19 pregnancy myths busted!
When you’re pregnant, the whole world seems full of potential hazards that could harm your baby. We separate the fact from the folklore
Steer Clear – Jacuzzis
“Using a Jacuzzi raises your core body temperature, so if you’re in one, it raises the temperature in your womb, too,” explains Emma Lees Laing, midwife for Tommy’s, the baby charity. “There’s also a risk of fainting if you get too hot, so avoid hot tubs and saunas, too.”
Try this instead
“I had a fairly stressful pregnancy with my daughter and worried a lot, getting myself pretty emotional. I found the best way to relax and chill out was to go for a walk or to read something non-pregnancy related to take my mind off things.”
Sarah Briggs, 32, from Essex, mum to Ethan, 4, and Evie, 9 weeks
Go For It – Exercise
“Exercise is recommended if you haven’t been advised otherwise,” explains Wendy Powell, founder of No More Excuses pregnancy and postnatal personal training. “If you didn’t exercise before you were pregnant, start slowly, walking and gradually increasing the pace and the duration. If you exercised before, it’s safe to maintain a similar level, but adjust the intensity, and obviously stop sports where there is any risk of impact or falling.”
Proceed with Caution – Fake Tan
Although there are no known dangers of using tanning lotions, they may cause an allergic reaction. For this reason, it’s advisable not to use them in pregnancy, as changes in hormone levels can make the skin more sensitive than normal. If you do use fake tan, always test the product on a small area of skin first. “Sun beds are no-go as your skin will be really sensitive,” adds Emma. “If you’re sunbathing, make sure you use a higher factor sun lotion than normal.”
Go For It – Sex
Sex is absolutely safe during pregnancy as long as you haven’t had any complications or been told not to. “Some women experience light spotting afterwards, and this is perfectly normal as you’ve stimulated your cervix during sex,” reassures Emma. “If it goes on for more than 24 hours or gets heavier or darker in colour, contact your midwife.”
Steer Clear – Alcohol
Consuming large quantities of alcohol in pregnancy can lead to your baby being born with foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), which causes growth defects, facial abnormalities and learning disabilities.
“A blanket ban on alcohol during your nine months of pregnancy will eliminate this risk,” explains Emma. “One unit of alcohol takes just 20 minutes to get into your baby’s bloodstream and a large intake of it can result in FAS, so it’s best to cut it out of your lifestyle completely.”
Proceed with Caution – Caffeine
The Food Standards Agency recommends pregnant women have no more than 200mg of caffeine a day, which is either two mugs of instant coffee, one mug of filter coffee, two mugs of tea or five cans of cola, or four bars of plain chocolate. “The best advice is to cut down as much as you can, keeping the FSA guidelines as your absolute maximum,” suggests pregnancy and postnatal personal trainer Wendy Powell. “Good alternatives are herbal, fruit, or redbush teas, which are all naturally free from caffeine. Green tea has many antioxidant benefits but does contain caffeine, so should be drunk in line with the 200mg limit.”
Try this instead
“Decaffeinated tea was my saviour during my pregnancy. At first I was sceptical, but after a while I couldn’t tell the difference, and I didn’t have to worry about how many cups I’d had that day.”
Julia Yule, 33, from St Albans, mum to Baxter Thomas, 11 days
Proceed with Caution – Thrush medication
You can’t use oral tablets as they can affect foetal development, but most anti-fungal creams and pessaries are perfectly safe. Check with your pharmacist before buying.
Steer Clear – Tampons
“You should never use tampons during your pregnancy for any bleeding you experience,” warns Emma. “If you do have bleeding it should be light enough to wipe away, so if you’re having to change a pad regularly or experience any abdominal pain, contact your midwife straight away.”
Go For It – Peanuts
“The government revised its warnings on eating peanuts during pregnancy last year,” says Wendy. “There’s no evidence that eating them during your nine months increases the risk of your child having an allergy.” So if you fancy snacking on a handful, go for it! Unless you’re allergic to them yourself, of course.
