During pregnancy, what’s safe or not?
The minute a woman announces her pregnancy, she’s seemingly bombarded with conflicting information about things she should no longer eat, drink or do.
Whether it’s being told to stop eating ham sandwiches for lunch or to take an extended break from coloring her hair, the list of pregnancy “don’ts” can seem overwhelming. But is some of the advice misguided?
We asked Heather Findletar, a midwife with Stony Brook University Medical Center’s OB-GYN department, to help clear up some of the confusion.
CLEANING THE LITTER BOX
Congratulations, ladies! If you have cats, someone else is going to have to perform this chore for the next nine months.
“Women who are pregnant should stay away from cat litter,” Ms. Findletar said. “It causes toxoplasmosis, which is a parasitic disease you can get from a cat’s feces.”
Ms. Findletar added that pregnant women should wear gloves while gardening in case a cat has defecated in the area.
DYEING YOUR HAIR
If you religiously color your strands every six weeks, don’t worry: It’s safe for pregnant women. Just wait until you’re out of your first trimester, Ms. Findletar said, to avoid potentially affecting the neural development of the fetus.
“Back in the day, products weren’t really regulated by the Food and Drug Administration,” she explained. “Most products that used to have heavy lye in them don’t anymore.”
EATING FISH, DELI MEAT
It’s fine to eat cooked fish like salmon, tilapia or halibut, but certain sea creatures should be avoided during pregnancy. These include tuna, which Ms. Findletar said contains an unsafe amount of mercury, and sushi.
“Pregnant women shouldn’t eat raw fish because they could get a bad fish and get parasites from it,” she said.
Swordfish, shark and king mackerel also aren’t recommended. As for deli meat, Ms. Findletar said it’s generally OK to consume. Some medical professionals advise against eating products containing nitrates, like ham, salami and hot dogs, because they can cause some pregnant women to retain water, she said.
“Another concern is cross-contamination,” Ms. Findletar said. “I wouldn’t go to a deli where you don’t know their sanitation habits.”
Drinking during your pregnancy isn’t advised, but some health care professionals, including Ms. Findletar, aren’t opposed to women with low-risk pregnancies drinking a four-ounce glass of wine when they’re in early labor.
“When a woman is about to give birth, wine can act as a relaxant, allowing her body to go into natural labor,” she said.
Ms. Findletar said it’s important to remember that nobody knows exactly how much alcohol causes fetal alcohol syndrome.
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