5 Major Pregnancy No-No’s You Might Not Have Known



Well there it is, the thing that makes a Pregnant woman’s blood run cold, and her stomach do a sickening somersault: finding out about a hidden Pregnancy Danger that she hadn’t previously know about.  I’ve been there.  In fact, I was there quite a few times during my first Pregnancy, and I remember weeping with anxiety when I discovered that things I had been using or doing had put my baby at risk.  I felt shocked, helpless, and disappointed in myself, and wondered out loud why there weren’t more conversations about them.  I mean everyone knows about the Sushi-Alcohol-Cold Cuts-Coffee of it all (depending on your doctor of course– mine is a bit more relaxed about the above, but different strokes…), but what about a few other things that might not be so obvious? Today I’m sharing five Major Pregnancy No-No’s that I came across by chance education or experience in my own pregnancy journey.  I hope they make you or a loved one feel more knowledgeable and confident while navigating pregnancy!

belly close up

Retinol/Retin-A/Vitamin A

This substance is highly beneficial when it comes to anti-aging and skincare– but VERY dangerous when it comes to your pregnancy.  Retinol is a highly concentrated version of Vitamin A , which can cause serious birth defects.  Remember that anti-acne medication Accutane? It is composed mainly of a high concentration of Vitamin A, and you have to get pregnancy tested monthly if you’re using it before you can even pick up your prescription– that’s how dangerous it can be for pregnant Mamas! Needless to say, taking Vitamin A orally during your pregnancy is a definite No-No, but even using facial or body products that contain Retinol or Retin-A (derivatives of the vitamin) comes with high risks.  When I was newly pregnant with Marlowe I happened to ask my new Facialist about my current routine being safe for my pregnancy and I was shocked to hear that three of the products I was using contained Retinol, or Retinyl Palmitate (a version of Vitamin A).  Thankfully I disclosed my pregnancy to her, but I still shiver when I wonder what could have happened if I hadn’t (it was before three months), and had just continued with the products I had been using.  Please check the labels on your products, and read all the ingredients! (FYI, your Prenatal Vitamin contains the safe amount of vitamin A allowed for daily intake by pregnant or breastfeeding women)


Hibiscus Tea

This is a good story: I was about five months pregnant with Marlowe, and the weather had begun to get warm in Los Angeles.  I went in to Coffee Bean to pick up a decaffeinated iced tea for my walk, since they always have so many great flavors.  I settled on “Berries N Cream”– a nice ruby red cooler.  When I ordered it, the woman at the register took one look at my little belly and said “But you can’t have that! It has Hibiscus in it!”  I didn’t understand.  “Oh yeah,” she said, “Lots of herbal teas have Hibiscus blends in them and it’s not safe for pregnancy”.  In fifteen seconds, my world was rocked.  I had been drinking herbal teas like crazy! I thanked her profusely, and rushed home to research.  And it turned out she was right! Hibiscus tea can cause fluctuations in hormone levels which isn’t safe– especially in the First Trimester.  Hibiscus Tea can also have “emmenagogue effects” which stimulate menstruation or blood flow to the uterus.  This could cause bleeding, cramping, or even early labor!  It’s important to remember that herbal teas and supplements can be extremely powerful and medicinal– just because something is “herbal” or “natural” doesn’t mean that it’s safe for a pregnant woman! Keep your eye out for a red color in “decaf” herbal tea blends and always ask before drinking.


Excessive Vitamin C

Oftentimes in the First Trimester, we feel like crap and get sick so easily.   So what’s our first instinct? Load up on Vitamin C to keep that immune system powered up, right?  WRONG.  Too much supplemental Vitamin C can be harmful to you and your baby.  It’s been proven that large doses of supplemental Vitamin C can effect your estrogen levels, in addition to making your body extra acidic.  It can even cause your child to be born with a severe Vitamin C deficiency, also known as Scurvy.  The safe amount of Vitamin C is 80-85 mg a day, which is appropriately included in your prenatal vitamin.  It IS very safe, however, to eat Vitamic C-rich foods if you feel you are needing a little immunity boost.  Try noshing on Oranges, Broccoli, Dark Leafy Greens, Kiwi, or Bell Peppers instead.


Clary Sage Essential Oil

Clary Sage is a beneficial and wonderful essential oil to use aromatically or topically– UNLESS you’re pregnant.  Clary Sage essential oil has been used by Midwives for centuries as a method of starting labor in overdue women since it can stimulate contraction of the uterus.  I utilized diffused Clary Sage essential oil during my (extremely) long labor with Marlowe to help get things going!  Clearly if you are not ready to have your baby, it is not a good idea to use this oil! People sometimes underestimate the power of essential oils– but the truth of the matter is that pure essential oils can be extremely medicinal in value and should be taken seriously! Always ask your Doctor or Midwife about essential oil usage while you’re pregnant, or check online to make sure the one you’d like to use is amenable for pregnancy.


