OK, you're pregnant. That doesn't mean you're consigned to the sofa for the next 9 months, but what ARE you allowed to do?
When you discover you’re pregnant, the list of things you can no longer do just seems to grow. While each pregnancy, expectant mother and unborn child is different, the experts at Emma’s Diary
have busted ten of the most frequently asked – and some unusual – pregnancy myths.
- Can I fly?
It’s usually safe to fly while you’re pregnant. However, some airlines won’t let you fly after week 28 of your pregnancy, so it’s always best to check what your airline’s policy is. If you’re travelling for more than five hours, there’s a higher risk of thrombosis, but it’s not clear if this increases if you’re pregnant.
- Can I have a hot bath?
It’s best to avoid very hot baths due to the risks of overheating and fainting. Becoming too hot can harm your unborn baby, particularly in the first 13 weeks of pregnancy. Always make sure you drink plenty of fluids.
It's best to avoid very hot baths due to the risks of overheating and fainting
- Can I still exercise?
It’s important to stay active during your pregnancy, as it will help you to adapt to your changing body shape, cope with labour better and get back into shape after birth.
Keep up your normal daily physical activity or exercise, such as going to the gym, swimming or walking, for as long as you feel comfortable. If you plan to start a new exercise regime, always check with your midwife first.
Don’t get too hot and drink plenty of fluids throughout. Avoid contact sports and anything where you might fall, for example horse riding, gymnastics or cycling.
Be aware that when you lie flat on your back after 16 weeks, the weight of the bump can press on the big blood vessels, which can affect the blood flow to the placenta and your baby. It can also make you feel faint.
It's advisable to stay active during pregnancy, but it's best to avoid contact sports.
- Can I wear under-wired bras?
While there are no hard and fast rules regarding under-wired bras, healthcare professionals generally advise pregnant women to avoid them. This is because your breasts change at such a fast rate, there’s a danger the bra might restrict their shape and cause damage. At worst, it can obstruct the increased blood flow and compress the developing milk ducts, which can lead to discomfort, cysts and, in some cases, mastitis.
It’s very important to have adequate support from the very start of your pregnancy, otherwise there’s a danger your breasts could lose their shape permanently. A good maternity bra should have wide shoulder straps, support panels and adjustable fastenings to accommodate your increasing size. Many retailers offer a free fitting service so make regular checks that your bra is the correct size for your changing shape.
- Can I still have sex?
There’s no medical evidence to suggest that having sex during pregnancy does any harm to the baby. Remember, your baby is well cushioned by a sac of fluid well beyond the neck of the womb. In fact, a loving physical relationship is important for your wellbeing during pregnancy and sex can help your body prepare for labour.
Don’t worry if you notice mild contractions during and after sex, as they won’t be powerful enough to start labour if your body is not ready – and if it is ready, sex can help to start labour.
You may be advised to abstain from intercourse at certain stages of pregnancy if you have a history of miscarriage or premature labour, or if you have a low-lying placenta.
- Can I sleep on my back?
Although it’s safe to sleep on your back during the first trimester, it’s a good idea to get used to sleeping on your side. This is because, as the uterus gets heavier, it presses on the vein that returns blood from your lower body to your heart when you lie on your back. If you do this for an extended period, there’s a danger that it could affect the flow of blood and nutrients to the placenta. If you do wake and find yourself on your back, don’t panic. If shouldn’t have any serious adverse effect on your baby. Try placing cushions between your thighs, along your back and under your bump to make the sleeping position more comfortable.
- Can I use a mobile phone?
It can’t be said for certain the effect using a mobile phone might have on your unborn child, so it might be best to err on the side of caution. Two related studies have linked babies exposed to mobile phones in the womb with behavioural problems, such as hyperactivity, during childhood, however, there is still not enough proof of mobile phone use directly causing this.
- Can I take ibuprofen?
Most medicines can affect the development of a baby in the womb, depending on the different types and the stage of pregnancy that you have reached when you take it, and you should always consult your GP or midwife before taking any medicine while pregnant.
Ibuprofen is classed as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) and some studies have suggested a possible association between the use of NSAIDs in early pregnancy and a low risk of certain birth defects.
Taking NSAIDs in the last trimester or pregnancy is where the most risk appears to be. The greatest concern is that it may cause the premature closure of a vessel in the baby’s heart, which may lead to pulmonary hypertension in the baby’s lungs. The use of ibuprofen in late pregnancy may also inhibit labour and cause reduced amounts of amniotic fluid. For these reasons, unless you have been prescribed an NSAID by your GP then it’s best to avoid this group of medicines.
- Can I eat spicy food?
Don’t worry, you don’t have to give up your favourite Friday night takeaway just because you’re pregnant. However, some women are prone to heartburn when pregnant and spicy foods can aggravate this. The key is to stick to a healthy and varied diet.
Spicy food has been credited with bringing on labour
- Can I change the cat litter?
The answer is ‘no’, as cat litter and cat faeces can contain a parasite that causes toxoplasmosis infection. If you get toxoplasmosis for the first time when you’re pregnant, or up to three months before you conceive, the infection can be passed to and damage your unborn baby, or can even cause miscarriage or stillbirth.
To be safe, try to avoid emptying cat litter trays (get someone else to do it) or wear disposable gloves if you have to empty it yourself. Make sure the cat litter is changed every day.
Wash all fruit, vegetables and salads (including ready-prepared salads) thoroughly, to remove all traces of soil. You should also wear gloves when gardening in case the soil has cat faeces in it, and wash your hands and gloves afterwards. Also, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after handling cats and avoid sick cats.
Other places the parasite can be found are in undercooked or raw meat, raw cured meat – such as salami or Parma ham – and unpasteurised goats’ milk. Sheep can also carry the parasite.
Most people infected with toxoplasmosis have no symptoms and don’t know that they’re infected. Contact your GP or midwife immediately if you think that you may have come into contact with the toxoplasma parasite.
Article written by Emma's Diary for Toddle About
Emma’s Diary is the UK’s most trusted, influential pregnancy programme, offering credible pregnancy and early post-natal advice in collaboration with the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) and healthcare experts.