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10 Things You Can’t Do While Pregnant

Pregnancy is a time of adjustment for everyone in the family — everyone is affected one way or another while you’re expecting. There are a few rules about what not to do during pregnancy. It’s generally possible to continue participating in everyday activities, but there are some that need to be avoided. Check out our list of 10 things you can’t do while pregnant.

Drink alcohol

Consuming any alcoholic beverage, whether it’s beer, wine, or hard liquor, is at the top of the list of what not to do while pregnant. If you drink alcohol while pregnant, it can cross the placenta and affect the developing fetus. Doing this can cause fetal alcohol syndrome, a serious disorder that affects your baby’s future in several ways, including:

  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Physical abnormalities
  • Behavioral difficulties
  • Seizures
  • Stunted growth
  • Developmental delays
  • Reduced fine motor skill ability and coordination


What can’t you do while pregnant? While it’s well-known that smoking while pregnant is quite harmful to your baby, secondhand smoke can be just as dangerous, as it can contain up to 4,000 chemicals, some of which are linked to cancer.

Exposure to secondhand smoke can lead to serious problems for your baby, such as:

  • Low birth weight
  • Premature delivery
  • Miscarriage
  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
  • Learning or behavioral issues
  • Abruptio placentae — the premature separation of the normally implanted placenta from the uterine wall — resulting in hemorrhage 
  • Intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR)

Gain excess weight

With pregnancy comes cravings — lots of cravings — and it can be hard to stick to your doctor’s guidelines for weight gain. Gaining too much weight while pregnant can be detrimental, though. It can potentially raise your risk for birth complications, including premature birth and unplanned cesarean section.

Controlling your weight gain can help you avoid other health problems, such as gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. The National Academy of Medicine makes recommendations for weight gain during pregnancy based on your prepregnancy body mass index (BMI):

  • For people who are underweight (BMI less than 18.5), the recommended weight gain is 28–40 pounds
  • The recommendation for weight gain for those with a normal weight (BMI of 18.5–24.9) is 25–35 pounds
  • For people who are overweight (BMI of 25.0–29.9) the recommended weight gain is 15–25 pounds.
  • People who are obese (BMI of 30 or greater) are recommended to gain 11–22 pounds.

Consume too much caffeine

Caffeine can cross the placenta and affect the fetus, just like alcohol, so it’s important not to consume too much caffeine while you’re expecting. 

It’s recommended to limit caffeine intake to less than 300 milligrams per day, as many researchers believe that higher amounts can negatively affect the fetus and contribute to pregnancy health problems such as miscarriage and low birth weight. A typical 8-ounce (236-milliliter) cup of brewed coffee contains around 130 mg of caffeine.

If you find it difficult to give up coffee while pregnant, just be sure to monitor how much you ingest.

Low-to-moderate caffeine intake in pregnancy does not appear to be associated with any adverse effects, so if you find it difficult to give up coffee while pregnant, just be sure to monitor how much you ingest. 

Become overheated

Even though relaxing in a hot tub or warm bath may seem like a good way to relieve discomfort or relax, doctors generally recommend avoiding hot tub use in the first trimester. 

Lift heavy things

Lifting heavy objects, such as furniture, moving boxes, or other bulky, hefty items, is an important entry on the list of things you can’t do while pregnant. It can increase your risk of:

  • Pulled muscles
  • Bleeding due to abruptio placentae
  • Preterm labor
  • Hernias

Take certain medications

During pregnancy, you should be very careful with medications you are taking. Make sure you do not take any medication without discussing it with your doctor or without a doctor’s prescription because certain over-the-counter medications can be harmful to your baby. 

During pregnancy, you should be very careful with medications you are taking. Make sure you do not take any medication without discussing it with your doctor.

Here are some examples of meds that you should not use during pregnancy: warfarin, ibuprofen, codeine, primaquine, chloramphenicol, ciprofloxacin, and levofloxacin.

Clean the litter box

If you have a cat, designate cleaning the litter box to your partner or another person while you’re expecting, as dirty litter boxes can put you and your baby at risk for toxoplasmosis, a disease caused by Toxoplasma gondii, which are parasites found in infected cat feces and undercooked meat. Make sure to avoid undercooked meat during pregnancy too.

If you pass toxoplasmas to your developing fetus, your baby may develop severe conditions, including:

  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Blindness
  • Eye damage
  • Brain damage

High-impact exercises

The next thing on the list of things you can’t do while pregnant are certain exercises, such as contact sports. Anything that involves bouncing, leaping, jumping, or suddenly changing direction is also not recommended during pregnancy. These types of jarring movements can be harmful to you and your baby.

Anything that involves bouncing, leaping, jumping, or suddenly changing direction is not recommended during pregnancy.

Contact sports may cause placental abruption, which is the premature separation of the placenta from the uterine wall. This can cause miscarriage, premature birth, or stillbirth.

Instead, stay active by taking walks, doing prenatal yoga, or swimming.

Eat certain foods

Following a balanced diet during pregnancy is really important. Certain foods you may have previously enjoyed my be among the things you can’t eat while pregnant. There are many foods that can potentially have serious effects on a fetus. Here are just a few examples of foods to avoid during pregnancy:

  • Lunchmeat or prepared salads, such as potato or macaroni salad: Deli meats, such as sliced ham, turkey, or salami, as well as foods such as premade chicken salad or potato salad, may contain listeria, a type of bacteria that can be deadly.
  • Unpasteurized juice and dairy products: Raw milk and unpasteurized juices may also contain listeria.
  • Soft cheeses: Certain types of cheese, like brie, feta, and queso blanco, may contain unpasteurized dairy ingredients and should be avoided during pregnancy. 
  • Certain fish: Swordfish, shark, and mackerel can all be high in mercury. Exposing the fetus to mercury can potentially cause brain damage or hearing and vision problems.
  • Raw meat: Foods such as sushi and raw oysters should not be consumed while you’re pregnant. They can contain salmonella, which can cause foodborne illness. Symptoms of foodborne illness include dehydration, fever, and possibly intrauterine sepsis — a blood infection that can be harmful to your fetus. Raw meat can also cause toxoplasmosis.
  • Raw eggs: Uncooked or undercooked eggs can also contain salmonella.

The takeaway

When you steer clear of the activities and substances on this list, you can help ensure that both you and your baby stay healthy while you’re expecting. 

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