17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Do's and Don'ts of Pregnancy

No, I'm not pregnant. I just have to start with that, or I'll be getting emails all night from the Tales girls. I have a friend who is though, for the first time, and she's asking me questions about pregnancy that I think it's good to get lots of opinions on. Like hair dye. Or fingernail polish. Or caffeine (in the cola way). Or painting a room. I didn't do any of those things (yes, no nail polish or coke!) while I was pregnant with my son. I was pretty hard-core that first time around, but I'm thinking that if/when I do it again, I may not be quite as uptight about the hair and nails thing. It could be that I'm older and lazier, or maybe I'll change my mind if pregnancy comes my way again. But I'd like to hear what you think - so what are your thoughts on the following during pregnancy?
  • Dying your hair

  • Painting your nails

  • Painting your house

  • Eating hot dogs

  • Eating food from carts on the street (ie NYC or carnival food)

  • Anything else chemically related that I'm not thinking of...

Please, chime in!


  • Maybe you don't really want a dad's opionion, but my wife is in her 30th week with our first, and here is where we drew the line:

    Dying your hair: no. But this wasn't one she liked to do anyway, so it wasn't a big sacrifice.

    Painting nails: yes. But again, she's not a weekly nail painter, so it isn't as big of a deal.

    Painting the house: unknown. We never had to face that one. It never occurred to me there might be trouble there, so we'd have to do more research (like I said, it's our first... <grin>).

    Eating hot dogs/carts on the street/carnival: yes. If these were things we did normally, we continued to do them. We decided if she would have eaten them before pregnancy, she ate them during pregnancy. (Not including the forbidden fish-types of food.)

    I dunno. We weren't particularly strict. Especially with food.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 9/21/2006 01:52:00 PM  

  • I'm sure this is a lighthearted post, and I don't mean to be rude, but talk to your doctor or an experienced medical professional about what you should do and shouldn't do during pregnancy, right?
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 9/21/2006 02:05:00 PM  

  • The only think I see missing is that she should avoid cleaning litterboxes. Cat feces (especially outdoor cats) often carry a bacteria that can cause birth defects. It is also very difficult to tell if a human is infected with the bacteria.
    (They don't need to get rid of cats, but she should avoid changing the litter, or if she must she should wear gloves and wash her hands thouroughly)
    posted by Blogger Starfoxy at 9/21/2006 02:20:00 PM  

  • ANON-Yes, you should see your doctor. But sometimes, personal experience is good to hear.

    Here's my take:

    I'm still debating whether to highlight my hair again (needs it badly) and I'm 20 weeks pregnant with #4. No answer there, yet. I heard the only reason people suggest not doing it is because the color won't take because of hormones. I could be totally wrong here, though.

    Painting my nails? Every week.

    Painting my house? Only if it's well-ventilated and you take a break.

    Hot dogs?!?!? Are you kidding me? I had a corn dog for lunch...

    Carts on street...don't have 'em here so I wouldn't know...

    Here are the things I DO stay away from when pregnant:

    Brie (cheese)
    Homemade Ceasar's Salad Dressing(basically anything raw)
    Aspartame (includes Diet soda, light yogurt and other things)
    Caffiene (except chocolate)
    Anything that would harm me even if I wasn't pregnant (ummm....duh....)
    Working in the soil and if I do, I wash, wash, wash, wash.
    And just like Starfoxy said, stay away from CAT LITTER. Away. don't touch. Make DH do it. I do.
    posted by Blogger Cheryl at 9/21/2006 02:45:00 PM  

  • Painting is NOT safe during pregnancy.

    You might be so fat and uncoordinated that you will fall off the bottom step of the ladder, planting your foot in a tray of paint, which will then flip in the air and land face down on your wheat carpet, leaving a permanent tangerine-colored stain.

    Ask me how I know this.

    Julie M. Smith
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 9/21/2006 02:52:00 PM  

  • anon, these are the topics that doctors are sometimes wishy washy on, thus catlitter is not on the list b/c it's a definite NO.

