Things to avoid during pregnancy

If you have just found out that you and your partner are expecting a baby, firstly congratulations and secondly, you are about to embark on a wonderful and life changing journey

The next nine months will bring about many changes and much consideration and planning.

The female body will evolve dramatically within this time and there are many nutritional and lifestyle changes that will be necessary to meet the needs of a growing healthy foetus.

Check in with your doctor:

First and foremost, it is important to book an appointment with your doctor to do a confirmatory pregnancy blood HCG test. Once confirmed, you can have further discussions with doctor about the necessary next steps, discuss and review any current medications, discuss your intended birthing plans and any lifestyle changes that you may want/need to make.

Diet & lifestyle:

Diet - Ideally in the lead up to your pregnancy, both yourself and your partner would have reviewed your nutritional intake, diet, exercise regime and other lifestyle factors.
For women, during pregnancy it is pivotal to be mindful of your diet and be aware of what foods to incorporate into your diet, what vitamins and minerals to supplement with and what potentially harmful foods and toxins to avoid.1


For some women it may be necessary to take step back and re-evaluate any potential lifestyle stressors and to really nurture yourself and your growing baby. You and your partner are embarking on this journey together, so it is wonderful to have both mum and dad involved in the processes and journey. You may require more rest and increased sleep during the pregnancy and it is important to adhere to what you intuitively feel your body needs.

Two very important lifestyle modifications include smoking cessation and cutting out alcohol from your diet. Both of these are considered to be harmful for a developing foetus.

Smoking - increases your chances of pregnancy loss, increases the incidence of birth malformations such as cleft palate, as well as increases obstetric complications like pre-term birth and intra-uterine growth restriction.2

Alcohol – Alcohol consumed during pregnancy passes from the mother’s blood to the baby via the umbilical cord. Alcohol consumption during pregnancy can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, and a range of lifelong physical, behavioural, and intellectual disabilities, referred to as foetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs).3

Exercise - Women without medical complications or known contraindications should participate in regular aerobic and strength conditioning exercise during pregnancy. This will encourage maintaining a healthy weight during pregnancy and includes the benefits of physical and psychological well-being.4

Essential vitamins & supplements

Folic acid is a B group vitamin important for neural tube development. The neural tube forms the baby’s brain and spinal cord. Lack of folic acid can increase the risk of birth defects such as spina bifida. Folic acid can be sourced from your diet, however not in sufficient quantities needed throughout pregnancy. In the first few weeks of pregnancy, the neural tube has already begun to form, and for this reason it is important for your levels of folic acid to not only be high during pregnancy, but also before conception. The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) guidelines recommend that women of childbearing age take 0.5 mg of folic acid supplements daily for at least one month before pregnancy and three months into the pregnancy.5

Iodine mineral is important for female thyroid function and for foetal brain development. The National Health and Medical Research Council recommends that all women who are trying to conceive, pregnant or breastfeeding take an iodine supplement of 150 micrograms (μg) daily.6

Foods to avoid

There are guidelines put forward by the NHMRC for foods that should be avoided during pregnancy and these include:

Foods with an increased likelihood of containing listeria bacteria such as;

  • Soft cheeses (brie, camembert, ricotta, feta and blue cheese)
  • Cold/ processed meats
  • Pre-prepared salads, bean sprouts
  • Raw eggs
  • Alcohol – safest option is to avoid completely during pregnancy and breastfeeding
  • Fish that may contain high levels of mercury1

Common symptoms & experiences

There are a range of side effects that woman experience during pregnancy. Some of these can cause discomfort and if you have any concerns about any symptoms that you do experience, it would be best to check these with your doctor. Below is a list of some of the most common pregnancy side effects.

  • Morning sickness – is nausea with or without vomiting that can occur at any time of the day and is caused by pregnancy related hormonal changes.
  • Backache - Hormonal changes result in a softening up and loosening of the ligaments in the body during pregnancy, particularly in the pelvic region. This can put excessive strain on the pelvic joints and spine and commonly results in lower back pain.
  • Bladder and bowel problems - A healthy and well-balanced diet can help to counter common bowel and bladder challenges experienced during pregnancy.
  • Fatigue - Feeling more tired, hot and faint during pregnancy due to hormonal changes is also extremely common.7


  1. National Health and Medical Research Council. Healthy eating during pregnancy., available at: [last accessed October, 2017]
  2. Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.  Women and Smoking Available at:'s%20Health/Statement%20and%20guidelines/Clinical-Obstetrics/Women-and-Smoking-(C-Obs-53)-Review-November-2014.pdf?ext=.pdf [last accessed October, 2017]
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Alcohol use in pregnancy, available at: [last accessed October 2017].
  4. Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. Exercise during pregnancy, available at:'s%20Health/Statement%20and%20guidelines/Clinical-Obstetrics/Exercise-during-pregnancy-(C-Obs-62)-New-July-2016.pdf?ext=.pdf [last accessed October, 2017].
  5. National Health and Medical Research Council. Folic Acid supplement, available at: [Last accessed October, 2017]
  6. National Health and Medical Research Council. Iodine supplementation for pregnant and breastfeeding woman, available at: [last accessed October 2017]
  7. Pregnancy, birth and baby. Common discomforts during pregnancy, available at: [last accessed October, 2017]

Your pregnancy journey

Preparing for pregnancy

A good preconception plan to educate yourself about your fertility cycle and implementing recommended lifestyle changes optimises your chances of conceiving naturally.

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Monitoring ovulation

In order to pinpoint your fertile window, you need to be aware of the length of your menstrual cycle. The average length of menstruation is 28 days.

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During pregnancy

The female body will evolve dramatically within this time and there are many nutritional and lifestyle changes that will be necessary to meet the needs of a growing healthy foetus.

Read more >

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