9 Food And Drinks To Avoid During Pregnancy
One of the first things people learn when they’re pregnant is what they can’t eat. It can be a real bummer if you’re a big sushi, coffee, or rare steak fan. Thankfully, there’s more you can eat than what you can’t. Here are 9 foods and beverages to avoid or minimize while pregnant.
1. High mercury fish
Mercury is a highly toxic element. It has no known safe level of exposure and is most commonly found in polluted water. In higher amounts, it can be toxic to your nervous system, immune system, and kidneys. It may also cause serious developmental problems in children, with adverse effects even in lower amounts.
Since it’s found in polluted seas, large fish can accumulate high amounts of mercury. Therefore, it’s best to avoid high mercury fish while pregnant and breastfeeding. However, it’s important to note that not all fish are high in mercury — just certain types.
Consuming low mercury fish during pregnancy is very healthy, and these fish can be eaten up to three times per week, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Fatty fish like salmon and anchovies are especially good options, as they are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for your baby.
2. Undercooked or raw fish and meet
This one will be tough for you sushi fans, but it’s an important one. Raw fish, especially shellfish, can cause several infections. These can be viral, bacterial, or parasitic infections, such as norovirus, Vibrio, Salmonella, and Listeria. Some of these infections may only affect you, causing dehydration and weakness. Other infections may be passed on to your baby with serious, or even fatal, consequences.
Pregnant women are especially susceptible to listeria infections. This bacteria can be found in soil and contaminated water or plants. Raw fish can become infected during processing, including smoking or drying. Listeria bacteria can be passed to your baby through the placenta, even if you’re not showing any signs of illness. This can lead to premature delivery, miscarriage, stillbirth, and other serious health problems, according to the CDC.
Some of the same issues with raw fish affect undercooked meat, too. Eating undercooked or raw meat increases your risk of infection from several bacteria or parasites, including Toxoplasma, E. coli, Listeria, and Salmonella.
3. Raw eggs
Raw eggs can be contaminated with the Salmonella bacteria. Symptoms of salmonella infections include fever, nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, and diarrhoea. However, in rare cases, the infection may cause cramps in the uterus, leading to premature birth or stillbirth.
Most commercial products that contain raw eggs are made with pasteurized eggs and are safe to consume. However, you should always read the label to make sure. To be on the safe side, make sure to always cook eggs thoroughly or use pasteurized eggs. Save those super runny yolks and homemade mayo until after baby makes their debut.
4. Organ meat
Organ meat is a great source of a variety of nutrients. These include iron, vitamin B12, vitamin A, zinc, selenium, and copper — all of which are good for you and baby. However, eating too much animal-based vitamin A (preformed vitamin A) is not recommended during pregnancy.
Consuming too much preformed vitamin A, especially in the first trimester of pregnancy, can lead to congenital malformations and miscarriage.
Pregnant people are generally advised to limit their caffeine intake to less than 200 milligrams (mg) per day, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (ACOG). Caffeine is absorbed very quickly and passes easily into the placenta. Because babies and their placentas don’t have the main enzyme needed to metabolize caffeine, high levels can build up.
High caffeine intake during pregnancy has been shown to restrict foetal growth and increase the risk of low birth weight at delivery. Low birth weight — defined as less than 5 lbs., 8 oz. (or 2.5 kg) — is associated with an increased risk of infant death and a higher risk of chronic diseases in adulthood. So keep an eye on your daily cup of joe or soda to make sure baby doesn’t have exposure to too much caffeine.
6. Unwashed produce
The surface of unwashed or unpeeled fruits and vegetables may be contaminated with several bacteria and parasites. Contamination can occur at any time during production, harvest, processing, storage, transportation, or retail. One dangerous parasite that may linger on fruits and vegetables is called Toxoplasma.
The majority of people who get toxoplasmosis have no symptoms, while others may feel like they have the flu for a month or more. Most infants who are infected with the Toxoplasma bacteria while still in the womb have no symptoms at birth. However, symptoms such as blindness or intellectual disabilities may develop later in life. What’s more, a small percentage of infected newborns have serious eye or brain damage at birth.
While you’re pregnant, it’s very important to minimize the risk of infection by thoroughly washing with water, peeling, or cooking fruits and vegetables. Keep it up as a good habit after baby arrives, too.
7. Unpasteurized milk, cheese, and fruit juice
Raw milk, unpasteurized cheese, and soft-ripened cheeses can contain an array of harmful bacteria, including Listeria, Salmonella, E. coli, and Campylobacter. (These are probably sounding familiar by now.)
The same goes for unpasteurized juice, which is also prone to bacterial contamination. These infections can all have life-threatening consequences for an unborn baby. The bacteria can be naturally occurring or caused by contamination during collection or storage. To minimize the risk of infections, only consume pasteurized milk, cheese, and fruit juice.
It’s advised to completely avoid drinking alcohol when pregnant, as it increases the risk of miscarriage and stillbirth. Even a small amount can negatively impact your baby’s brain development.
Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can also cause foetal alcohol syndrome, which involves facial deformities, heart defects and intellectual disability. Since no level of alcohol has been proven to be safe during pregnancy, it’s recommended to avoid it altogether.
9. Processed junk foods
There’s no better time than pregnancy to start eating nutrient-dense foods to help both you and your growing little one. You’ll need increased amounts of many essential nutrients, including protein, folate, choline, and iron.
It’s also a myth that you’re “eating for two.” You can eat as you normally do during the first semester, then increase by about 350 calories per day in your second trimester, and about 450 calories per day in your third trimester. An optimal pregnancy eating plan should mainly consist of whole foods, with plenty of nutrients to fulfil yours and baby’s needs. Processed junk food is generally low in nutrients and high in calories, sugar, and added fats.
The Bottom Line
When you’re pregnant, it’s essential to avoid foods and beverages that may put you and your baby at risk. Although most foods and beverages are perfectly safe to enjoy, some, like raw fish, unpasteurized dairy, alcohol, and high mercury fish, should be avoided.
Plus, some foods and beverages like coffee and foods high in added sugar, should be limited in order to promote a healthy pregnancy.