    I drank coca cola every day I was pregnant. I would not eat a hotdog. I am sure I painted my nails. I am pretty sure I dyed my hair and it was only after the dye was applied that I remembered that maybe I shouldn't have done that. woops. I would not paint my house while pregnant. I would eat food that was fried (ie carnival food), but not processed like hotdogs.

    So far no birth defects that I have noticed...
    posted by Blogger Kage at 9/21/2006 02:54:00 PM  

  • My hairdresser said there is nothing wrong with dying your hair while pregnant. It's not like the dye is not absorbed in the blood stream. What might bother someone, would be the odor. I'd make sure the area was well ventilated.

    Again, with the nail polish, are you supposed to be absorbing the polish into your blood stream? What's the thinking behind this one?

    I would think any product that could put off a strong, irritating, odor should be avoided. (i.e. some bathroom cleaners, especially the one with the "X" ... can't think of the name).

    The cat litter box is definately a BIG nO-nO.
    posted by Anonymous Dorice at 9/21/2006 03:01:00 PM  

  • Julie M., I'm laughing my head off here. As I first started reading your comment, I was worried I was going to end up offended ("You might be so fat...") but instead I was entertained. :-) I think you need to write a whole "Ask me how I know" post.
    posted by Blogger marian at 9/21/2006 03:04:00 PM  

  • I think my thinking with the nail polish was actually the nail polish REMOVER that I didn't want to be using - ie if I painted my nails, i'd probably have to remove it at some point. I say I THINK that's what I was thinking, because I can't really remember now...
    posted by Blogger marian at 9/21/2006 03:05:00 PM  

  • Because I read a lot about the dangers of eating hot dogs while pregnant, I avoided them entirely. Knowing I shouldn't have them, I craved them every day of my last trimester. Because of the warnings about foodborne illnesses from uncooked deli meats, the only subs I had were from Quizno's since they heat their meat.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 9/21/2006 03:11:00 PM  

  • Hair dye - didn't do it but hadn't done it for forever anyway. Though I would have used a vegetable based dye if I had.

    Nails - For sure. I especially like to get a mani/pedi a day or so before going into labor. Through all that ugly pain, at least my toes were cute. And I rarely use nail polish remover - I just wait for it to wear off naturally. Yes, I am white trash like that.

    House paint - I painted the baby's room a couple weekends before she was born. The fumes were pretty bad- that is when I though - should I really be doing this? I wonder if it matters at what point in the pregnancy you are inhaling such fumes - is it more dangerous during a specific time when the baby's brain functions are developing? This would go for cleaners and nail polish removers too I guess.

    hot dogs- I like 'em. But I try not to eat them very much- pregnant or not. If you don't get listeria, then the nitrates and nitrites will kill you.

    street cart food - I am a sucker for this stuff. Can't remember what I did while pregnant. I am sure I wasn't able to resist. I do know that during my first pregnancy I did not eat any deli meat- for the reason linked to above (I am not sure quiznos is any better - I have never had one where the meat was "steaming hot"). During my second, I think I was less strict but was still wary-especially with NYC delis- they can be sketchy.

    Caffeine and Aspartame, and other fake sugars- absolutely none with the first baby. Not quite so strict with the second but really tried to stay away, but I have the same opinions about how caffeine and fake sugars affect the body when I am not pregnant as well. It doesn't mean I am always able to stay away from it though.

    I also was was completely drug free - meaning over the counter cold medicine, asprin, ibuprofen, etc for months before I got pregnant and during my whole first pregnancy. I know I was a little crazy, but it made my body feel healthy and clean and I liked that. Again, with my second I wasn't as strict- just cautious.
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 9/21/2006 03:27:00 PM  

  • I guess the turkey sandwiches I had consistently during my first trimester with poopey, from a deli that closed down (I was devestated) was a BAD idea...

    And I remained pretty drug free with both pregnancies although I am pretty sure I was taking prescription anti-histamines until I knew I was preggers. My doctors advised me these were category B drugs and thus "safe" for pregnancy even though nobody is going to test any drug on a pregnant woman just to see what happens.

