If you're currently pregnant or have ever been pregnant you'll be more than aware of the ever-changing, seemingly endless list of things that you're told you should and shouldn't do whilst pregnant. You get told what to avoid but are rarely given any alternatives. So today I am taking a look at some of the things that are on the avoid list and am attempting to come up with some safer alternatives..
Experts don't know for sure how much alcohol is safe for you and your baby during pregnancy, which is why you're advised to cut it out completely whilst pregnant . Drinking alcohol whilst pregnant is dangerous because the alcohol crosses your placenta and your baby's developing liver can't process it as fast as your body can. For most people cutting out alcohol whilst pregnant isn't an issue, but for those that do find it a little more difficult or for those who just miss the taste of it, what are the alternatives?...
Well there is actually such a thing as alcohol-free 'alcohol', you can usually find a little section of these drinks within most big supermarkets (usually pretty close to the actual alcohol). But if none of the alcohol-free 'alcohol' takes your fancy.. then I highly recommend Mocktails! (cocktails without the alcohol). Again you can usually find these in the supermarkets, but I've also noticed that quite a few restaurants and bars now sell them too. They are so refreshing and completely guilt free! If you haven't tried a mocktail yet, I urge you too!
The government recommend that pregnant women should not exceed 200mg of caffeine a day. If you drink two cups of tea and a can of coke a day, you will have reached the 200mg limit. Things like coffee, chocolate (particularly plain chocolate) and of course energy-drinks such as Red Bull also contain high amounts of caffeine. But should you rule them out completely or is there an alternative?
Personally, I'm a big tea-lover and I would really struggle to give it up completely, so I choose decaf tea instead. I've heard that decaf tea still has a tiny (probably very tiny) amount of caffeine in, but that it is obviously a whole lot better than drinking caffeinated tea whilst pregnant. I personally tend to have one caffeinated tea in the morning (usually with my breakfast, to wake me up) and then usually two decaf cups of tea on top of that per day. I also usually drink a coke or pepsi, but limit this to one a day so that I stay under the recommended caffeine limit. If you're into coffee, you can buy decaf coffee from pretty much all supermarkets and there is also such a thing as decaffeinated coca cola too.
Smoking cigarettes whilst pregnant can increase the risk of your baby having a low birth weight, being born prematurely and/or with respiratory problems. Some women are able to quit smoking whilst pregnant but a lot of pregnant women really struggle to do this. This is sort of understandable as I'm pretty sure that if it was that easy to quit smoking many of those that do smoke would give it up pretty quickly.
I'm not a smoker myself, so this isn't really an area I can offer too much advice on, but it is one that I wanted to address as for a lot of pregnant women who are smokers, it's one of the toughest things that they are faced with giving up. So I wanted to see if there were any alternatives that were perhaps a little safer.. A little research into this tells me that things like nicotine patches, gums, and sprays can help prevent nicotine withdrawal, but that there's a small chance that nicotine replacement treatments could be harmful to your baby. So though this could be a safer alternative to smoking it is worth having a chat with your doctor before giving them a try. It is said by some that smoking e-cigarettes or 'vaping' is less harmful than tobacco cigarettes are for your unborn baby. Vaping gives you the sensation of smoking without the tobacco smoke, smell, stains, ash or tar and offers the option to choose between different flavours of menthol e-liquid. But as with the nicotine replacement products, it is worth discussing safe alternatives to smoking with either your midwife or Doctor. They should also be able to put you in touch with your local stop-smoking support scheme. Or if you'd rather, you can call the free and confidential NHS Pregnancy smoking helpline on 0800 169 9169.
4. Certain Cheeses
The advice to avoid certain soft cheeses is apparently because they are less acidic than hard cheeses and so contain more moisture, which means they can be an ideal environment for harmful bacteria, such as listeria, to grow in. If you're not familiar with what listeria is and the effects it could have on your and your unborn baby you should have a read about it over on the NHS website.
I have actually come across lots of conflicting advice about what types of cheese are safe to eat during pregnancy and which cheeses pregnant women should avoid before. And so I tend to stick to the NHS website when it comes to determining what I can and can't eat cheese-wise myself, as I personally trust this source the most. You can see a full list of the NHS's recommendations for pregnant women when it comes to safe cheeses plus alternatives (cheeses you are allowed to eat) here.
5. Bleach / Chemicals
It's advised that pregnant women should avoid using bleach and chemicals because inhaling harsh chemicals can be harmful to the unborn baby's developing and vulnerable immune system. So what is a safe alternative for pregnant women to go about cleaning their home?
My top advice for this is to get someone else to do it for you (i.e. the Hubby!) ;) But if you do have to do it yourself, than a safer alternative is to try natural cleaning product brands such as Method or Ecover. These natural cleaning brands are said to be safer because they don't leave behind any toxic or harmful fumes or residues because they do not contain hazardous ingredients thus making them a safer alternative.
If you're unsure about what sorts of other things you should be avoiding during pregnancy, it is advisable to speak to your midwife and/or doctor.