Top Things to Avoid During Pregnancy

The Gainesville maternity team at All About Women suggest staying away from these foods and bad habits throughout your term

Embarking on the journey of first-time motherhood is a truly marvelous experience filled with anticipation and joy. As you count down the next nine months, eagerly awaiting the arrival of your little one, it’s vital that you take care of yourself and your growing baby, which means it may be necessary to modify certain habits or steer clear of harmful indulgences.

Let’s explore some key recommendations from maternity care providers on what expectant mothers should avoid to ensure the safety and well-being of themselves and their babies.

What is best to avoid when pregnant?

Extreme heat

During pregnancy, your body is already working harder to support both you and your developing baby, making you more susceptible to the effects of extreme heat.

Exposure to high temperatures can lead to dehydration, which increases the risk of premature labor and can adversely affect your baby's health. Additionally, overheating can lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke, both of which are dangerous conditions during pregnancy, so be sure to avoid saunas and hot tubs.

During hot weather or in environments that might lead to overheating, it's crucial to stay cool, drink plenty of water, and avoid prolonged exposure to high temperatures. If you need to be outside on a hot day, seek shade, wear light clothing, and keep yourself hydrated.


It’s completely natural to feel some stress during pregnancy, but managing high levels of stress is essential for your well-being and your baby's development. Excessive stress can lead to sleep problems and high blood pressure and can even impact your baby's birth weight and development.

It's important to find healthy stress-relief methods, such as prenatal yoga, meditation, or talking to a therapist or support group. Remember, taking care of your mental health is as vital as looking after your physical health during pregnancy.

Skipping prenatal visits

Attending all your prenatal appointments is vital. These visits allow your doctor to monitor your health and your baby’s progress. Skipping them could mean missing out on essential tests and screenings that check for potential complications or health issues.

These appointments are also your opportunity to ask questions and learn how to manage pregnancy symptoms, ensuring a healthier journey for both you and your baby.

Learn about changes to your body, your baby’s development, and what to expect at prenatal checkups.

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Forgetting to take prenatal vitamins

Prenatal vitamins are packed with essential nutrients, like folic acid, iron, and calcium, that your body needs more of during pregnancy. Folic acid is especially important as it significantly reduces the risk of neural tube defects like spina bifida in your developing baby.

If you're struggling to remember to take your vitamins, try setting a daily reminder or keeping them where you’ll see them every day.

Unhealthy eating

While the American Pregnancy Association recommends that pregnant women consume about 300 extra calories per day during their second and third trimesters, it's important that these additional calories come from healthy, nutritious foods, not from junk food or empty calories.

Unhealthy eating habits can lead to problems such as excessive weight gain, gestational diabetes, and an increased risk of complications. Try to focus on a balanced diet filled with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins to support your baby’s growth and maintain your health.

If you need guidance on creating a healthy eating plan, discuss this during your prenatal visits.

The doctors and midwives at North Florida's All About Women discuss safe and healthy eating during pregnancy.

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Maintaining a regular workout program during your pregnancy is excellent for you and the baby. Regular prenatal exercise can help with your posture as well as fatigue.

However, certain types of high-impact physical activity may not be recommended. Intense exercise can lead to dehydration, overheating, and even contractions. So stick to moderate, pregnancy-safe activities like walking or swimming, and always listen to your body’s signals to rest.

It’s always a good idea to speak with your OB-GYN to make sure the exercise plan you choose is appropriate for you and your baby.

Drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes

It's crucial to steer clear of drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes throughout your pregnancy because these substances can lead to severe developmental issues for your baby, including birth defects and lifelong learning or behavioral problems.

Alcohol consumption during pregnancy can result in fetal alcohol syndrome, which is associated with serious physical and developmental issues in babies. Smoking cigarettes increases the risk of premature birth, low birth weight, and respiratory problems.

Choosing the right foods and beverages when you’re pregnant can be overwhelming, but it’s also important for the health of you and your baby.