    I also had amox. for a nasty sinus infection at about week 38 with pukey.

    carrie, I thought you were a fan of fake sugar? I seem to remember some zuchhcchchchini muffins that you were pretty excited about b/c of some fake sugar.
    posted by Blogger Kage at 9/21/2006 03:49:00 PM  

  • I had two different doctors while pregnant and both said that I could dye my hair once I hit 20 weeks. And believe me, I was in the salon the second 20 weeks came along.

    Most people seem to say that nail polish was safe, and I agree. I too was drug free, but I'm pretty sure you can take tylenol safely during pregnancy.

    Hot dogs and deli meat... don't really eat that stuff. The only food my DR warned me about was sushi (or anything undercooked). Most cheeses (feta & blue) are pasturized now... at least in the grocery store. Just read the ingredients to make sure.

    Once I cleaned my house top to bottom and then realized that the whole place smelled like bleach from the clorox I had used. I've heard to use rubber gloves when cleaning. I just opened all the windows and took a really long walk.

    I think you can drive yourself crazy with all this kinda stuff while preggers. It can make you really paranoid. Just listen to your gut if you're conflicted. The most important thing is to make sure you have peace of mind.
    posted by Blogger Beth at 9/21/2006 04:41:00 PM  

  • Dying your hair - old dyes were bad, nowadays its ok.
    Painting - old paint (or current oil based paint) was bad, new latex paint is ok.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 9/21/2006 04:48:00 PM  

  • Everything on that list is OK. I did all of them.

    Do NOT eat any fish that may contain mercury, these are the larger ones, including tuna. A little is OK, but not a ton.

    I have never heard anyone freak out over nail polish.
    posted by Blogger The Wiz at 9/21/2006 06:28:00 PM  

  • I second The Wiz- I did all of them with #2 and #3, and both are happy, healthy babies. With my first, I was neurotic about NOTHING bad entering my body- no caffeine, no soda, no sugar, no preservative, no paint, no dye, no nothing. Didn't seem to make a difference.

    If you are going to paint, it's the fumes that are the problem (called volatile organic compounds)- but Home Depot makes a Lov/VOC paint especially for kids rooms, and it smells almost not at all. And it's good for repelling crayon and other goodies later.

    With #3, I developed a serious Coca Cola (reg, not diet) habit- mostly because it calmed my tummy- and she came out almost 9 pounds, healthy as a big baby can be...
    posted by Anonymous tracy m at 9/21/2006 06:57:00 PM  

  • Great post, Marian.

    With #1 I was pretty good - no caffeine (hardly any soda anyway), no hair dye. The ONE thing I was devestated to live without was a big rare bloody steak. That was the FIRST thing I asked my doctor - DH thought that was pretty funny. About a week before I delivered I indulged in a medium rare steak and that helped. I accidently ate seared ahi tuna when about 10 weeks prego and realized at the end of the meal I shouldn't have eaten that. Maybe that's why DS talks about fish eating him in his nightmares?

    I also did mani/pedi's regularly through both pregnancies. I dyed my hair after the first trimester with #2.

    And honestly, I can't remember much else because I was so fat and tired and over being pregnant that time has faded all of my "is this OK to do while pregnant?" memories/questions.
    posted by Blogger chloe at 9/21/2006 07:17:00 PM  

  • Carrie, I am totally white trash with you on letting your polish wear off naturally. We'll hang out in our trailer with the sofa in the front yard together :)
    posted by Blogger chloe at 9/21/2006 07:18:00 PM  

  • I am 20 weeks prego right now with #2 and just had my highlights updated and roots covered a couple days ago. Most highlights/lowlights are okay and dye is usually fine unless it has a lot of peroxide in it (fumes are probably bad, I guess). With #1, I had my hair done also and she is perfectly healthy.

    Also had a pedicure at about 9 weeks prego and everything is still fine. I have heard that some nail polish (i.e. OPI) has lead in it or something so maybe that is the problem.

    Other than that, don't eat hot dogs or sushi so no problems there. Do drink Diet Coke but switched to Caffeine Free mostly. Occassionally, I will have a regular Diet Coke but again I heard that you could have 1 or 2 a day because the caffeine content isn't that high. Coffee drinkers are allowed 1 cup a day, I believe.
    posted by Blogger Elise at 9/21/2006 09:23:00 PM  

  • Do NOT eat any fish that may contain mercury, these are the larger ones, including tuna. A little is OK, but not a ton.

