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Find out what is off limits while pregnant, and what is not.
We’ve all been there: You’re pregnant—maybe for the first time—and you’re constantly consulting Google about whether or not you can do something. We’ve been there before, and we have the search results pages to prove it. Let us put your mind at ease—at least a little bit—with this roundup of answers to 13 of the most common questions expectant mothers type into the Google search bar.
Can I do hot yoga/CrossFit/run?
Many doctors say it’s just fine to work out at the level you’re used to—with modifications as needed as your belly grows, plus special attention to your hydration and exertion levels. Your joints may also be looser due to an increase in relaxing during pregnancy. The key to safe exercise? Listen to your body and don’t overdo it. That said, hot yoga’s extreme temps make it a no-no while pregnant, so try a regular or prenatal-specific yoga class instead.
Can I take Tylenol?
Yes. Tylenol (acetaminophen) is one of the only pain relievers that pregnant women can safely take. So if you have aches and pains that aren’t relieved by more natural remedies—like stretching, extra water, rest, a cold compress or heating pad—Tylenol is an option. Advil and aspirin are not recommended. Just be aware that different versions of Tylenol may have additional ingredients that are off-limits. And recent studies show paracetamol (another name for acetaminophen) may have negative effects in male infants or links to behavioral issues, though some experts have questioned the research methods or the causation indicated. The bottom line: When it comes to taking medication, don’t hesitate to double-check with your doc.
Can I get a massage?
Yes, do it! Massages help boost circulation, digestion, and relaxation. Plus it can relieve those pregnancy aches and pains. However, some spas will refuse to give massages to women in their first trimester due to the increased risk of miscarriage during that time (primarily for liability reasons). Run it by your doctor and look for a certified prenatal massage therapist.
Can I get a spray tan?
It’s probably safe, but best to skip, especially in the first trimester. The risk with spray tans lies mostly in inhaling the spray, so if you’re looking for some sun-safe color, try a lotion or cream you can apply without risking ingestion. There aren’t any studies on the safety of DHA, the active ingredient in sunless tanners that temporarily darkens the skin, but because it stays on the skin’s surface and very little, if any, would penetrate into the bloodstream, it’s generally thought to be safe. Just don’t forget to apply sunscreen when enjoying some sunshine!
Can I dye my hair?
Yes, you can dye your hair. The chemicals in most dyes are not toxic, but it’s questionable whether they penetrate the skin of the scalp. Plenty of hairdressers (and doctors) err on the side of caution and will suggest using techniques that keep dye away from the scalp, or recommend waiting until after the first trimester. Also be sure to request adequate ventilation and try not to breathe in fumes and sprays.
Can I whiten my teeth?
Doctors and dentists typically do not recommend professional whitening treatments during pregnancy. There isn’t any definitive research about whitening products and their potential effects, so while whitening toothpaste is generally thought to be safe, go ahead and skip strips, pens and trays while you’re expecting.
Can I use acne-fighting products?
Some topical treatments are okay, but many prescription medications are dangerous during pregnancy. Because retinoids and salicylic acid taken orally are not recommended, many doctors suggest skipping them in topical form, too. Consult your doctor here.
Can I sit in a hot tub or take a hot bath?
Hot tub—no. Hot bath—yes, as long as the water’s not too hot. You want to make sure your body temp doesn’t get too high, which can kick up your heart rate and affect your developing baby. So hot tubs are out. But because your upper body isn’t submerged as deeply in a bathtub, and the water cools down as you sit in it, a warm soak at home is all good. Baths can also help decrease swelling, stress and pregnancy insomnia.
Can I fly on a plane?
If you’re not at risk for going into labor or developing other complications, then yes. Typically, doctors will clear you to fly until 36 weeks. Drink lots of fluids and move your legs throughout the flight to prevent clots. Once you’re close to term, it’s a good idea to check airline rules and carry a doctor’s note that confirms your due date. Also, look up a hospital close to your destination in case of emergency.
Can I breastfeed?
Usually, it’s fine to continue breastfeeding while pregnant—and even eventually tandem-nurse your older child and your newborn. But in some cases of high-risk pregnancies, doctors will advise against breastfeeding to prevent uterine contractions that may lead to preterm labor. Your breasts and nipples can be very sensitive while pregnant, and your supply may dip toward the middle of pregnancy, so be aware of these changes and do what works best for you, your child, and your new baby.
Can I paint the nursery?
If possible, get someone else to take on this job. While typical household painting is probably safe because the levels of exposure are so low, there isn’t any definitive research on the subject. All paints emit some type of fumes, and it’s hard to know how much is too much. If you truly must (hello, nesting!), choose a water-based paint, make sure the space is well-ventilated, protect your skin and take plenty of breaks for fresh air.
Can I eat lunch meat and soft cheeses?
Yes and no. The concern here is listeria, which can be deadly for a developing baby. Most likely, your lunch meat is safe (after all, listeria-related food recalls in recent years have been for things like ice cream and veggies!). But because of the small chance of listeria, it’s best to heat up deli meats until they’re steaming before eating. With soft cheeses, you’ll get mixed messages: Some sources say if they’re pasteurized, they’re safe. Others say they’re only okay if heated all the way through, while still others say to avoid them entirely. Not sure which way to go? Talk to your doctor.
Can I drink caffeine?
Yes, in moderation. Most doctors recommend keeping your total caffeine consumption—that’s all coffee, tea, soft drinks, even chocolate—to under 200 milligrams per day. And remember that not all cups of coffee contain the same amount of caffeine, so check the label or nutrition facts.
A general disclaimer when it comes to these kinds of questions: Always check with your doctor, and don’t discount the value of a “gut check” as you figure out what you’re most comfortable with. What works for another mom-to-be might not be best for you personally.
For the most part, pregnant women can do almost everything a woman who isn’t pregnant can do. If you’re bummed you have to avoid something (and there will inevitably when you do), remember that you won’t be pregnant forever. Think about the special reason why you are making these lifestyle changes, and focus on what you CAN do!