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Cleaning Advice

I was reflecting on the advice I often hear for pregnant women and housework.  There is nothing necessarily bad about doing housework while pregnant – no more than any other time – although pregnancy does cause some interesting challenges.  What I struggle with is that the advice is usually to have your partner pick up more of the workload.  I have a couple problems with the assumptions this advice makes.

1. That there is a partner (i.e. she isn’t single)…

2. Who is available (i.e. the partner isn’t deployed military, working long travel shifts or two jobs)….

3. And is able to pick up more of the household workload (i.e. not ill or disabled).

Granted, these concerns may not represent the majority of pregnant women, but women in these categories deserve real help in maintaining safety and health in their household as well – especially if hiring the job out isn’t an option.  So I did a bit of brainstorming and research to come up with the following tips for expectant mothers who cannot lessen their domestic workload.

Allergies:

Some chores are not necessarily difficult, but for a woman with allergies or asthma they can seem dangerous.  I think of a relative whose allergies are so bad, that dusting causes asthma exacerbation – something you definitely want to avoid while pregnant.  What can you do if you find your allergies are more sensitive (or bother you more) when pregnant?

Some potential solutions:

Use a “dusting” method that puts fewer allergens in the air, such as using a vacuum with a brush attachment or a microfiber cloth that traps the dust.  Prioritize the offending chores so they are done more frequently to prevent build-up of allergens – wipe down surfaces twice a week with a damp cloth, throw out foods more than once a week.  Break up the job into smaller parts – only dust one room a day, or mow the lawn on a different day than you do other yard chores.

Heavy Lifting:

I used to think a friend of mine was crazy that she moved her refrigerator every week to clean under it – then I had toddlers who spilled things and didn’t avoid the area around the refrigerator when they spilled. When we moved to the South even small drips on a floor could mean insects the next day. My point, different households have different timelines for how long the heavy-lifting chores can be put off.  For some women these types of tasks are harder during pregnancy because of the changed body-mechanics leading to back-aches. If you don’t want to wait until the end of the pregnancy to clean under your appliances or furniture – but you also don’t want to do anything that might risk a bad backache, you’ll need to find a way to get this work done.

Some potential solutions: 

Space heavy-lifting chores as far apart as possible.  Invite a friend or relative to help with the moving, in exchange for helping him/her. Experiment with different cleaning tools to see if you can get the “bad” parts without having to move the appliance.

Food Aversions:

Cleaning out the refrigerator can be a gross task, and even more gross if you start to feel nauseous at food smells.  But not cleaning out the refrigerator isn’t really a healthy option either.  What can you do?

Some potential solutions:

This is a job where more frequent cleaning makes it more tolerable.  Try getting into the habit of emptying left-overs on day two, and wiping down at least one shelf in the refrigerator each evening or morning (maybe while preparing a meal or while cleaning up). This will prevent it from becoming a big job, and will reduce the chances any particular food will be smelly enough to make you feel ill.

Cleaning Products:

I have trouble with the smells from cleaning products all the time – it is one of my migraine triggers.  Some women experience sensitivity to the smells while pregnant and others simply don’t want to risk any potential harm from being in contact with cleaning products.  What can you do?

Some potential solutions:

Try using alternative cleaning products.  These may be chemical free versions of cleaners or simple “home made” cleaners from vinegar and baking soda.  Try using a steam cleaner, which can give you a deep clean without any chemicals.  Experiment with different microfiber cloths to see if you do most of your cleaning with just water.  Bathroom and kitchen counters can be cleaned with hot soapy water.

Fatigue:

For some women, the only thing that will make household chores more difficult in pregnancy is fatigue.  But fatigue is enough to make a woman frustrated that her home doesn’t meet her standards anymore.  Some women begin to feel comfortable with a new set of cleaning priorities to make chores more manageable.  If you are not one of those women, you will need to change your thinking about how to get cleaning done.

Some potential solutions:

Don’t try to do all your cleaning in one day, instead break up the chores into manageable chunks.  This may be by room (Monday I clean the living room, Tuesday the bathroom), or it may be by jobs (Monday I vacuum, Tuesday I clean toilets and counters).
Write out your cleaning plan so you can see when you plan to do things, and then check them off as you do them. Keeping track may help prevent anxiety if you miss a day, or need to change something one week.
Plan your chunks of cleaning to coincide with when you are going to use a room. This could be cleaning the toilet and sink as you are getting ready for the day, sweeping or mopping while dinner is cooking, dusting while you watch TV.

As much as possible, clean up as you go – keep a dish pan with hot soapy water ready to soak dishes while cooking, put your makeup away after applying it. These small habits will make cleaning chores less time-consuming.

 

So, that is my mornings worth of brainstorming for my pregnant friends who don’t have the option to have someone else clean their house. Do you have tricks that worked for you?

 

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Jennifer Vanderlaan CNM MPH is the author of the BirthingNaturally.net website. She has been working with expectant families since 2000, training doulas, childbirth educators, and midwives. She has worked with midwives in Central America and Sub-Saharan Africa. Her interest in public health grew in 2010, and she is now a PhD student learning to become a producer of knowledge.

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