    Actually, the latest on this is that pregnant women shouldn't eat tuna at all. I read that just a week or so ago. FWIW....
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 9/21/2006 10:52:00 PM  

  • So I heard that it was only before 20 weeks that you weren't supposed to dye your hair. Although, I didn't know I was pregnant with out second(we weren't trying) and I highlighted my hair at 3 weeks pregnant and so far no issues (she is only 2 weeks and 2 days old).

    The only reason I avoided Caffine during my pregnancy's was they made my babies go nuts. As in they wouldn't let me sleep at night because of all the kicking. That and it made me puke my first trimester.

    I painted our room when I was 6 months pregnant with our first. The fumes made me sick if I stayed in the room too long, but I don't think they had an adverse affect on the baby.

    I see no problem with painting your nails. I don't know what the issue would be. Except you squish the baby (and all the other organs in there) when your 8 months pregnant and try to paint your toes one last time.

    I didn't know there was anything wrong with hot dogs pregnant or not. We eat corndogs practically every day.

    My doctor basically told me that as a pregnant women you really don't have any more restrictions than someone who is really taking care of themselves. In his opinion no one should be eating raw sushi, raw eggs, uncooked deli meat, or have cat litter in the house at all.
    posted by Blogger Trivial Mom at 9/21/2006 11:43:00 PM  

  • I'm pretty laid back about this stuff--especially because my first OB was. The thing with checking with a doctor is...every doctor will tell you something different about these types of things. Nail polish, cleaning products, hotdogs, etc. My doctor basically said don't go downhill skiing. My friend's doctor wouldn't let her touch a bottle of 409 or go near a flight of stairs. I would say the ones doctors are consistent on would be--easy on the fish (some are no no's), high risk physical activites, and cat litter boxes. The rest I would say just do in moderation.
    posted by Blogger Katie at 9/22/2006 06:12:00 AM  

  • I agree that moderation with most things works well and if you concentrate so much on not having something specific, then that's all you want. I had terrible morning sickness with my first and my doctor's office preg. nurse actually told me to try to eat a can of tuna EVERYDAY! I thought that was funny because, first of all, I had read that you're supposed to limit your tuna intake because of the mercury and, secondly, I couldn't even keep down solid food...there was no way on this green earth that I could keep down a can of tuna everyday!
    posted by Anonymous Eskinose Kisses at 9/22/2006 09:42:00 AM  

  • Veggie corn dogs were a staple during my pregnancy - it's all about the breading anyway. I did eat some lunch meat- because I was craving miracle whip like crazy and eating it straight out of the jar was a little gross, so I HAD to have turkey sandwiches.
    I had my hair dyed twice, but not during the first trimester. Highlights are totally okay, and my stylist ordered a 'gentler' hair dye for me since she knew I was pregnant.
    I'm just now getting around to painting my baby's room (almost 2 months old.)
    I stopped the caffeine only when my swelling got so bad that my doctor said I shouldn't have any because it would make it worse.
    DS was premature (by 3 days) but weighed almost 7 pounds and is now healthy as a horse and eats like a champion.
    P.S. - Dog litter is totally okay :)
    posted by Blogger VirtualM at 9/22/2006 11:02:00 AM  

  • So the only analgesic I can take while pregant is the one that hasn't worked on me since high school? I pray I'm not the type to get headaches!

    As I heard it, canned tuna is okay in moderation because the fish that they can are the smaller ones who haven't absorbed (or whatever the issue is) as much mercury as the big fish used for tuna steak.

