15 Damaging Things Pregnant Women Need To Stop Doing Immediately

Caring for an unborn baby is serious business. There are many things that mom-to-be can no longer do. In order to keep baby safe and healthy, she needs to stop doing certain things immediately.

Birth defects, miscarriage, brain damage, stillbirth, and heart problems are just some of the devastating effects of mom’s choices on the baby.

Many of the items on this list don’t seem harmful at first glance. Most women probably do these things normally in their day-to-day lives. But something that may be safe and acceptable for a woman who is not pregnant could be life-threatening to a pregnant woman and her unborn baby.

Seemingly natural choices like taking certain vitamins or using herbal remedies could be just as dangerous as smoking or drinking during pregnancy. The modern mom has many more environmental factors to keep baby safe from. Radiation, stress and seemingly healthy foods may have unintended consequences on the fetus.

New research has lead to new understandings of the long term effects certain products have on a child. Some of the items on this list can lead to lasting issues with behavior, attention and the ability to handle stress.

Make sure to read the entire list to avoid any unintentional damage to the developing baby.

15Eating Lunch Meat

Cold cuts and deli meats seem harmless enough, right? But pregnant mamas should beware. Although rare, cold cuts could contain a bacterium called Listeria.

Listeria is more likely to affect pregnant women and the result could be deadly. For mom, a Listeria infection would produce flu-like symptoms. Headache, nausea, vomiting, muscle aches and fever are all symptoms of a Listeria infection.

For the unborn baby, Listeria can cause serious harm. It can lead to miscarriage, premature delivery, stillborn, infection in the newborn or death of a newborn.

One newborn recently was diagnosed with meningitis as a result of a Listeria infection. Listeria in pregnant mom can be treated with antibiotics.

If you can’t stand to cut out the cold cuts, heat them before eating them. By raising the temperature of the cold cuts high enough to create steam, any possible listeria should be destroyed. Or ditch the cold cuts and try an alternative like cooked chicken breast or good old peanut butter and jelly.

14Using Essential Oils

Essential oils can be very strong natural products. There are a lot of questions remaining about how each type of essential oil affects the baby at different times during the pregnancy.

You’re safest route is to avoid essential oils during pregnancy.

Some essential oils can cause uterine contractions or adversely affect the baby in her development. It’s especially difficult to sift through the information on essential oils since many people are selling them with varying levels of research and education behind the effects of each type of oil.

Cinnamon, clove, rosemary and clary sage should be avoided during pregnancy because they all can cause contractions. But this is just a partial list. There are many more essential oils that doctors recommend avoiding during pregnancy.

Before you get your oil kit out, double check the specific blend you’re using and how it might affect the baby. You’ll probably be safer skipping it all together.

13Cellphones Near The Belly

Cell phones produce radiation that could harm fragile fetuses. Pregnant women should move cell phones away from their belly immediately.

Researchers at Yale found that mice that were exposed to cell phone radiation during pregnancy developed memory problems and hyperactivity.

Dr. Jill Rabin, head of urogynecology at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, warns her patients to “not stand in front of their microwaves directly, and when they carry their phones not to carry them on their waist.”

Another study from 2010 was completed on humans finding that cell phone exposure before and after birth increased hyperactivity, inattention and problems with peers.

The effects of cell phone radiation on unborn children are continuing to be researched. We know now that there are negative effects, we just don’t know how far reaching those effects will be.

12Eating Sprouts

Pregnant women should stop eating sprouts immediately due to possible bacterial growth.

It is very easy for bacteria to grow in the sprouts. Some sprouts may contain Listeria, E.coli and even Salmonella. All types of sprouts are susceptible to such bacteria growth including alfalfa, mung bean, clover and radish.

Keep in mind that for these sprouts to actually sprout from a seed, they need to be in a warm, moist environment. This is the perfect environment for bacterial growth—making sprouts dangerous to a mom-to-be.

Listeria, E.coli and Salmonella can lead to miscarriage, premature delivery, stillborn, infection in the newborn or death of a newborn.

