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Lifestyle and what to avoid during pregnancy

When you are pregnant, you need to make lifestyle changes to protect yourself and your baby.

Wash your hands to avoid illness

You're at a higher risk of illness during pregnancy. Becoming ill may affect your unborn baby's growth and development.

Washing your hands is one of the best ways to protect yourself from illness and viruses, such as CMV.

Wash your hands with soap and warm water, especially after:

  • going to the toilet
  • helping a child use the toilet
  • handling potties
  • changing a baby’s nappy
  • before and after preparing food
  • before you eat
  • after having contact with animals

How to clean your hands

Know what to avoid during pregnancy

Read our guides on things to avoid in pregnancy:

Avoid contact with sick people

Avoid coming into contact with people who are sick during your pregnancy.

If someone you live with becomes sick, reduce contact with them. Have someone else look after them if possible.

Always wash your hands after:

  • you have been in contact with someone who is sick
  • changing nappies
  • cleaning up after someone who is ill

Urgent advice: Contact your GP immediately if:

Medical treatments and vaccinations

Tell your GP, dentist or pharmacist if you're pregnant or think that you may be pregnant before using medicines, having treatment or getting a vaccine.

Vaccinations needed during pregnancy

Stop using contraception

Stop using contraception immediately if you become pregnant.

X-ray and CT scans

Tell your doctor if you need an x-ray or CT scan and you are pregnant or you think you may be pregnant.

They may cancel or postpone the test. This is because X-rays and CT scans use radiation.

If the test is absolutely necessary, your doctor will discuss the benefits and risks with you.

They may be able to modify the test to reduce the amount of radiation.

Things to take care with during pregnancy

Some things to be careful with during pregnancy include:

  • some physical activities
  • chemicals at work or in the home
  • exposure to direct sunlight
  • beauty products
  • beauty treatments
  • contact with animals


Staying active during pregnancy is important. But there are some activities and exercise to avoid.

These include:

  • skiing
  • scuba diving
  • kickboxing and other combat sports
  • horse riding
  • field sports
  • hot yoga

Safe exercise during pregnancy

Toxic chemicals to avoid

Tell your employer immediately if you work with chemicals or other workplace hazards. For example, physical shocks, noise and other hazards.

Workplace hazards in pregnancy -

Cleaning products

Being around cleaning products and paint has a low risk of harm to your unborn baby.

But it's best to avoid exposure to these chemicals between weeks 0 and 13 of pregnancy. The risk to your unborn child at this stage is higher.

When using cleaning products at home:

  • keep windows open
  • avoid breathing in fumes
  • wear rubber gloves

Never mix cleaning products together. This can create more fumes.

Avoid lead paint and lead paint dust, especially while pregnant. It's very poisonous. Lead paint is no longer sold in Ireland. It may still be found in older homes.


Your hormone levels change during pregnancy. This can cause skin problems. The sun can make skin problems worse.

Be careful about how much time you spend in the sun. Always wear sunscreen. Avoid tanning outside or using a sunbed.

Use broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen

Beauty products to avoid

Some beauty products contain chemicals that can be harmful during pregnancy.

During pregnancy avoid:

  • tanning pills
  • tanning injections
  • products containing retinol or salicylic acid
  • sunbeds
  • botox injections
  • saunas, jacuzzis and hot tubs
  • any spa treatments that involve lying on your back or applying pressure to your tummy

Always tell massage or spa therapists that you're pregnant before having a treatment.

Beauty treatments to take care with

During pregnancy, your skin can become more sensitive.

This means it is more common to have an allergic reaction to:

  • fake tanning creams
  • hair dye
  • nail polish

But these products have a very low risk of causing harm to you or your baby.


If you're pregnant and work as a beautician, always wear a mask and make sure there is plenty of fresh air where you work.

Massages or spa treatments

Always tell massage or spa therapists that you're pregnant before having a treatment.

Avoid any treatments that involve:

  • lying on your back
  • applying pressure to your tummy


Acupuncture and reflexology therapies are usually safe if they are done by a qualified practitioner.

Always make sure you go to a licensed clinic that uses sterile, single-use needles.

Tattoos and piercings

It's best to wait until after you give birth to get a tattoo or piercing.

During pregnancy your skin becomes more sensitive.

This means you're:

  • at a higher risk of infection
  • more likely to have a reaction to a tattoo or piercing
  • at risk of scarring

If you have a belly button piercing, remove it before your second trimester (13 weeks pregnant).

Skin stretching in later pregnancy can cause scarring.


Always wash your hands after you have been in contact with animals, even pets.

Avoid handling animal waste or cat litter boxes. This can put you at risk of getting infections like toxoplasmosis.

If you cannot avoid this:

Avoid close contact with animals that are giving birth. This can also increase your risk of getting an infection.

Page last reviewed: 14 July 2023
Next review due: 14 July 2026