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Pregnancy Dos and Don’ts, According to an Expert

March 15, 2023

Pregnancy is an exciting time as you prepare to welcome your bundle of joy.

But it can also be stressful as you navigate the advice on pregnancy lifestyle changes you get from everyone from your mother-in-law to your Instagram feed.

So what changes should you actually make to protect your baby? Adam Ofer, MD, Hartford HealthCare gynecologist with offices in Westport and Fairfield, shares some insight into a few of the most common pregnancy dos and don’ts.

> Connect with a Hartford HealthCare OBGYN

Do stop drinking alcohol and smoking

A growing fetus develops at such a rapid pace that by the end of the first trimester, all organs and body parts are intact, just small and not fully developed.

“With all of these incredible things happening so quickly, I recommend that my patients, live, eat and drink as clean as possible during this busy time for their fetus,” says Dr. Ofer.

If you drink or smoke, you should stop immediately. Nicotine patches can be safe as a smoking cessation aid, but be sure to talk to your healthcare provider.

Don’t eat raw fish

Sorry sushi lovers! Raw meat or fish of any kind is an absolute no-no during pregnancy.

“Bacteria and parasites in uncooked meats are dangerous to you and your unborn child,” says Dr. Ofer.

Cooked fish, on the other hand, is ok for the most part.

Salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for brain development, and is low in mercury. Cod, tilapia, sea bass and crab are also safe. Tuna should be consumed in moderation.

Do moderate caffeine intake

“The good news for coffee drinkers is that it does not appear you need to throw out that habit completely,” says Dr. Ofer.

Coffee in moderation (roughly 2 cups per day) is safe and can even help with headaches that many women experience in early pregnancy.

> Related: Hypertension During Pregnancy Can Put Moms at Risk Later in Life

Don’t eat cold deli meat

It’s true – your lunchtime sandwich may need an adjustment during your pregnancy.

“The main danger of deli meats during pregnancy is that cold deli meats can be contaminated with a dangerous bacteria called listeria,” says Dr. Ofer. “They can also be high in salt and nitrates that aren’t great for you or baby.”

In moderate amounts, deli meats are safe if heated up which kills the bacteria that causes listeria.

Don’t eat soft or unpasteurized cheeses

Much like deli meats, cheese can contain listeria. But the type of cheese matters.

Hard cheeses made with pasteurized milk such as parmesan, cheddar and gruyere are safe to eat. Soft cheeses with a hard white coating, such as brie or soft blue cheeses should be avoided. Unpasteurized cheeses should not be consumed during pregnancy.

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Do exercise

“It’s safe and recommended that women exercise during pregnancy,” says Dr. Ofer.

Exercise during pregnancy can lower the chances of developing gestational diabetes and help with labor and recovery.

It’s not necessary to monitor your heart rate or modify your routine unless it becomes too uncomfortable. Keep in mind that as your pregnancy progresses, your joints will become looser and your center of gravity changes so having proper form is important to avoid injury.

Don’t eat undercooked red meat

If you enjoy your steak pink in the middle, you might want to hold off during your pregnancy.

“The biggest danger with undercooked red meat in pregnancy is a parasite called toxoplasmosis,” says Dr. Ofer.

When not pregnant, the parasite may have little to no impact on you. During pregnancy, however, your immune system is not as strong, and toxoplasmosis can make you and your baby very sick.

Toxoplasmosis is killed at temps above 152 degrees Fahrenheit, which is a well-done steak.

Do start taking a prenatal vitamin

If you weren’t taking a prenatal vitamin before you learned you were pregnant, start as soon as you can.

Make sure that the vitamin you choose contains folic acid, an important nutrient for growing fetal development.

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At Hartford HealthCare, we pay special attention to the needs of women. Education, prevention, and early detection are the keys to helping you maintain your long-term health and wellness.

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