Salmonella can also be very dangerous and even deadly for the mother.

Although sprouts are a nutritious food, they should be avoided during pregnancy.

11Changing The Cat Litter

Pregnant women should stop changing the cat litter immediately. Stray cats and kittens should also be avoided.

But why? Although not very common, cats can spread a parasite called Toxoplasma. Toxoplasma can lead to serious problems in the baby including blindness or mental disability. The baby could be born with serious eye or brain damage or it could develop later in life.

Women who contracted Toxoplasma prior to conception or during pregnancy could spread it to the unborn baby.

Cats get the parasite by eating infected rodents, birds or other small animals. It then comes out in the cat’s feces. Cats and kittens can shed “millions of parasites in their feces for as long as 3 weeks after infection” according to the CDC.

If you have an indoor cat, keep it inside to avoid it getting infected. Let someone else change the litter box or make sure to wash your hands thoroughly afterward.

10Going For Sushi

There are three reasons sushi could be dangerous during pregnancy: mercury, bacteria and parasites.

Depending on the type of fish that is used, it may contain high levels of mercury that might have a negative effect on the baby. While consuming small amounts of these types of fish every once in a while is probably safe, regular consumption might not be.

The main concern of sushi during pregnancy is the raw or undercooked meat. If not prepared correctly, sushi could lead to parasites or a bacterial infection.

Plus pregnant women often have suppressed immune systems as their body furiously grows another human being. Making them even more susceptible to bacterial infections of parasites.

Just like with cold cuts, the consequences of eating raw sushi could be dangerous and even life-threatening to the unborn baby or newborn.

With sushi, it’s best to play it safe and avoid all raw or undercooked meat.

9Taking Vitamin A

High amounts of vitamin A can be detrimental during the onset of pregnancy. For women who are hoping to get pregnant, high doses of vitamin A should be stopped before trying to conceive. Some women may take high doses of vitamin A for acne treatment, for example.

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that women who consumed more than 10,000 International Units (IUs) of vitamin A during the first 7 weeks of pregnancy had a higher chance of birth defect.

Some vitamin A is essential during pregnancy. Having a great deficiency of vitamin A could also lead to vision issues and even blindness in the child.

So to find the right balance, eat a balanced diet and take prenatal vitamins. But avoid high doses of vitamin A before conceiving and in the first weeks of pregnancy.

8Drinking Herbal Tea

Herbal teas can be dangerous to the unborn baby and pregnant women should stop drinking them immediately.

This is a tricky one because some ingredients in tea may be safe to eat during pregnancy. But in tea the same ingredient may be too concentrated. The other problem is that there isn’t a lot of clinical research on the subject.

An ingredient in tea may be safe in one stage of development but detrimental in another –not enough study has been done on the many tea ingredients at different stages of development.

On top of that, the FDA doesn’t regulate the safety or effectiveness of herbal teas. Some herbal tea ingredients can increase the odds of miscarriage, preterm labor or low birth weight.

If you’re not ready to give up your herbal tea, double check the specific kind with your doctor. Black and green tea is considered safe in small amounts although those both contain caffeine.

7Taking Aspirin

Pregnant women should stop taking aspirin and consult their doctor.

Aspirin can be dangerous to baby throughout the pregnancy. There may be a few cases where doctors will have a pregnant woman use low doses of aspirin such as with preeclampsia or clotting disorders –but this is not the norm.

Aspirin can be dangerous to the baby for a variety of reasons. In high doses, it can cause miscarriage and congenital defects at the beginning of pregnancy. Later in pregnancy, it can lead to premature closure of a heart vessel and increased risk of brain bleeding in premature infants.

Pregnant women are usually advised to take acetaminophen like Tylenol instead of Aspirin. Make sure to check with your doctor first to find out what is best in your specific situation.

6Skipping Meals

Before you became pregnant, you may have skipped meals every now and then. Now another life is depending on your meals.

Pregnant women need to make sure that they are consuming enough calories and a variety of nutrients. At different times during the pregnancy, the baby will need different nutrients to grow and develop.