Therapeutic Massage During First Trimester

I don’t know about you, but I don’t know if I have ever needed a massage more in my life than during my First Trimester of pregnancy.  You just feel so achy, so yucky, so “blah”.  Not to mention stressed and tired! BUT, you have to hold out until at least 12 weeks, because it turns out that therapeutic massage in your First Trimester can have serious contraindications!  I think it’s important to mention this because, although massage therapists will all warn you against receiving a massage in your First Trimester,  a massage therapist won’t necessarily take one look at you before you’re showing and know that you’re expecting!  Therapeutic massage can release a lot of built up toxins, which can be dangerous for early pregnancy when your uterus is holding tight to new and delicate life.  I had actually booked a massage during my First Trimester of this pregnancy,  and realized last minute that I should tell them I was pregnant just in case they wanted to use a special technique on me or something.  They firmly told me that they didn’t recommend I even come in! To be honest, I was a little annoyed at the time– it seemed like kind of an overreaction to me.  I called my Doctor, who is super relaxed about so many pregnancy-related “warnings” (ie sushi, cold cuts, zero caffeine, etc) to just check and make sure the masseuse was being as ridiculous as I felt she was being.  Aaaaand NOPE.  He told me to absolutely hold off.  That was a big surprise and an eye-opener, and I’m so grateful to the massage place for having my best interests in mind and giving me a firm NO!



I hope the information above makes you feel ready to tackle pregnancy!  Remember that if you have been doing any of the above, DON’T PANIC like I did when I found out.  Just stop usage and give your Doc a little heads up.  The best thing you can be during your pregnancy is relaxed.  So take in the new info, and move forward.  A new dawn, a new day! Also, please remember that I am not a Doctor (obviously) so please navigate the above recommendations as such.  If you have any pressing questions about safety during pregnancy always ask your Doctor and accept his or her recommendations before mine!


Photographs by Anel Dzafic






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  1. Areth Tsouprake says:

    Wow this post is extremely helpful, even if I am not expecting. I will share this info and save this for the future. Thanks for always being so thoughtful and kind to your readers.

  2. nannick says:

    Thank you so much for filling us in, I had no idea!
    I’m not pregnant but sometimes my period is late, doesn’t come through very well. Am going to see if maybe hitting the hibiscus tea might be a safe option to speed it all up a little when nescessary. How come these things are not common knowledge!
    ps.not sure this is the right way to ask but I have been having issues keeping mosquitos at bay. I tried a blue lamp, have put up lots of citrussy plants around my bed (it does feel very holidayesque now) slathered self with minty and lavender oils but they’re still hunting me down! so any other non-toxic tips are very welcome…

    • Interesting! Let me know what you find w the Hibiscus! Oof, mosquitoes are a tough one. I have been using a bug spray this summer by California Baby that I like a lot so far. Might want to try that! It’s totally nontoxic and formulated for kids 🙂


  3. Analisa E. says:

    Oh man this is extremely helpful. Especially about the herbal tea…I work at Starbucks and all I used to drink was espresso or black tea, I just found out I am pregnant and was about to switch over to the hibiscus for the next 7 months. :/ Thanks for the heads up!

  4. Alessandra says:

    Hi Eva
    I also was unaware about vitamin A (or retinol) in beauty products and I’m having trouble finding some pregnancy safe makeup and beauty products. Are there any brands you use?
    Thanks so much

  5. Carly says:

    Please please do a post on ppd!!!

  6. Caitlin says:

    This is definitely a helpful list! I found your blog by looking up posts on miscarriage after having my own this summer. I learned by chance this week that green tea can be dangerous for pregnancy, and am now wondering if that had any effect on mine. I really do feel like green tea isn’t talked about enough in the list of things to avoid when pregnant! (I also, surprisingly, wasn’t aware of the dangers of cat litter until my first appointment, but we moved the box immediately after getting home from the doctor.)

    I look forward to reading more of your older pregnancy posts as we try to get pregnant again. <3

  7. Nadine Freeze says:

    Massages during any stage of pregnancy is safe providing you are being treated by an RMT that specializes in prenatal, postnatal and pregnancy massage. Its a specialized course. You should also always tell your RMT about any medical conditions especially pregnancy. Prenatal massages are relaxing and it focuses on the body being in alignment for the upcoming birth. It is very beneficial for treating back pain, thoracic outlet syndrome, heartburn, stretching ligaments. There is absolutely no reason why you should be uncomfortable in pregnancy when you can get a therapeutic prenatal massage. I have been treating pregnant mom’s for 11 years. I absolutely love it. I choose to specialize in it and my patients thank me every day. It’s such a rewarding job. There are some precautions that one should look for when booking a massage treatment. First off make sure the RMT specializes in it. Secondly ask about pregnancy bolsters they use…i have pregnancy bolsters pillows that focuses on the right side being lifted up a bit when lying on their backs. I also bolster under their knees to take the pressure off their lower backs while lying supine. When they lie on their sides I have a big leg supporting pillow plus the neck and back. There are specific pressure points that you avoid in the treatment until you are ready to put them into labour.

  8. Teresa says:

    This was great! Thank you. I do disagree with the first trimester massage thing though. I am a prenatal massage therapist, and I treat first trimester women in my practice without any hesitation or reservations because I have been trained specifically to do this work. It is incredibly beneficial to the moms for a number of reasons: 1. Massage helps to relieve early pregnancy fatigue, 2. New moms have a lot of anxiety, especially if they are keeping their pregnancy a secret, and they confide in me their excitement, fears, and ambivalence — a unique gift of this work, 3. A lot of moms get headaches in early pregnancy and massage is way better than taking something over the counter or trying to push through it, 4. Pregnancy can either exacerbate or make dormant existing chronic pain in the body, and for those in whom it exacerbates, these moms are particularly grateful for the pain relief… the list goes on.

    I would suggest rather than making this a one-size-fits-all no-no, encourage moms to do some research to find a certified prenatal massage therapist, ask how long they’ve been in practice and where did they study. We are trained very well.