    I can't believe that doctor is totally against sushi and cat litter. The Japanese have been eating sushi for hundreds of years and, like so many other foods, so long as it is fresh and prepared properly there's no problem. Also wasabi (the green stuff) is anti-bacterial. (According to my students but as I was teaching ESL in Japan, I'm inclined to take their word.) As for the no cat litter, that's basically saying that no one should have pet cats, period. It sounds to me like this doctor may be over-generalizing his personal preferences. (No sushi?? Aww man, don't make me give up my sushi!)
    posted by Anonymous Proud Daughter of Eve at 9/22/2006 01:57:00 PM  

  • There's something odd about the way pregnant women obsess about unproven "risks" like hair dye and nail polish, or abstain from any medications at all throughout their entire pregnancy, but once labor hits, they'll take anything and everything.

    Just making an observation.....
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 9/22/2006 02:35:00 PM  

  • Anonymous- that is actually rather not true, and quite a big leap. This list are all things that doctors have advised women to avoid while these same doctors have assured women over and over that most of the painkillers used during delivery do not affect or endanger the baby in any way. Certainly not everyone agrees with the doctors, LaMaze and other classes that promote drug and intervention free delivery say that it is best for the mother and the baby. Also, by the time delivery rolls around you won't be risking a neural tube defect by getting an epidural.

    Also, I wanted to say that all any of this can do is reduce your risk- not eliminate it. Even mothers that do everything perfectly will still have miscarriages and disabled or unhealthy babies. Too many mothers needlessly blame themselves.
    posted by Blogger Starfoxy at 9/22/2006 03:15:00 PM  

  • ey Kage,

    I think I remember those sugar-free muffins. It was right after Splenda came out and I thought I would give it a try because it was actually made from real sugar. They were the first and last ones of their kind because soon after I decided I didn't like that "sugar" either because it was too "altered" for my comfort. Good memory though.

    And I forgot about all those turkey sandwiches you ate. And you reminded me that I also had a super bad sinus infection with pumpkin that I had to resort to antibiotics to clear up before her birth. That was not fun.

    "Also, I wanted to say that all any of this can do is reduce your risk- not eliminate it. Even mothers that do everything perfectly will still have miscarriages and disabled or unhealthy babies. Too many mothers needlessly blame themselves."

    Thanks so much for including this last paragraph. Very important things to remember.

    I also thinkt this post is not only about ways to cut down risks, but also realizing that people view risks differently.

    At the very least, our pregnant readers will have some specific questions to ask at their next doctor visit (I always felt lame because I didn't know what to ask).
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 9/22/2006 04:16:00 PM  

  • Sushi in Japan is way different from sushi in the states, IMO!

    Cat litter is standard OB advice. You can have a cat, just don't do the litter box.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 9/22/2006 04:27:00 PM  

  • "ey, Kage"

    Apparently I am Canadian.
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 9/22/2006 04:34:00 PM  

  • i'm all for not letting a cat use a litter box. they really ought to learn to use the toilet.
    posted by Blogger brenbot at 9/22/2006 04:55:00 PM  

  • carrie-
    It's "eh" if you want to be Canadian.. :)

    Oh, and I just asked my hairdresser about the hair-dye thing and she said it's perms and waves you have to worry about, not the dye. Anything that changes the protein structure of the hair can be dangerous to the fetus. Dye is not...
    Just thought I'd pass that along...
    posted by Blogger Cheryl at 9/23/2006 07:48:00 PM  

  • Sorry I disappeared on this one, I go away for a couple of days and suddenly everyone is weighing in!

    This is exactly why I wanted to put this out to all of you - in the end, everyone has their own comfort level for what kinds of chemicals they will come in contact with when pregnant. Of course there are things that are big fat no-nos, and that's the kind of stuff doctors review with us, but this post is a reaffirmation for me that there's a big fat grey area in the middle. And when in doubt, as anon #1 says, ask your doctor of course.

    THANK YOU for all your thoughts, I'll be printing this out for my (completely computer-phobic) friend!
    posted by Blogger marian at 9/25/2006 11:29:00 AM  

  • I'm 7 months pregnant, and my doctor said the only thing I need to avoid is street drugs. I specifically asked about Diet Coke and he said, no problem, especially if it's in moderation.

