Is Cleaning While Pregnant Safe?

Are any chores off-limits during pregnancy? Here's what is safe to keep cleaning while pregnant and what you should skip.

Mom Cleaning Bathroom
Photo: Africa Studio/Shutterstock

Sure, we might all dream of a "get out of cleaning while pregnant" card in exchange for the hard work of growing a human, but for the most part, cleaning during pregnancy is perfectly safe. That said, if you have certain pregnancy complications or limitations, you might need to cross a few household tasks off your to-do list, delegate them to someone else, or hire some help.

There are also a few basic precautions that can be helpful to take when you're cleaning when pregnant, such as avoiding inhaling fumes, wearing gloves whenever possible, and double-checking that any cleaners you are using are safe for pregnancy.

Here's a guide on what's safe to handle cleaning while pregnant and what you might want to consider skipping for now.

Is It Safe to Keep Cleaning While Pregnant?

In general, as with physical activity during pregnancy, most cleaning chores that you were doing regularly before your pregnancy will be fine to continue once you are pregnant. However, if there is ever a time to take a break and consider moving some chores off your plate, it's definitely during pregnancy.

There are also some special considerations and extra precautions you should take when it comes to your usual cleaning routine and household chores when you're pregnant. Here's a closer look at specific cleaning tasks and how to handle them safely during pregnancy.

Mopping and vacuuming

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 the increased weight of the uterus puts pressure on the nerve, and chores that require you to lean forward at an angle can worsen it.

"Sometimes [pregnant people] feel fine while performing the task but experience pain later," says Hope Ricciotti, M.D., associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive biology at Harvard Medical School in Boston and head of the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Biology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Not all pregnant people experience sciatica, but if it's something you are struggling with, you may need to offload strenuous floor scrubbing for now. Extra stretching, especially in your hips and lower back, can also help relieve sciatic pain.

Bathroom duty

Cleaning the bathroom usually involves using chemicals that pregnant people should avoid whenever possible. Leslie Reichert, author of The Joy of Green Cleaning, has a general rule: "If something smells harsh, stay away from it."

Consider making your own simple cleaners with inexpensive ingredients like white vinegar, lemon juice, and baking soda, so you know exactly what's in them. Just remember, however, that using "natural" cleaners doesn't always mean something is pregnancy safe, so always check with a health care provider to be on the safe side.

Changing the litter box

Changing a littler box is the one pregnancy chore that you should consider outsourcing if possible. That's because litter boxes can expose you to toxoplasmosis, a parasitic infection transmitted via cat feces that can be very dangerous to a fetus. If a pregnant person becomes infected, they may not have any symptoms, but their baby can get sick. Toxoplasmosis can also cause miscarriage or congenital disorders.

If you must do this chore, wear gloves and wash your hands thoroughly afterward.

Hanging curtains and cleaning ceiling fans

Activities that involve heights and a lot of climbing or reaching may become risky as your belly grows and your balance shifts. When you're pregnant, your growing uterus affects your center of gravity, which can make you more vulnerable to falls, Dr. Ricciotti explains.

For tasks that require climbing up step ladders, it may be best to wait until you have delivered or get help if it's a task that really can't wait. For high-up cleaning, extendable cleaning poles can help you reach ceiling fans and other nooks and crannies without climbing.

Doing laundry

Laundry pretty much always needs to be done, but if your doctor has advised you to avoid heavy lifting because of issues like preterm labor symptoms, placenta previa, or high blood pressure, you may need to make some accommodations. (A full laundry basket can weigh up to 20 pounds!)

If you're unable to do the heavy lifting involved with your current laundry routine, consider switching it up. Rolling laundry carts can help you avoid lifting heavy baskets and doing smaller loads of laundry more frequently can cut down on the weight of each load.

Of course, you could also enlist some help. If you have a partner or older children, pregnancy could offer an opportunity to brainstorm about a new laundry schedule that gets everyone involved. Or you might consider hiring a laundry service to outsource the chore entirely.

Tips for Cleaning While Pregnant

As you continue cleaning while pregnant or get more help around the house, it might be helpful to keep some additional safety tips in mind:

  • Read labels carefully. Certain products, like solvents (used in oven cleaners, paint thinners, and varnish removers, for example) are known to be harmful to developing babies and should have warning labels for pregnant people. 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, because the 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 no window in the room, 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.
  • Whip up your own pregnancy-safe homemade cleaners or try scrubbing with a solution of vinegar and water or baking soda.

The important thing to remember is that pregnancy is temporary. If things aren't perfectly clean and organized right now, that's OK. Prioritizing your health is more important than a tidy, sparkling clean house. Use this time to evaluate your cleaning routine not just for your pregnancy but also for after your baby arrives when your focus will inevitably shit to postpartum recovery and caring for a newborn.

Key Takeaways

In general, cleaning while pregnant is safe, provided you follow precautions like avoiding inhaling fumes, wearing gloves when possible, and using pregnancy-safe cleaning products. If you have an indoor cat, delegate cleaning the litter box. And if keeping up on the cleaning chores gets to be too much, don't be afraid to ask for help.

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