- Vitamins. Buy your prenatals in bulk — you’ll be taking them while pregnant, if you nurse, and while you’re TTC (if you want multiple children). Your doctor may ask you to stop taking other vitamins during this time period (or at least check ingredients, such as looking at the mercury content if you’re taking omega-3 pills).
- Medicines. Some medicines (prescription and OTC) are considered harmful to a developing fetus; in a perfect world some doctors even suggest you stop months before you’re trying to conceive so that the drugs can clear your system. One doctor even told me that I should stop taking Advil a month or two before we started trying to get pregnant.
- Topical skin treatments. Some topical treatments such as retinoids and salicylic acid are very harmful to the developing fetus — ask your doctor whether you should make any change in your skincare system (including sun protection). I’ll share my own pregnancy skincare routine in a later post, but I’m no expert — again, talk to your doctor.
- X-rays and lasers. If you’re not yet pregnant, go to the dentist and get your yearly dental X-ray, because you probably won’t be able to do it when you’re pregnant (and may not want to when you’re nursing either). If you’ve been getting laser hair removal (or are in the habit of getting a yearly touch-up), try to finish your appointments before you get pregnant, or at least talk with your hair removal person about whether he or she can work on you while you’re pregnant or nursing. If you may be due for a mammogram (or might want a “baseline” one), try to get it done before you start trying to get pregnant.
- Hair dyes and chemical treatments. Talk to your doctor about this — depending on what chemicals are in the dye (or a treatment like a Brazilian keratin treatment) your doctor may suggest you steer clear while you’re TTC, pregnant, or nursing. One good solution (if you’re not yet pregnant) is to dye your hair closer to its natural color, so it grows out more naturally.
- Foods. The list of foods some people say you shouldn’t eat while pregnant is long and depressing (and your taste aversions may take care of the rest). Things to talk about with your doctor if you eat frequently include: high-mercury foods, raw fish and meats, coffee, alcohol, deli meats, hot dogs, raw vegetables (some, like alfalfa sprouts and broccoli, aren’t recommended at all; others may be at risk for listeria if not washed properly), foods with BPAs (e.g., canned veggies and soups), foods made in a commercial blender (e.g., peanut butter, hummus, frozen yogurt, etc.).
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Wow — I had never heard the warning about raw vegetables (did know to wash food to avoid listeria), BPAs or commercially blended foods. Do other readers actually avoid these things?
Philanthropy Girl says
Lillian – I’d heard about sprouts right after I found out I was expecting the second time. I’d downed a GIANT salad covered in alfalfa sprouts that tasted like heaven – and then was reamed by a friend for eating them. Broccoli is a new one.
I’d heard BPA, but not “commercially blended.”
Honestly, I’m so tired of the fear that surrounds us a pregnant women! The early weeks of my pregnancy I was lectured by three (loving, well meaning) friends about three different food items – and I just about went nuts. My doctor is very laid back about these things – she told me to enjoy my sprouts after I washed them well, and reminded me that even something like cantaloupe can have dangerous bacteria. So wash well, and then stop worrying. She’s a big advocate of moderation, and I’ve appreciated that.
I confess I’ve enjoyed a bit of lunch meat, canned beans, hummus, and peanut butter. I do avoid most caffeine (occasional chocolate only), raw meats/fish, high mercury fish, and refined flours and sugars (I do indulge on rare occasions). I figure you have to pick your battles, because between food aversions and the ever-growing list of unsafe foods, you may end up living off your prenatals.
I avoid sprouts and deli meats (although I knew a woman who ate a turkey sandwich every day of her pregnancy…she never got listeria), but that’s about it. Not ALL raw food has listeria, so there is a small chance you may get it, but the problem is a woman’s pregnant body can’t fight it off as well. If the case is severe enough, it could cause miscarriage. During my first pregnancy, I steered clear of all melons because during that time, there was a batch of cantaloupe containing listeria. (Many people don’t wash the outside of their melons before slicing, and once they do slice, the knife carries what’s on the outside to what you will actually be eating…gross!!!) Just keep your ears open for news reports about listeria, and then steer clear of those.