Proceed with Caution – Paint
“Coming into contact with paint in small doses should be fine when you’re pregnant, but it’s best to let someone else do the decorating if you possibly can,” suggests Emma. “The fumes can make you feel sick and dizzy, and if you’re up a ladder at the time, it’s really not ideal.”
Steer Clear – Cat Littler
Cat poo can carry toxoplasmosis, which may harm your baby if you contract it during your pregnancy. Get someone else to deal with the moggy’s litter tray if at all possible, but if you really have to do it, make sure you wear gloves and wash your utensils afterwards to minimise the risk.
Steer Clear – Hair Dye
The limited research that’s been done on this subject shows that it’s safe to colour your hair while pregnant. Some studies have found that very high doses of the chemicals in hair dyes may cause harm. But these doses are much more than you’d expose yourself to by just colouring your hair. The general consensus seems to be to steer clear of the dye until your second trimester, when the risk of chemical substance harming the baby is much lower.
Highlights are perfectly safe as they only affect your hair strand and don’t go into your scalp.
Proceed with Caution – Flying
“It’s safe to fly when you’re pregnant, but after 28 weeks, most airlines will require a doctor’s note,” explains Emma. Some will stop you after 34 weeks, as there’s a risk of you going into labour while on the flight. If you’re flying when pregnant, you’re at an increased risk of developing DVT, so make sure you change position regularly and go for regular walks to stretch your legs.
Proceed with Caution – Asthma Medication
Taking a few puffs on your inhaler when you need it should be OK during pregnancy. However, make an appointment with your doctor to review this, as it does depend on the type of inhaler you have. There might be no need to stop using your current medication, but it’s best to check with your GP to be sure.
Steer Clear – Diarrhoea Medication
This is a no-no as it can be harmful. If you’re suffering from diarrhoea, take in little bits of food and keep yourself well hydrated. “If it goes on for more than 24 hours, see your GP,” advises Emma.
Go For It – cleaning products
If you start to feel a bit faint or sick when you’re using household bleach or othercleaning lotions and potions, then stop of course, but otherwise you can feel free to scrub away. It’s a good idea to keep a window open when you’re using them, though, to let the fumes disperse quickly.
Proceed with Caution – tight jeans
While wearing skintight clothes won’t physically harm your baby, they’re definitely not the most comfortable of options for a mum-to-be. So step away from those slinky numbers for a few months and pop on some comfier togs instead.
Try this instead
“I’m up and down about my shape. One minute, I feel I look very pregnant and then the next just fat, but generally I love my bump. Jeans and long tops make me feel comfy and attractive.”
Corrinne Jones, 25, from Portsmouth, 23 weeks pregnant
Proceed with Caution - Fizzy drinks
“Fizzy soft drinks are known as a ‘negative food’, meaning they don’t have any nutritional value,” explains Wendy. “They’re either loaded with sugar or artificial alternatives, both of which affect your blood sugar level, weight and hydration. An exception may be ginger beer, which can help with nausea in the early stages of pregnancy, but it’s also very high in sugar, so drink in moderation.”
Go For It – Paracetamol
Paracetamol is safe to use during pregnancy, but make sure you only take it at the lowest effective dose for the shortest possible time. And no more than eight tablets in 24 hours. Avoid ibuprofen while you’re expecting though, as it’s not considered safe for pregnant women.
5 golden rules for a safe pregnancy
1. Read the list of ingredients or leaflet before having food, drink and medication, and if you’re unclear, check with your midwife or pharmacist.
2. Don’t assume ‘natural’ means safe. Ask a qualified practitioner for advice and always tell them you’re pregnant.
3. Don’t give in to peer pressure – just because a friend did it, doesn’t mean you should.
4. Use your common sense with foods. If they look like they’ve been sitting out all morning or you don’t know how they’ve been prepared then steer well clear.
5. Don’t let anxiety ruin the special experience of pregnancy. The sense of responsibility for the little life growing inside you can be overwhelming at times, but keeping relaxed and happy is important for you and your baby.
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