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

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Blogger Eva Amurri shares 5 Major Pregnancy No No's You Might Not Have Known
Photograph by Julia Dags

Note: This blog post was originally published on June 13th, 2016, but was updated on March 11th, 2020 to include additional information.

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 six 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!

Blogger Eva Amurri shares 5 Major Pregnancy No No's You Might Not Have Known
Photograph by Julia Dags

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)

©️ Marco Verch


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 into a 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 any 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 affect 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 Vitamin 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 contractions 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 consult with your doctor or midwife about essential oil usage while you’re pregnant to make sure the one you’d like to use is safe 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 during your first trimester,  a massage therapist won’t necessarily know you’re pregnant before you’re showing! 

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 the first trimester of my pregnancy with Major 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!


If you’re someone who normally pops ibuprofen for small aches and pains, let me put this to you as gently as possible:

You shouldn’t take ibuprofen when you’re pregnant. At all!

Ibuprofen can cause a myriad of extremely serious problems for both mother and baby, including miscarriage, hemorrhaging, low levels of amniotic fluid, and fetal kernicterus, which is a type of brain damage caused by a build-up of bilirubin in the brain.

The good news is that if you’re pregnant and need some headache relief, acetaminophen is A-OK to use instead.

Blogger Eva Amurri shares 5 Major Pregnancy No No's You Might Not Have Known
Photograph by Julia Dags

I hope this information makes you feel ready to tackle pregnancy!  And remember: 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 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!

Disclaimer: The content provided in this post is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding your health.

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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.

    06.13.16 Reply
  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…

    06.14.16 Reply
    • 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 🙂


      06.15.16 Reply
    • Cara E Lamont says:

      Have you tried planting lemongrass and using lemongrass oil and wild orange oil to keep mosquitoes away? A oil diffuser necklace or something similar might hold the oil longer than just rubbing it on your skin with a carrier oil.

      08.20.19 Reply
  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!

    06.30.16 Reply
  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

    07.03.16 Reply
  5. Carly says:

    Please please do a post on ppd!!!

    02.27.17 Reply
  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

    11.03.17 Reply
  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.

    03.30.18 Reply
    • Vivian P. says:

      Oh! Thank you so much on your advice on hibiscus..went shopping yesterday and got me 2 bottles of hibiscus drink as I was craving it so bad and the weather was so warm!!..btw am in my first trimester and knew nothing about hibiscus drinks and its effect..am so glad I came across this as I was about to head to the kitchen to pour me a glass…urghh!!!! Thanks xoxo

      02.25.20 Reply
  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.

    04.22.18 Reply
  9. ANna says:

    I’m wondering what the source is for your information. My understanding is that it is totally safe to get a prenatal massage during the first trimester as long as you have a therapist who is prenatal certified. They will be familiar with contraindicators.

    05.03.18 Reply
  10. It was good knowing this, iam planning to get pregnant in a month’s time, and I wanted to know if hibiscus is safe for me to drink as I really need more blood and I don’t really want beetroot because of its smell. I really want to appreciate your views to the all world for helping mothers to protect their babies from any attack. I say, thank you once again, may God bless you abundantly.

    06.10.18 Reply
  11. Bridget says:

    Just wondering if you can provide the source where you got the information about hibiscus tea causing contractions – it seems to be a big claim that a tea could cause you to go into labour ? I haven’t being able to find an science based baking for this claim online or any other sites that link hibiscus to being unsuitable for use during pregnancy.

    Many thanks,

    09.27.19 Reply
  12. Timothy says:

    My wife is now 32 weeks pregnant and I gave her hibiscus juice not knowing it is harmful and she is feeling a little fatigued. What should I do?

    10.16.19 Reply
  13. Ginger says:

    Just a pregnant woman reading this article while drinking hibiscus tea!!!

    06.10.20 Reply
  14. Becca says:

    Thank you so much for sharing. I hadn’t thought about excess vitamin c supplementation. Thankfully I wasn’t. I did however in my desperation to drink tea, settled on a celestial seasonings raspberry zinger tea. I figured it’s mostly fruit. But in my google search realized that hibiscus is the first ingredient listed. And I had drank 2 large cups earlier that day. I wondered why I was spotting a little on my pantyliner ? To think I was going to drink this routinely. Thank you for opening my eyes.

