By: Liz Bruckner Apr 04, 2011

What to avoid – and what not to worry about – during pregnancy

Pregnant women are easy targets for all sorts of advice when it comes to caring for their bump. But as it turns out, though some pregnancy lore is factual (like not smoking or drinking while pregnant, for example), other bits of conventional “wisdom” aren’t so wise after all. Here are a few of the many common beliefs about what’s safe and what isn’t during pregnancy, and expert advice on whether they hold any water.

Advice: “You shouldn’t fly past seven months.”

According to Myla Moretti, assistant director of Motherisk in Toronto, this is more about airlines not being prepared to deliver babies than anything else. That said, it’s a good idea to get the okay from your doctor before booking trips, and if you do have to fly, remember to drink water regularly and walk a few laps up and down the aisles to keep blood flowing through your body.

Advice: “You shouldn’t have any caffeine.”

Although too much caffeine isn’t healthy for pregnancy – studies show that high levels can delay conception and increase the chance of miscarriage – Moretti says moderate amounts are safe. To lower your risk of problems, keep your daily intake under 200 mg (two cups), and make sure you factor in any additional caffeine you may unknowingly consume from tea, pop and chocolate bars.

Advice: “The chemicals in nail polish and hair dye can harm your baby.”

“The best way to gauge how safe a product is is to test blood for chemicals after the product has been used,” says Moretti. Since multiple studies have looked at the impact of these products – and haven’t found measurable concentrations of chemicals in the bloodstream – negative side effects are very unlikely, she adds.

Advice: “You can’t eat soft cheese or sushi.”

While concerns over soft cheeses were legitimate in the past, since most companies now pasteurize – check the label to be certain – it’s not something pregnant women should fret over, says Moretti. As for sushi, as long as it’s well cooked – avoid raw fish as it may contain harmful parasites that could hurt you and baby – and bought from reputable sources, feel free to indulge.

Advice: “Lifting heavy objects could cause a miscarriage.”

While now’s not the time to enter the realm of Schwarzenegger, if you regularly worked out and lifted weights before your pregnancy, it’s safe to continue to do so within reason. Listen to your body, do what’s comfortable, and if something feels too heavy and you notice muscle strain, take it as a sign to back off.

Advice: “You shouldn’t change cat litter – ever.”

Though you (and your baby) risk contracting a dangerous infection called toxoplasmosis when changing cat litter, it’s not an inevitability. To avoid problems, clean feces out of the litter box immediately (leaving them for 24 hours or more allows parasites to become active), always wear gloves when cleaning the litter box, wash your hands before and after you’re done, and whenever possible, have someone else take on litter patrol.

Liz Bruckner is a freelance writer, editor and producer based in Peterborough, Ontario. During her 10+ years of writing, she's penned articles for Today's Parent, glow, Chatelaine, Flare, Best Health, House & Home, Canadian Family, Wedding Bells, as well as many of Canada's top newspapers and websites. When not writing, Liz is mothering her two precocious young boys, cleaning up drool from her oversize dog, and spending time with her all-together wonderful husband.