Booze, Caffeine, Exercise: What's Really OK for Pregnancy?

CorbisWhen it comes to alcohol and pregnancy, the verdict is in (again): No amount of alcohol is safe for expecting women, according to new research published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

Scientists conducted studies on mice and found that any exposure to alcohol alters fetal brain development, particularly in the regions that control cognition, vision, hearing, touch, motor skills, and language. Study author Kelly Huffman, assistant professor of psychology at University of California, Riverside, says the findings are applicable to humans. "Any amount of alcohol during pregnancy or breastfeeding is unsafe for the baby," Huffman tells Yahoo Shine. "It's no different than pouring whiskey right into the baby's bottle."

Yet earlier this year a study published from BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, concluded that light drinking was not associated with behavioral or cognitive problems. "The data is pretty conflicting and it's impossible to sort through it all," Hilda Hutcherson, MD Clinical Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Columbia University Medical Center, tells Yahoo Shine. "But when it comes to alcohol, we don't really know how much is too much, so I tell my patients to avoid it completely."

Pregnant women often get contradictory information about more than just alcohol consumption. Between the scientific studies, mommy blogs, your doctor's advice, and of course, your own instincts, making informed decisions without second-guessing yourself isn't easy. Here, three more completely confusing do's and don'ts for expectant moms.

Caffeine:
Your morning latte gives you a much-needed kick, but according to the American Pregnancy Association, it can also cause birth defects and premature labor. That said, there have been no conclusive studies on humans to prove it and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) says that moderate caffeine consumption (less than 200 mg per day) does not appear to be a major contributing factor in miscarriage or preterm birth. Our suggestion: Order a Starbucks "short" size, which tends to contain 180 mg of caffeine.

Canned food: The American Pregnancy Association states that canned food such as chunk light tuna is safe to eat in moderation however, a National Workgroup for Safe Markets study showed that 92 percent of food in metal cans is contaminated with an estrogen-like chemical called bisphenol A (BPA), which can alter brain development and behavior before and after birth. "It's best to stay away entirely from canned food while pregnant," advises Huffman.

Exercise: Per the Mayo Clinic, exercise can prevent excess weight gain, boost mood, and improve sleep quality for expectant moms. But extreme exercise (ahem, pregnant weightlifters) may put pressure on the abdomen and even cause premature labor. The general rule of thumb: As long as a medical professional is monitoring the exercise regime and you don't take up an unfamiliar routine — which can increase the risk of injury — you can hit the gym in moderation.