You may hope that your doctor would pen a prescription for nine months of housekeeping services, but the truth is that it's fine for you to do everyday chores during pregnancy – as long as you take a few precautions. That said, if you have certain pregnancy complications or limitations (or if you just want to play the pregnancy card!), you might need to cross the following household tasks off your to-do list and either delegate them to someone else or hire some help.
Mopping and vacuuming can aggravate sciatica, a painful inflammation of the sciatic nerve that runs from the lower back down the entire leg. It's common during pregnancy because of weight gain and/or pressure of the uterus on the nerve, and chores that require you to lean forward at an angle can worsen it. "Sometimes women feel fine while performing the task but experience pain later," says Hope Ricciotti, M.D., an associate professor of Ob-Gyn at Harvard Medical School in Boston.
Cleaning the bathroom usually involves using chemicals that expectant moms shouldn't inhale. Leslie Reichert, author of The Joy of Green Cleaning (CI Publishing), has a general rule: "If something smells harsh, stay away from it." You can make your own green cleaners with inexpensive ingredients like white vinegar, lemon juice, and baking soda; or purchase safe products at shopgreencleaning.com.
Litter boxes can expose you to toxoplasmosis, a parasitic infection transmitted via cat feces that can be very dangerous to the fetus. If you must do this chore, wear gloves and wash your hands thoroughly afterward.
These and other similar tasks that require climbing become risky as your belly grows. "Pregnant women experience a change in their center of gravity that leaves them vulnerable to falls," Ricciotti explains
If you’re cleaning during pregnancy, follow these other safety tips:
Read labels carefully. Certain products, like solvents (used in oven cleaners, paint thinners, and varnish removers, for example) are known to be harmful for developing babies and should have warning labels for pregnant women. To be safe, stay away from anything labeled "toxic."
Don't use aerosol sprays, which are more easily inhaled.
Don't mix ammonia and bleach (this combination can produce toxic fumes).
Wear a mask and rubber gloves to keep cleaning products off your hands.
Keep the room where you're working well ventilated. If there's not a window in the room (like in some bathrooms) turn on a fan and leave the door open.
If you need to spray for pests, hire a professional and stay away from the house for a few hours after the job's done.
Buy "green" cleaning products, which tend to have more natural ingredients, or try scrubbing with a DIY solution of vinegar and water or baking soda.