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3 surprising things to avoid while pregnant

By Jen Spengler | March 21, 2021
3 surprising things to avoid while pregnant

By Jennifer Spengler, a health and wellness writer for Sharp Health News and a marketing specialist with Sharp HealthCare.

I don’t know about you, but when I was pregnant I missed beer. Beer and brie and sushi. And coffee — boy, did I miss coffee.

I missed these things, but I knew that limiting them would be good for my growing babies. What I didn’t know back then — my daughters are now 12, 18 and 22 — was that there are a few surprising items and activities unrelated to diet that pregnant women should avoid.

Dr. Lisa Johnston, an OBGYN, chief medical officer of Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns and also a mother of three, recently brought me up to speed on current recommendations for expectant moms. From beauty treatments to pet care, Dr. Johnston advises women to refrain from the following three dangers during pregnancy:

1. Beauty treatments 
Current research has found that coloring your hair is safe — most chemicals used in hair dyes are not highly toxic, and very little is absorbed during treatment. Yet, it is recommended that pregnant women should wait on coloring their hair until after the first trimester.

Pregnant women should also avoid cosmetic skin treatments such as Botox, fillers and chemical peels. “Skin is sensitive during pregnancy,” says Dr. Johnston. “Dermatologists recommend foregoing peels due to risks of scarring and hyper-pigmentation.”

Furthermore, there is not enough research to determine the effects of the popular Botox injections and other cosmetic fillers during pregnancy. The FDA recommends that they should be used only if the potential benefit justifies the potential risk to the fetus. The majority of obstetricians and cosmetic surgeons strongly advise pregnant patients to avoid the injections.

2. Family pets 
Cats and dogs are generally safe for pregnant women, but Dr. Johnston cautions pregnant women about caring for cats. “A woman should never clean out or change the litter boxes during pregnancy,” she says. “Cat feces may transmit toxoplasmosis infection, so leave that job for someone else.”

Pets that are rodents — mice, hamsters, guinea pigs — can transmit a virus known as lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV), which can cause severe birth defects and miscarriage. Pregnant women should avoid cleaning a pet rodent’s cage or allowing these pets close to their face, and should always wash hands with soap and warm water after handling them.

Finally, the March of Dimes reports that reptiles are some of the most dangerous pets for a pregnant woman and her baby. Reptiles can transmit salmonella infection and should be removed from the home during pregnancy.

3. Hot tubs and high heat 
What may sound like a good way for a pregnant woman to relax might actually be very dangerous. Spending more than 10 minutes in a hot tub can cause hyperthermia, which can lead to abnormalities of the fetus’s brain and spine. Hot yoga is equally harmful for the same reason and also because it can cause dizziness or fainting. Caution should be taken with any stretching and yoga in the late second and third trimesters. Pregnant women are more susceptible to injuries from overstretching due to the hormone relaxin.

“Hot tubs, hot yoga and high fevers can all expose both mom and her fetus to excess heat, which can be associated with serious defects of the fetus’s brain and spine,” says Dr. Johnston.

Dr. Johnston says that while knowing specific things to avoid during pregnancy can help, it is crucial for each woman to receive appropriate prenatal care. She recommends that you discuss your lifestyle, diet and activities; use of supplements and medications; potential contact with dangerous chemicals or radiation; and any other concerns during pregnancy with your obstetrician.

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