As much as I am excited for this new site, I’m a bit put off by the warnings — many of which I’ve never heard of before. Pregnant women and women who are TTC are always inundated with lists of what to do and what not to do. I think this site will attract a pretty intelligent crowd and most readers would know to talk to their doctor if they have concerns. I suggest skipping to the career and fashion-oriented advice.
Oh, I like the idea of the “pregnancy corridor.” Kat’s right, your body (and, by extension, your ability to dress that body in appropriate workwear, take it to the office, and keep it there, leak-free and productive, for 8-12 hours) isn’t totally under your control from TTC to weaning.
And no, I hadn’t heard the warning about raw veggies either. And now that I have heard it, I think I’ll ignore it. I figure if swathes of pregnant ladies or fetus were really being wiped out by the menace of raw carrots, I’d have heard about it.
I live in Japan, though, where pregnancy advice is thankfully a bit less excessive than it is in North America.
Meg Murry says
Actually, I would recommend NOT buying your prenatals in bulk, because they can go bad/rancid. Or if you have the capsule type, one can break open and make the rest smell like fish oil – which is just great if you are a super smeller during pregnancy – happened to me!
My OB wrote me a prescription for prenatals, and the insurance company filled it free as a “preventative medication” for more than a year. Its a bit of a pain to go to the pharmacy to pickup each month, but worth it for free, IMO.
My doctor also recommended microwaving deli meats if to lower the listeria risk, which I did when nothing else in the fridge appealed to me. His other great advice when I asked about lifting and heavy work at my job was “you don’t lift with your uterus!” – in other words, if I could do it without straining or hurting myself pre-pregnancy, it would be fine now, but don’t try something new and strenuous.
As I sit here pumping at my desk, I realize I’m still in the pregnancy corridor. I hadn’t really thought about it that way, but it is so true that your body is not your own, at least until you’re finished nursing. As I go through my daily tasks, meetings, hearings, I am constantly thinking about when/where I can pump, how much I’ve pumped, and whether daycare is going to call because my baby chugged through the daily allotment of breastmilk early. I feel like motherhood has been very taxing so far, so maybe once I exit this corridor the demands on my body will make me feel like I have more freedom!
Well I drink coffee, enjoy the occasional glass of wine, eat prosciutto, cheese, sushi (but not high-mercury fish like tuna) and everything is just fine. Surprisingly, other than a secretary scolding me re the coffee, no one has given me the stink eye either. As Expecting Better notes, a lot of the studies that tell us what we can and cannot eat are not based on good science. Most of it is superstition—the idea that if I do or don’t do X everything will be OK. Well, plenty of women who follow the “rules” end up with problems and plenty of those who don’t (which would include every place outside the US) are just fine. Relax, stay away from sketchy foods, don’t abuse yourself or drink to excess, and try to enjoy your pregnancy without giving into the fearmongering.
I’m just starting out in the “pregnancy corridor” – we plan to start trying next year, and my doctor has already started me on prenatal vitamins. She actually recommended prenatal vitamins for a full year beforehand to clear up any possible deficits, and to avoid fish with high levels of mercury or other nasty chemicals at least 3 months before, just in case.
At this point, I’m planning to “recline” as much as possible during pregnancy and the year after; I’m in a good position at my current employer, and while I need to make some strategic decisions about continuing education and maintaining my career (I’m currently earning about 3/4 of the household income, and that will continue for the foreseeable future), I’m definitely not going to volunteer for extensive travel or try to look for a different job!
I read Expecting Better the week after I found out I was pregnant. I really, really recommend it for anyone who wants help in evaluating what to avoid. It’s an easy read. I had not given much thought to, for example, why one should avoid sushi versus avoiding deli meat, but learning that the concern is salmonella versus listeria really helped me make choices. FWIW, listeria scares me, so it makes sense for me to take those precautions. Given that so many of the outbreaks don’t come from deli meat or unpasteurized cheese, if there is anyone who is evaluating this risk as well, if you are able to avoid standard food processing chains, I think that may be the most helpful. Whenever there is an outbreak of any “bad” bacteria and produce (listeria, e.coli, etc), it’s never the food that comes from non-corporate/factory farms, so I do what I can to buy from farmer’s markets as opposed to the supermarket. Just my two cents.