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Raw meat and unpasteurized cheeses

Raw or undercooked meat and unpasteurized cheeses can harbor harmful bacteria like Listeria and Toxoplasma, which pose serious risks to your developing baby. Infection with these bacteria can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, or severe health issues for your newborn.

Always ensure that all meat is thoroughly cooked to safe temperatures, and opt for pasteurized dairy products to reduce the risk of infection.

It's also wise to avoid deli meats and hot dogs during pregnancy. In addition to their potential to harbor dangerous bacteria, deli meats and hot dogs are often high in sodium, which can increase your blood pressure.

Exposure to toxins

There are a number of toxins that need to be avoided during pregnancy whenever possible.

Secondhand smoke contains harmful chemicals that can lead to low birth weight, preterm birth, and respiratory problems in infants. Try to avoid environments where people are smoking, and don’t hesitate to ask others to respect your need for a smoke-free space.

In addition to tobacco smoke, there are other toxins commonly found in everyday environments that you should steer clear of.

Paint fumes, often present during home renovations, can contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other harmful substances. Opt for low-VOC or VOC-free paints, and ensure proper ventilation if you need to be around freshly painted areas.

Pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides used in gardening and agriculture can also pose risks. Limit exposure by washing fruits and vegetables thoroughly, wearing protective clothing and gloves if you must use these chemicals, and considering organic produce to reduce pesticide intake.

Household cleaners are another source of potentially dangerous chemicals. When pregnant, choose natural or non-toxic cleaning products, and always ventilate the area well when cleaning. If you're unsure about the safety of a product, look for alternatives or ask someone else to handle the cleaning tasks involving harsh chemicals.

Learn about some common immune system issues during pregnancy and how to boost your immune system.

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While most modern X-ray machines produce very low levels of radiation, excessive exposure, especially during the first trimester, can potentially harm your developing baby's organs and nervous system.

If you need an X-ray, it's crucial to inform the technician or your health care provider that you’re pregnant so they can then take necessary precautions, such as using a lead apron to shield your abdomen or postponing the X-ray until after your baby is born, if it's not urgent.

Always discuss the risks and benefits with your health care provider before undergoing X-ray examinations. In some cases, alternatives that don't involve radiation, such as ultrasound or MRI, can be used during pregnancy instead of X-rays.

Fish high in mercury

Consuming fish with high levels of mercury during pregnancy can be harmful to your developing baby, particularly affecting their brain and nervous system. High-mercury fish include shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish.

Mercury exposure in the womb can lead to developmental delays, cognitive issues, and hearing and speech difficulties in children.

While you’re encouraged to include 2-3 servings of fish in your pregnancy diet per week to get omega-3 fatty acids, which support fetal brain development, you should choose low-mercury options like salmon, trout, herring, Atlantic mackerel, and sardines instead. Eat only 6 oz. servings of albacore tuna.

Can my husband lay on my pregnant belly?

This is a common question we hear from soon-to-be parents who want to ensure that intimacy during pregnancy will not hurt their baby. In most cases, intimacy during pregnancy is completely healthy, but it's important to be cautious about applying too much or continuous pressure to the pregnant belly.

The amniotic fluid around your baby acts as a protective cushion, but significant weight or sustained pressure from an adult could cause discomfort or potentially impact blood flow to the baby. If you ever feel uncomfortable or unsure, it's best to err on the side of caution and try another position.

Always feel free to discuss any concerns about physical intimacy during pregnancy with your doctor.

Get top-notch prenatal care from Gainesville’s All About Women Obstetrics and Gynecology

Sacrificing some things for a short period of time can mean a great deal to the long-term health of you and your baby. If you live in Gainesville, Lake City, or elsewhere in North Florida, contact All About Women to talk to our knowledgeable and compassionate maternity team or schedule a prenatal checkup.

To learn more about pregnancy and your health, browse our knowledge center and blog.