Most of us know that we can exercise during pregnancy, and understand we should probably give sushi a miss, but what about the rest of your regular routine? Here, experts answer the questions you might not even know to ask.Can I drink alcohol?
An Australian study of more than 2300 children found that those whose mums drank lightly (2–6 drinks a week) during pregnancy had fewer behavioural problems.* The keyword here is “lightly”. “Drop your alcohol intake three months before conception to flush toxins and be as healthy as you can,” says Professor William Ledger, from the School of Women’s and Children’s Health at the University of New South Wales.
The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) advises pregnant women not to drink alcohol, but is it worth declining a glass of Moët at a wedding? “One or two drinks, on one or two nights of the week, is reasonable – but no more,” warns Professor Ledger.Can I change the kitty litter?
Delegate this job to your partner. Cats host a parasite that causes toxoplas-mosis, an infection that can lead to everything from jaundice to congenital defects in unborn babies. If you must handle kitty litter, wear gloves and wash your hands carefully afterwards, recommends Professor Ledger. “Make sure you wash your hands after stroking and cuddling the cat, and don’t let it sleep on your bed,” he adds.Can I get a spray tan?
There’s no evidence to suggest that the active ingredient in fake tan,
dihydroxyacetone (DHA), a sugar molecule that’s been used in beauty products since the 1960s, poses any health risks, says Dr Louise Farrell,
vice-president of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. “The amount of absorption through skin is minimal,” she says.Can I go to the dentist?
A study by the University of Western Australia has linked gum disease with delayed conception – an average of seven months, compared to five months for women with healthy teeth.** Gum disease is a source of chronic infection and inflammation, explains Professor Ledger, which may enter the bloodstream and affect the foetus. It’s also not advisable to have major dental work and X-rays during pregnancy, so tick this off your to-do list before getting pregnant.
Can I take medication?
Certain over-the-counter (OTC) medications can interfere with ovulation, states Professor Ledger. “Strong anti-inflammatory drugs, like Voltaren, may stop you from getting pregnant,” he says. Both OTC and prescription drugs can also cause birth defects, so if you have a pre-existing medical condition, such as diabetes, epilepsy or depression, see your GP to ensure you’re popping the right pills. If you’re still in doubt, call MotherSafe on 1800 647 848.
Can I paint the baby's room
The effect of normal household paint use during pregnancy hasn’t been studied, but that doesn’t make it harmless, so DIY with caution. “Keep windows and doors open and use a fan to increase airflow,” advises Professor Ledger. Wear gloves and opt for paints labelled “low VOCs” [volatile organic compounds, which have been linked with cancer]. Until the 1970s, most house paints contained lead – which moves across the placenta easily – so if you need to strip your home of old paint, move out until it’s done.Can I have a pap smear?
You can and most definitely should, say the experts. “If a woman hasn’t had a pap smear in the two years before pregnancy, she should have one,”
confirms Dr Farrell. If you’ve missed your chance and are already pregnant, you can still have a pap smear – ideally before the 24-week mark. It won’t cause any problems with your pregnancy, but you can still expect a little spotting or minor bleeding afterwards.
Things to do before trying for a babyTrack your cycle
Stop taking the pill 2–3 months before you want to conceive, so you can watch for symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome (like irregular periods, excess body hair) or endometriosis (heavy periods, cramps during intercourse), which can cause infertility.Get vaccinated
Ask your doctor for a blood test to check your immunity to rubella (German measles) and varicella (chickenpox), as both diseases are dangerous for babies if you contract them during pregnancy. Being live vaccines, you can’t be given them once you’re pregnant. Parents and close family members should also get a booster shot for pertussis (whooping cough), which is at epidemic levels across the country.Down your supplements
One month before you plan to conceive, start taking a daily folic acid supplement (at least 400 micrograms), which helps prevent neural tube defects, and 150 micrograms of iodine, which is needed to produce thyroid hormones. And don’t forget your omega-3s – a 2012 British Medical Journal study has shown that they reduce the incidence of food allergies and eczema in babies.