Are there Foods to Avoid in Pregnancy?

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If you are expecting a baby, chances are you are taking vitamins, adding an extra glass of water or two to your daily intake, and choosing fresh foods that will provide your baby with the most nutrients possible. However, do you know which foods you should not consume while pregnant for the health of your baby? The advice from your friends and well-meaning family can be confusing, but the guidelines that have been established by years of medical research don’t have to be overwhelming. Whether you have allergies, sensitivities, or special health concerns there are basic pregnancy nutrition choices you should consider during pregnancy.

Seafood Consumption

Seafood can give you and your baby the omega-3 fatty acids that are important to both of you, but if you’re not careful you might be exposing your baby to elevated levels of mercury. This mercury poses a danger to your unborn child’s nervous system development. As a general rule of thumb, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), along with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), say to eat smaller and “younger” fish equaling no more than 8 to 12 ounces per week – the older and larger the fish is, the greater the chance that it will contain elevated amounts of lead. Along with this general guideline, the FDA, EPA, and many physicians agree that during pregnancy you should avoid:

  • Swordfish and shark
  • King mackerel
  • Tilefish
  • Raw fish
  • Shellfish

Meat, Proteins, and Poultry Consumption

Foodborne illnesses that arise from improper handling and preparation of raw meat can put pregnant women and their unborn babies at risk. Your body during pregnancy can react more strongly to bacterial food poisoning, and that can have harmful effects on your baby as well.

  • Raw eggs carry a risk of salmonella. Products such as protein drinks, eggnog, Caesar salad dressing, and processed egg salads are of particular concern. Make sure that all eggs and products containing eggs are thoroughly cooked before eating them – including that beloved raw cookie dough!
  • Do not order meat medium or medium rare, and use a meat thermometer to make sure that all meat and poultry products are thoroughly cooked according to the meat type.
  • Even when you consume “pre-cooked” meats like hot dogs and other processed meat products, reheat the product until it is completely hot.

Dairy Product Consumption

A healthy pregnancy relies on an adequate supply of calcium, and dairy products can be a wonderful source. However, you need to make sure that the dairy products you choose are pasteurized. You can do this by reading the labels carefully and asking your grocer for help. Some particular products that you need to check carefully include:

  • Soft cheeses (Brie, Feta, Blue Cheese, etc.)
  • Eggs
  • Fruit juices

Other Food Risks During Pregnancy

Sometimes the things that you choose to eat during pregnancy you think are part of a healthy diet, only to find out that they pose increased risks. Such is the case for things such as undercooked or raw sprouts, Mung beans, and radishes. These produce products carry increased risks for E. coli and Salmonella, so during pregnancy either avoid these or only eat them once they have been thoroughly cooked.

The preparation you practice when getting dinner ready can also affect the health risks of certain foods. Fresh and raw fruits and vegetables offer a great source of a variety of nutrients, but you must wash them very thoroughly and remove any bruised or discolored portions.

It is also important to look for hidden sources of caffeine in certain products. Not only do you need to be careful about drinking coffee and sodas, but many teas and chocolate contain caffeine as well. Work with your healthcare provider to determine a caffeine intake-level that is safe for you and your baby.

References:

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/pregnancy-nutrition/PR00109

http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/food-poisoning/tc/food-poisoning-during-pregnancy-topic-overview

http://www.foodsafety.gov/poisoning/risk/pregnant/chklist_pregnancy.html

 

Dr. Gareth Forde

About Dr. Gareth Forde

An obstetrician-gynecologist, a clinical professor, a researcher, and a father of five—and he delivered them all! He speaks and publishes extensively on maternal and child health issues, where he emphasizes the role of a healthy maternal lifestyle, good nutrition, and breastfeeding on infant development. He chose the field of obstetrics because it is a celebration of life, a happy and exciting profession. “Children are a blessing and they bring joy and laughter to the world,” he says. “I cherish my work, as a doctor and a dad.” The study of genetic imprinting is a major focus of both Dr. Forde’s research and medical practice. This looks at what happens in the womb, how the genes a baby inherits are expressed (turned on and off), and how this influences the child’s health after birth. “This field holds great promise, shedding light on many unsolved mysteries in health and disease from infancy to adulthood,” he adds. Dr. Forde grew up in London, England and Orlando, Florida. He received his medical degree from the University of Minnesota Medical School and is currently pursuing a fellowship in gynecologic oncology at the University of California, Irvine. Prior to this, he practiced with Grand Rapids Medical Education Partners, a consortium of Saint Mary’s Health Care, Spectrum Health, Grand Valley State University, and Michigan State University College of Human Medicine—where he was a clinical professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive biology. He also has a master’s in molecular and cellular biology from Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University; a Ph.D. in environmental science (computational chemistry) from Jackson State University; and a post-doctoral fellowship in biophysics from Mount Sinai School of Medicine, in New York.”