During pregnancy, you are not only responsible for your own well being but for that of the life growing inside of you. You’ve been eating well, taking your vitamins, and avoiding alcohol. But what about all the household work that need to be done? Many chores require heavy lifting, using chemicals, and exposure to toxins, so it can be hard to know what is actually safe for you and your baby. Though many basic household tasks are safe for pregnant women, there are a few household chores that should be avoided. Ask your partner or a friend to help keep you and your baby safe.
Red: What to Avoid
- Avoid chemical-heavy cleaning products: Chemicals in harsh cleaning products have been linked to miscarriage and low birth weight. Opting for natural cleaning products such as vinegar, baking soda, and lemon for a safer alternative. If you must use the chemical products make sure you wear gloves, cover your mouth to avoid inhalation, and ensure the room is well ventilated.
- Avoid lead paint: If your home was built before 1978, lead may be present in the paint, pipes, and other items. Lead is highly toxic to unborn babies and young children. Any home remodeling, paint-removal, or wallpaper removal projects should be avoided in a home that may contain lead when young children or pregnant people are present. When cleaning in an older home, dusting and sweeping with a wet cloth can help contain lead dust particles more effectively than dry dusting. Regardless of pregnancy status, you should never try to remove lead paint yourself. Call the National Lead Information Center to learn what to do about lead in your home at 1-800-424-LEAD.
- Avoid pesticides: Pesticide use may be linked to developmental impairments in children. Avoid using pesticides in and around your home, including sprays, bug bombs, flea collars, and flea and tick medications.
- Avoid cleaning the litter box: Cat feces can contain a parasite that causes the infection toxoplasmosis which can cause vision loss, brain damage or can even be deadly to your developing baby. This parasite is more common in cats who hunt outdoors and eat prey; if you have an indoor-only cat, your risk of toxoplasmosis is much lower. If cleaning the litter box is unavoidable, wear disposable gloves and wash your hands thoroughly afterwards. Keep the litter box cleaned daily, as risk of transmission increases after 1-5 days.
Yellow: Use Caution with these Tasks
- Avoid paint fumes: If you’re planning to paint the baby’s room, choose a paint that is labeled “Low-VOC” or “water-based”, as these types of paints may release fewer harmful chemicals than other types of paint. Research shows that risk to the baby with exposure to these types of paint fumes may be low, but the exact risk is not known. Delegate this task when possible, and keep the house well ventilated.
- Be careful when carrying heavy loads: Your healthcare provider will provide recommendations on how much weight is safe to carry. As your belly grows each trimester and hormonal changes cause your joints to loosen up, carrying heavy loads can strain your back and increase your risk of injury. Be aware when carrying awkward or heavy objects, like furniture, large laundry baskets, or heavy buckets.
- Avoid standing for too long or bending repeatedly: Standing too long, especially during the later stages of pregnancy can contribute to low back discomfort and issues with circulation in the lower limbs. Repetitive strain from bending can also contribute to low back pain. Take your time completing repetitive movements and standing tasks, and take frequent breaks to avoid excess strain.
- Avoid climbing ladders: Let someone else clean out the gutters and change the lightbulbs. Your risk of falls increases as your center of mass changes during pregnancy, so don’t take the risk of falling on your belly from an elevated height.
Green: Helpful Resources
- Speak to your healthcare provider if your job requires use of chemicals or physical labor to be sure you’re taking the steps necessary to keep you and your baby safe.
- Exercise has been shown to be safe and effective for reducing the risk of injury and maintaining cardiovascular health during pregnancy. Speak to your healthcare provider if you plan to change your current level of physical activity.
- Compression stockings and abdominal support can help keep you comfortable during activity, especially during the later weeks of pregnancy. Your insurance might even cover it!
Ask For Help!
It is okay to ask for assistance with certain chores or tasks. Remember not to go overboard while doing chores and distribute your household tasks so that you are not trying to do too much at one time. Don’t be afraid to take breaks and ask for help when needed - asking for help might be essential in keeping you and your baby healthy during pregnancy!
Information provided in blogs should not be used as a substitute for medical care or consultation.
- “Employment Considerations During Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period.” American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Committee Opinion Number 733: April 2018. https://www.acog.org/clinical/clinical-guidance/committee-opinion/articles/2018/04/employment-considerations-during-pregnancy-and-the-postpartum-period
- “Is it safe to keep a cat during pregnancy?” American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Published March 2020. https://www.acog.org/womens-health/experts-and-stories/ask-acog/is-it-safe-to-keep-a-cat-during-pregnancy
- “Physical Activity and Exercise During Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period.” American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Committee Opinion Number 804: April 2020. Reaffirmed 2023. https://www.acog.org/clinical/clinical-guidance/committee-opinion/articles/2020/04/physical-activity-and-exercise-during-pregnancy-and-the-postpartum-period
- “Reducing Prenatal Exposure to Toxic Environmental Agents.” American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Committee Opinion Number 832: July 2021. https://www.acog.org/clinical/clinical-guidance/committee-opinion/articles/2021/07/reducing-prenatal-exposure-to-toxic-environmental-agents
“Things to avoid during pregnancy” Pregnancy Birth & Baby. Reviewed March 2021. https://www.pregnancybirthbaby.org.au/things-to-avoid-during-pregnancy
- "Toxic Chemicals: Steps to Stay Safer Before and During Pregnancy.” American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. FAQ 528: Updated October 2022. https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/toxic-chemicals-steps-to-stay-safer-before-and-during-pregnancy