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Pregnancy Advice: What To Believe – and Ignore

Are you pregnant and feeling overwhelmed by all the conflicting advice you’re getting? From giving up your soothing hot baths to avoiding your furry feline’s litter box, it can be tough to know what’s safe for you and your growing baby.

We’re here to help you decode some common tips women get when they’re pregnant.

Don't Fly

Flying is considered safe until a certain point in your pregnancy. Flying has not been shown to increase the risk of miscarriage. If yours is a low-risk pregnancy, you’re are likely cleared to fly internationally until 32 weeks and domestically until 36 weeks. You should check with your OB-GYN first to get cleared for plane travel.

There are some risks that can occur with flying or traveling. If you deliver early, there is a chance you could be stuck in another city for an extended period.

Other flying risks include blood clots in your legs or lungs. During pregnancy, you are in a hypercoagulable state, which means that you have a higher risk of developing blood clots. When flying, you are sedentary, which further increases that risk.  To reduce that risk, it’s suggested that you periodically:

  • Stand up or walk to increase circulation
  • Flex or gently stretch your calf muscles
  • Wear compression socks, if recommended by your doctor

Signs and symptoms of clots include:

  • Unilateral swelling in the lower legs
  • Pain in the back of calf
  • Acute onset of shortness of breath

You should always check with the airline and consult your physician for a pregnancy pretravel evaluation to make sure it’s OK for you to fly.

Skip Hot Baths

Most baths are not hot enough to affect your baby. Any bath or shower with water cooler than 100 degrees F is considered safe.

However, extremely hot water can be harmful. When you hear warnings about hot temperatures, these most likely refer to hot tubs and saunas that are typically hotter than 100 degrees. Hot tubs and saunas should be avoided as they can lead to developmental abnormalities, including an increased risk of neural tube defects and possibly other congenital malformations.

So make sure your water temp is under 100 degrees before enjoying a relaxing bath.

Abstain from Sex

Sex is usually safe during pregnancy, unless your doctor tells your otherwise.

Any sex or vaginal examinations during pregnancy can lead to some vaginal spotting or bleeding that is brown, red or pink. This usually resolves itself on its own. It is likely from the extra blood flowing to the genitals during pregnancy.

You should avoid sex if you have certain medical conditions, including:

  • Placenta previa (where the placenta is located over the cervix)
  • Preterm labor

Don’t Dye Your Hair

Most doctors consider hair dye completely safe in pregnancy. Dying your hair allows your scalp to absorb trace amounts of chemicals. According to studies conducted on animals, even high doses of these chemicals do not cause birth defects.

If you want to be as safe as possible, wait until 13 weeks into your pregnancy, when you are past the critical developmental stage of the first trimester, before coloring your hair.

Avoid Sushi

If you are craving sushi, choose California rolls, rolls with shrimp tempura or any other menu items that do not contain raw fish.

Fish with high amounts of mercury should generally be avoided – raw or cooked -- during pregnancy because it can affect the development of your baby’s lungs, kidney and nervous system.

Examples include:

  • Ahi tuna
  • Swordfish
  • Shark
  • Tilefish
  • King mackerel

Don’t Clean the Cat’s Litter Box 

You should avoid emptying a litter box used by cats that spend time outdoors. Their feces can potentially carry a bacteria called toxoplasmosis, which can have significant risk to your pregnancy.

Toxoplasmosis can lead to visual loss, mental disability and seizures in babies. It can affect outdoor cats that have eaten infected rodents, birds or other small animals. It can also be present in the feces from another cat, as cats shed viruses in their feces.

Most indoor cats would be considered safe from transmitting toxoplasmosis, so you would be safe in changing their litter boxes. To err on the side of safety, you can:

  • Have your partner change the box
  • Wear disposable gloves if you have to change the litter
  • Change the litter box daily to decrease the risk of bacteria incubation

Stay Away from Peanuts and Dairy

Peanuts have been a hot topic for a long time. There is, however, no evidence that the food you eat during pregnancy, like milk, eggs or peanut butter, will affect the baby’s allergy risks.

In fact, early infant exposure to these products may prevent severe allergies, but this should be discussed with your pediatrician or allergist before introducing certain foods to babies or young children.

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