Pregnancy is a time of excitement, but also new rules about what to eat, how to exercise and even what chores you can do at home. Our experts answer your questions about what's safe and what's not while you're carrying a baby.


Q. I have always included weights as part of my gym routine, but should I skip them now that I'm expecting?

A. Doula and antenatal exercise expert Gabrielle Targett says: Pregnancy is a time to maintain your strength and fitness, rather than build it up. It may be better to find a class that maintains your strength, tone and fitness (such as aqua fitness, fitball exercises, Pilates and yoga), rather than continue lifting weights. If you are motivated to exercise outside the gym, try walking and swimming.


Q. Can eating peanuts while pregnant increase my baby's risk of developing allergies?

A. Nutritionist Dr Joanna McMillan says: No. There's no evidence to show that eating or not eating peanuts makes a difference to a baby's risk of developing allergies, including to peanuts themselves. Excluding foods you yourself are allergic to or intolerant to, aim to eat as broad a range of foods as possible while pregnant.


Q. I love poached eggs as well as store-bought mayonnaise, but heard they're not safe to eat while pregnant. is this true?

A. Nutritionist Dr Joanna McMillan says: There is a very small risk of salmonella poisoning from raw or lightly cooked eggs. For this reason, the advice is to play it safe and only eat well-cooked eggs. For now, try scrambled eggs or omelettes instead of poached eggs. As for mayonnaise, supermarket mayonnaise is pasteurised and perfectly safe to eat, but avoid the homemade type made with raw eggs.

Stretch marks

Q. If possible, I would like to avoid getting stretch marks. Do the creams work?

A. GP Linda Calabresi says: Stretch marks are tiny tears in the underlying tissue of the skin. They occur when the skin is stretched beyond its capacity because of rapid weight gain. While genetics plays a role – you're more likely to get stretch marks if your mother had them – you can take steps to reduce your chances of getting them. Try not to gain too much weight, too quickly. Also, stay hydrated and eat a sensible, healthy diet. There is some evidence to suggest creams and oils may promote skin elasticity, but their value in preventing stretch marks is still controversial. Products that are recommended include vitamin E cream, cocoa butter and Bio-Oil.


Q. I'm 25 weeks pregnant and am worried that having sex will cause another miscarriage.

A. GP Dr Linda Calabresi says: If you're having a normal, healthy pregnancy, it is quite safe to have sex throughout every trimester. Understandably, you're anxious but your baby is well protected in his amniotic sac within the uterus. Having said that, if you've experienced any bleeding, had previous miscarriages or have a history of very early deliveries caused by an incompetent cervix, it's wise to seek the advice of your healthcare professional. There are also a number of conditions and situations where sex is best avoided because of the risk of bleeding or infection. These include placenta praevia, (when the placenta covers the opening of the uterus) and once your waters break.


Q. I've been told cats can carry harmful bacteria that can be problematic for unborn babies. Should I give my cat away?

A. Midwife Megan Baker says: A parasitic disease known as toxoplasmosis is carried in the faeces of cats. While the symptoms are mild, it may cause miscarriage, especially during the first trimester. However, the disease is rare and this outcome is rarer still. So your cat can stay, with a few precautions. You need to be extra careful when dealing with your cat's faeces. This means avoiding emptying the litter tray or, if you must do it, always wear rubber gloves. The parasite is also found in soil, so keep sandpits covered and wear gloves when gardening. You can also catch the disease through eating raw or undercooked foods, so wash chopping boards and utensils thoroughly, cook raw meat well and avoid unpasteurised milk.

Pregnancy Sickness

Q. My pregnancy sickness is severe. What medicines can I take and are they safe?

A. Obstetrician Dr Vijay Roach says: Taking medicine in early pregnancy is a common source of anxiety because of the potential impact on a developing foetus. However, a number of medications are safe to take when you're pregnant and may help with the nausea, so ask your doctor about them. If nausea or vomiting is extreme – a condition called hyperemesis gravidarum – you may need hospital admission and intravenous hydration.

Keep you and your baby as healthy as possible during your pregnancy by following a few rules.


Q. Should I take an iodine supplement in pregnancy?

A. Nutritionist Dr Joanna McMillan says: Many Australians are low in the mineral iodine, which is important in pregnancy for normal development of the baby's brain and nervous system. Since most pregnancy supplements now contain iodine, there's no need to take a specific iodine supplement. I recommend you take a pregnancy-specific supplement and continue to use this while breastfeeding.


Q. Am I still able to have the occasional glass of wine now that I'm pregnant?

A. Midwife Megan Baker says: Although you're bound to hear plenty of differing opinions regarding whether it's safe to drink alcohol while you're carrying a baby, it's best to avoid drinking any alcohol at all. The most up-to-date advice from the National Health and Medical Research Council is that women should not drink while they are pregnant or breastfeeding because there is no known safe limit when it comes to alcohol and pregnancy. Alcohol crosses the placenta – from your bloodstream into your baby's bloodstream – so play it safe and choose mineral water and mocktails instead. l


Q. Is it true you should only lie on your side and not your back? I'm 16 weeks gone.

A. Midwife Megan Baker says: After about 24 weeks, lying flat on your back can be uncomfortable because the weight of the uterus on the major blood vessels can lead to dizziness or breathlessness. Sleeping on either side or slightly upright is the best option. While it's fine to lie flat at 16 weeks, try placing a pillow under your right hip to relieve pressure from your uterus.