While skipping a meal here or there may not have a negative effect on the baby, being under weight or having poor nutrition definitely can.

Vitamins and minerals are essential in helping the baby to develop correctly. Fat is also important as it is a building block for baby’s eye and brain development. Babies who don’t get enough nutrients from mom are at an increased risk for birth defects.

5Stressing Out

A little stress during pregnancy might be normal. A pregnant woman has a lot of pressure on her body as the baby develops and she’s trying to reorganize her life to include a new baby.

But lots of continual stress can have negative effects on the baby too.

According to March of Dimes, studies have shown that children of mothers who had extreme stress during pregnancy had more problems paying attention and being afraid later in life. It could affect the baby’s brain development and immune system.

Increased stress has also been linked to premature birth and low-birth-weight babies.

The stress can have lasting effects on mom’s health and well being also. It can cause heart disease, high blood pressure, suppressed immune system and more.

4Taking Medication

What you consume, so does the fetus. Drugs can have serious immediate and long term effects on the child. There are a host of problems that drug use causes in the baby’s body.

Both legal and illegal drugs can negatively affect the baby. Before getting pregnant, talk with your doctor about what medications are safe for you to take before and during pregnancy. If you’re already pregnant, make an appointment right away to discuss any medication’s you’re on.

If you’re hooked on illegal drugs, treatment is necessary to improve the child’s chances of survival and to reduce the lifelong effects.

Drug use during pregnancy can result in miscarriage, birth defects, stillborn births. The baby can be born addicted to drugs, have heart attacks, strokes, seizures or respiratory failure.

If the baby survives a pregnancy that includes drug use, they may have problems the rest of their lives. The child may have behavior, memory, or attention problems throughout her life.


Smoking was once considered safe during pregnancy. Some women even remember their doctors smoking around them. But like so many other things, we now know the risks of smoking during pregnancy.

The Centers for Disease Control report that women who smoke early in the pregnancy are more likely to have babies with heart defects. These defects can even include a hole in the heart between the chambers.

Most babies with congenital heart defects die in the first year of life.

Placenta problems are also more common when mom continues to smoke during the pregnancy. The placenta provides all of the nutrients to the baby. Smoking during pregnancy is also associated with low-birth-weight, premature deliveries and cleft palate.

Smoking during and after the pregnancy increases the chances of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Smoking is something pregnant moms need to stop doing immediately for the health of the baby.

2Enduring Abuse

Pregnant women need to stop enduring abuse immediately—if she can’t escape for herself then maybe she can for the safety of her baby.

New studies have been linking maternal abuse during pregnancy with lifelong challenges for the child.

German researches for the University of Konstanz found that women who endured abuse during pregnancy had children with genetic differences. The gene that was studied is involved in the brain’s response to stress. In children of mothers who endured domestic violence, this gene was less active when the children were aged 9-19. The team related this to a reduced ability to handle stress.

A study done at Michigan State University found that newborns whose mothers endured abuse during pregnancy were more easily upset, avoided physical contact and had trouble experiencing enjoyment.

1Drinking Alcohol

Alcohol during pregnancy can have devastating effects on your baby and should be avoided completely. No known levels of alcohol have been proven safe during pregnancy.

The development of the baby is so complex and such important changes are happening at each stage. Alcohol consumption could have very different effects at each stage. Doctors have not yet identified, a “safe” time for mom’s to consume alcohol.

Children exposed to alcohol in the womb may have fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). The results of this could include learning disabilities, speech and language delays, abnormal facial features, small head size and more.

Some doctors recommend no alcohol during pregnancy while others say that small amounts of alcohol are okay. The research has not clarified when during pregnancy or how much alcohol is actually safe.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that pregnant women avoid it all together for the duration of their pregnancy.

Need an alternative for your girls’ night out? Try alcohol free wine or a fun new mock-tail. Or treat yourself to a smoothie or milkshake. You might find you enjoy that even more than the wine!

Sources: CDC, March of Dimes, Mayo Clinic, DailyMail

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