Being pregnant doesn’t mean that you have to be paranoid (well, maybe just a little), but it does mean that there are certain “DO’s” and “DON’Ts” to keep you and your unborn baby safe. A pregnant woman is more likely to pick up certain food born infections, come down with viral illnesses such as colds, lose her balance, and have trouble fastening her seat belt. While the 7 safety tips I’m sharing aren’t meant to be all-inclusive safety advice during pregnancy; they are a good place to start! And, since many of you currently have “pregnancy brain,” I’ve decided to make things easy by including some great resources in the highlighted links. Click on these for more details.
1. Wear Your Seatbelt During Your ENTIRE Pregnancy
Many pregnant women think that they will hurt their baby by wearing their seatbelt. This is not the case. Research shows that not wearing a seatbelt puts your baby and you at much greater risk for harm if you were to get into a car accident. Wearing your seatbelt CORRECTLY is also important. It should be secured low and comfortably tight around your waist underneath your baby bump/across your hip bones. Do not shove the shoulder strap behind you! The top portion of the shoulder strap should come across your collar-bone. Make sure to wear it when driving, as the passenger, and when in the backseat! Air bags should NOT be turned off. They are still considered safe for pregnant women. Check out this link from The American Academy of Family Practice for more details.
2. Eat Safe Foods and Avoid Those on “The List”
Eating a healthy diet is an important part of pregnancy. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and plenty of protein will reduce your risk for diabetes, and will ensure that your baby and you are getting adequate nutrients for growth and development. But, some foods that may seem healthy are on the “DO NOT EAT” list during pregnancy. Mercury levels in certain types of healthy fish can be harmful to your developing baby. Unpasteurized products, including dairy and fruit juices, could contain harmful bacteria that could land you on the toilet or even in the hospital. Eating raw or undercooked meats or even unwashed fruits and vegetables could also lead to toxoplasmosis, a harmful infection for your unborn baby! Don’t despair! Sushi, homemade ice cream, and raw cookie dough may be off the table for now; but, you still have plenty of options for your grocery cart. Check out this link for more information and for a list of safe and unsafe foods during pregnancy.
3. Get Your Flu Shot
Yes, I said get your flu shot (if possible before you get pregnant, but it is safe to get it during pregnancy as well)!!!! Pregnant women are at greater risk for picking up viral infections during pregnancy…especially the flu. During pregnancy, your body does not mount a typical immune response. Because of this, if you do get sick with the flu, you are more likely to have a severe case that could affect your heart and lungs and even your unborn baby. Research shows that getting the flu while pregnant seems to increase the risk of miscarriage, low birth weight babies, and preterm deliveries. By getting your flu shot you are also providing some protection for your baby for the first six months of his life after he is born (the time when he is unable to get the flu shot and left vulnerable) by passing on antibodies to him while he is still in your womb. For more on flu shot recommendations check out these links from The Mayo Clinic and the CDC.
4. Check with your doctor before taking over the counter medications, prescription medications, and herbal supplements.
Although many “safe during pregnancy” medication lists are posted on the internet, it is always best to check with your doctor before taking any over the counter, prescription, or even herbal medications or supplements. While some of these may be safe for you (and necessary), they may not be safe for your unborn baby. Check out these links from the CDC and the March of Dimes for more information. And, of course, avoiding alcohol, recreational drugs, and tobacco during pregnancy is always recommended!
5. Avoid Cat Litter Like It’s the Plague!
Get someone else to do the dirty job of changing the cat litter! If you have a cat and are the only one able to change the litter, then make sure that you take safety precautions. Cat litter is known to harbor Toxoplasmosis, a bacteria that can be debilitating for your unborn child causing blindness and even mental disabilities. You may not even be aware that you or your unborn baby have been infected because often times you won’t have any symptoms. Make sure to wear disposable gloves and to wash your hands with soap and water each time after changing the litter. Also, make sure to change it daily. For more details check out this link from The CDC. In addition to cat litter, many women are exposed to unsafe chemicals while at work. Check with your physician if your job includes any type of chemical exposure.
6. Add a Little Stability to your Wobble
The pregnant woman wobble gets a little more wobbly as your belly grows. Make sure that you are taking precautions to prevent slipping, falling, and tripping. Wearing a supportive pair of shoes is the first step. Making sure that you are paying attention when walking to avoid uneven pavement or toddler toys, using the hand-rail when climbing stairs, keeping a bath mat outside of the tub and shower, and letting someone else stand on the step stool and ladder are some simple ways to keep your balance. Joining a prenatal yoga class may also be helpful to promote flexibility, stability, and body awareness.
7. Make Sure that Your Home is a Safe Place!
Although the though of abuse during pregnancy may sound shocking and unlikely, almost 1 in 6 pregnant women have been abused by their partners. Financial stress, unwanted pregnancies, and jealousy are just a few reasons that abuse may increase during pregnancy. Making sure that you and your unborn baby are free from physical and emotional abuse is vital for a healthy pregnancy. Check out this link from The March of Dimes for more information and for resources.
A healthy pregnancy depends upon taking care of yourself. Making a prenatal appointment early in pregnancy, getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, taking prenatal vitamins, and surrounding yourself with those who will love and support you are all critical steps. Some things are out of your control (says the mom with severe preeclampsia and a 32 week preemie), but by doing your best to follow the above safety recommendations you will limit your risk for many preventable pregnancy complications and regrets.