    08.15.20 Reply
  15. Andi says:

    This is very helpful! I’ve been drinking Hibiscus tea every day, I had no idea of its side effects. I’m a huge tea drinker, and I’ll definitely do more research. I’m early in my pregnancy and hopefully no harm done, no need to stress, and moving on! Thank you

    09.13.20 Reply
  16. Karungi scovia says:

    Thanks you so much for the awesome above mentioned for sure I have been using ibuprofen for my allergies and soaking hibiscus flowers in hot water knowing am increasing blood in my body

    09.20.20 Reply
  17. Susan chifundo Banda says:

    Thanks for sharing all this information. Just last night i was planning that i have to buy hibiscus juice so that i can boost my blood level i never knew that its not good am really greatful that i have had this information and i have been avoiding ginger tea yet am having a problem of vomiting i never thought that i can be a medication to my problem.

    10.19.20 Reply
  18. Henry says:

    Thanks for the advice mostly on hibiscus my wife was almost going to take it before this research!!!

    12.09.20 Reply
  19. Sat says:

    Thank you! I especially had no idea about hibiscus and I love all tea and was thinking about a refreshing hibiscus iced tea! Love you Queen

    05.19.21 Reply
  20. Vivacious Juliet Boateng says:

    I want to conceive essential oil can help me to get pregnant or hibiscus flower can help me please

    05.29.21 Reply
  21. Kathy says:

    I’ve had seven pregnancies, where I drank up to a gallon of red raspberry tea in which I used hibiscus to heavily flavor throughout the entire pregnancy. I not once noticed any adverse effects. The tea kept my calcium levels high and made for smooth labor. In my community most mammas (large families) do the same thing. Some wait till the last trimester to drink the tea since it’s more or less for labor prep. I found it really helped my calcium and iron levels so drank throughout.

    10.31.21 Reply
  22. Melody Joyce Ashburn says:

    I wish I knew about the vitamin C , hibiscus tea a couple days ago was diagnosed with covid19 and found out I was pregnant the doctors had me on a high dose of vitamin c I drank some hibiscus tea to help me breathe better unfortunately combination of them both caused a miscarriage I was devastated googling during next pregnancy what is safe what isn’t.

    01.11.22 Reply
    • Erin says:

      I am so sorry to hear that you experienced a miscarriage. As a midwife in practice for ten years, I can assure you that your tea and vitamin C combination did not cause your miscarriage. There is absolutely no significant data linking either of these practices (or the combination thereof) to miscarriage. However, we have substantial data to know that COVID-19 infection is causing higher incidence of miscarriage. But it is also very possible that your miscarriage would have occurred on its own, which is true for at least 1 in 4 to 1 in 5 of all pregnancies.

      I’m so sorry again for your loss and hope these words can give you some comfort that you did not cause your miscarriage to occur.

      Take good care,

      01.21.22 Reply
  23. Erin says:

    Hi Eva,
    I’m a certified nurse-midwife and a longtime fan of your website. However, I’m troubled by this foray into pregnancy “no-nos,” three of which are particularly overstated or not evidence-based. First, hibiscus tea in moderation is NOT going to cause premature contractions or labor. Quantities of herbal tea that could cause such effects would have to be on the order of several large strong cups every day over weeks, which is a counseling point, not a “about at all costs” one. Same goes for sage oil. And please, PLEASE, don’t make pregnant people fear getting a massage in first trimester! A massage therapist, especially one with experience/training in pregnancy massage, would know to avoid areas that could cause any concerns, and is a perfectly safe activity for first trimester.

    01.21.22 Reply
  24. Marta says:

    I am scares to death now as I was drinking some fruit teas like 3 cups a day from 8th to 12th weeks pregnancy and I didn’t know they contain hibiscus. One of them actually had it as a first ingriedient. I hope I haven’t done harm to my baby but ow I will completely stop to drink any tea. Did you ask doctor about side effects of tea with hibiscus on pregnancy?

    06.06.22 Reply
    • Don’t be scared! The fear is that it could send you into preterm labor, but sounds like you are fine! I’d just discontinue, as you already have

      06.06.22 Reply
  25. Tara says:

    Do you want to know something i nearly CHOKED on when i found out? BIOOIL which is SPECIFICALLY MARKETED FOR PREGNANT WOMEN – and says ON THE BOTTLE to be used from the first trimester has RETINYL PALMINATE in its ingredients list… I was horrified when i read this after using it for a week, and it is shocking how more people dont talk about this and BIOOIL gets away!

    02.15.23 Reply