment as a smoker).

Wearing stilettos

As the belly enlarges, a woman’s centre of gravity shifts and shoes with an unnatural lift give unnecessary pressure on the back. Shoes should not have a heel higher than three inches.

Ideally, wear wedges or platforms if the shoe is not flat.

Sitting too long

Pregnancy is associated with circulation problems (especially in the legs).

There is an increased risk of getting clots in the veins of the legs during and immediately after pregnancy. For this reason, it is important to avoid sitting for prolonged periods.

If your job involves you sitting at a desk for prolonged periods, take regular breaks and go for short walks to try help improve your circulation.

Emptying litter boxes/ picking up after pets

Pregnant women should avoid changing the cat’s litter box. This is because it puts her at risk of a deadly infection known as toxoplasmosis.

This bug can cause miscarriage and defects in the baby including intellectual disability and blindness.

Heavy lifting

Lifting heavy loads can cause pulled muscles and even preterm labour and should be avoided if possible.

People who lift heavy loads regularly are also predisposed to developing abdominal wall defects known as hernias.

Illicit drugs

All illegal drugs have harmful effects on a growing baby. They increase the risk of miscarriage and birth defects.

In addition, babies are born with drug addiction due to their mothers’ habits. They often display withdrawal symptoms after birth.

Working with chemicals

Chemicals used in animal care, painting or in horticulture/floriculture can be harmful to pregnant women.

If possible, avoid handling these (if unable to avoid usage, always wear protective gear).

Contact sports

There are concerns about engaging in contact sports during pregnancy. This is because falls or hard contact on the belly can cause detachment of the placenta from the womb.

This can lead to pregnancy loss or preterm labour. Contact sports include boxing, football and martial arts.

Activities with high risks of falling like rock climbing should also be avoided.

Rides in amusement parks should be avoided because the sudden start and stop mechanisms of these machines can lead to detachment of the placenta.

How about hair products/sitting in dryers?

There is no evidence that the hair products on our shelves are harmful to unborn babies.

They usually, do not reach the womb.

In addition, sitting in the hair dryer has not been found to interfere with pregnancy in any way.

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