Things That Can Harm Your Unborn Baby

By Kay Ireland
Stay away from addictive substances when you're pregnant.
Stay away from addictive substances when you're pregnant.

When you're pregnant, anything you consume or experience, your unborn baby does as well. And while you might be looking forward to caring for your little one when she's born, you can start to tend your baby's needs now, before her eventual birthday. That's why it's so important to eat a healthy diet, stay away from harmful substances and behaviors, and do everything you can to give your baby the best start possible.

Cigarettes, Alcohol and Drugs

Addictive substances -- think nicotine, alcohol and drugs -- can all harm your unborn baby, warns the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Smoking cigarettes, for example, can reduce the amount of oxygen your little one receives and can increase the risk of prematurity and low birth weight. If you consume alcohol while pregnant, you increase your baby's risk of developmental delays, birth defects and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, a lifelong illness. If you're doing drugs while pregnant, your child could be born addicted to that drug, resulting in painful withdrawal symptoms as well as possible birth defects. The bottom line -- stay away from all addictive and harmful substances when pregnant. Even prescription drugs can harm your little one, so talk to your OB/GYN about any medication you're taking.

Certain Foods

Certain foods can be harmful to a fetus, particularly when they could pose a threat to your body by exposing it to bacteria and metals. Unpasteurized foods, like soft cheeses, juice and milk, along with raw eggs should be avoided. You should also abstain from raw fish or fish that contains high levels of mercury, like swordfish and king mackerel, warns


Breathing in certain chemicals can then pass those chemicals from your bloodstream to your little one. Pregnancy is not the time to repaint the nursery with oil- or latex-based paints on your own, since paint chemicals can be harmful. You should also avoid insecticides and weed killers, oven cleaner, paint strippers and aerosol-based spray cleaners. Always read product labels and stay away from any that caution against use by pregnant women.


While a soak in the hot tub might seem like just the ticket for your ailing muscles, stay away from overheating while pregnant. An increase in body temperature can be dangerous to your body, resulting in miscarriage and birth defects due to increased blood pressure, warns


Being overweight can mean a more dangerous pregnancy for you and your baby, according to the March of Dimes. When you're overweight, you have an increased risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, high blood pressure, gestational diabetes and preterm birth, including neonatal death after birth. If you want to become pregnant and are overweight, try losing the weight first. While you shouldn't actively try and lose weight while pregnant, it's important to talk to your doctor about diet and exercise for a healthier pregnancy.

About the Author

Kay Ireland specializes in health, fitness and lifestyle topics. She is a support worker in the neonatal intensive care and antepartum units of her local hospital and recently became a certified group fitness instructor.