    And I painted the nursery today, but I had help and the window was open and a fan was blowing. I think the first trimester is where a lot of the worries are.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 9/25/2006 11:38:00 PM  

  • If your cat doesn't go outside, your cat can't have toxoplasmosis - and that is what everyone is worried about with cat litter. It is absolutely ridiculous how many people worry about this one or think they have to get rid of their cat - or actually kick them outside, where their risk of getting toxo is higher!

    If your cat was an outdoor cat, it isn't too late to make them an indoor cat.

    You can also have your cat tested for toxoplasmosis - if they have antibodies, they can't get it again. The same goes for people - if you had it before and have antibodies, you can't get it again.

    Also keep in mind that you are more likely to get toxo from bad meat, infected soil in your garden, etc. This is not "the cat disease".
    posted by Blogger Anne at 6/01/2007 06:48:00 PM  

  • hey i'm a hairstylist and here are the facts.

    hair color (dye) isn't going to hurt your baby unless you drink it. or inject it in some way. the smell can definately make you sicky though. bleach is a different ball game and since most people highlight their hair with bleach, just know that it is a stronger formula with higher amounts of ammonia. however, normally it is not put directly onto your scalp and therefore isn't really that much of a threat.

    nail polish is about the same, just the smell unless you are completely drowning daily in it. the one thing that can have dramatic effects on your child is most any kind of fake nail. like acrylics. the fumes and particles can cause respiratory problems for your baby as well as make him/her much smaller physically. not good for babies.

    hope this was insightful,
    posted by Blogger trina at 8/27/2007 10:25:00 AM  

  • Thank you Anne...a person is much more likely to get toxoplasmosis in the garden or sandbox than from their cat! Even the centers for disease control will suggest only that you do not become a new cat owner during the first trimester. If your cats are indoors, they are not going to be picking up the virus (unless you have a rodent problem inside and the cats eat them). If your cats are indoor/outdoor chances are they have already become immune to the virus and so have you. Considering that I spent half of my childhood catching and playing with barn cats and since then have never been without one as a pet, I am pretty sure I am super-immune. However, I have to admit I told my DH that I am not allowed to do it...LOL. If I have to carry this thing for nine months, the least he can do is take over litter duty for the time being!
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 7/08/2008 11:04:00 AM  

  • On Sushi: You can have california rolls, my doc said so. That's really the only sushi I like anyway.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 6/07/2011 09:00:00 PM  

  • Apparently, sushi is ok to have as long as it's prepared from frozen rather than from fresh as freezing process kills parasites. I.e. sushi from a supermarket should be ok as they would not risk by putting fresh raw fish on their shelves, so they are made from frozen.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 6/24/2012 03:01:00 PM  

  • I feel that the "don't" list is extreme for women in America. Sushi is not forbidden in Japan during pregnancy and they feel we are being rude for imposing this. Nail polish remover is about as toxic as half the cleaning products we use without gloves while pregnant. I am a hairdresser who inhales and touche hair color for a living, none of my co-workers multiple children have any issues and we are not told to quit our careers while pregnant. I think coloring your hair once every six weeks is fine and anyone getting foils its keeping the color off their scalp anyway. I think a lot of this crap is stupid and overly cautious.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 4/09/2014 03:21:00 PM  

  • I did get informed for many of these points.

    Hair dye: hair dyes at hairdressers are less strong than the pharmacy ones. The chemicals do not go in your head so it shouldnt affect the baby. Only reason i never did it is cause i hated the smell...

    painting: oil paint can be more toxic and is to be avoided. water paint is lighter and less toxic, especially if u ventilate well. however, if you can avoid it, id say do so.

    Hot dogs are cooked. Problem is more with deli, which is uncooked meat. From the moment the meat is cooked, no problem.

    Painting nails: never got informed but i seriously doubt it could do anything. did so while pregnant and never had a problem.

    The only thing u must watch for when pregnant is cat feces, raw meat and raw eggs (that can be present in homemade mayo or ceaser salad). Certain fish are to be avoided because of mercury, but i even started eating sushi again because apparently raw fish needs to be frozen to kill any possible bacteria. All restaurants are required to do so, so as long as you know it is fresh,previously frozen and that you opt for low mercury fresh... i wouldnt stress.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 8/29/2014 08:53:00 PM  

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