10 Foods To Avoid During Pregnancy
Pregnancy is one of the most vital and sensitive periods in a woman’s life. Therefore, it’s very important for pregnant women to eat a healthy diet. Expecting mothers have to pay close attention to what they eat and make sure to avoid harmful foods and beverages. Certain foods should only be consumed rarely, while others should be avoided completely.
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. Since it’s found in polluted seas, large marine fish can accumulate high amounts of mercury.
Therefore, pregnant women are advised to limit their consumption of high-mercury fish to no more than 1–2 servings per month.
High-mercury fish include:
- — Shark
- — Swordfish
- — King mackerel
- — Tuna (especially albacore tuna)
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 2 times per week. Fatty fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for your baby.
Undercooked or Raw Fish
Raw fish, especially shellfish, can cause several infections. These can be viral, bacterial or parasitic, such as norovirus, Vibrio, Salmonella and Listeria. Some of these infections only affect the mother, leaving her dehydrated and weak. Other infections may be passed on to the unborn baby with serious, or even fatal, consequences.
Pregnant women are especially susceptible to Listeria infections. In fact, pregnant women are up to 20 times more likely to get infected by Listeria than the general population.
Listeria can be passed to an unborn baby through the placenta, even if the mother is not showing any signs of illness. This can lead to premature delivery, miscarriage, stillbirth and other serious health problems.
Undercooked, Raw and Processed Meat
Eating undercooked or raw meat increases your risk of infection from several bacteria or parasites, including Toxoplasma, E. coli, Listeria and Salmonella. Bacteria may threaten the health of your unborn baby, possibly leading to stillbirth or severe neurological illnesses, including intellectual disability, blindness and epilepsy
Some whole cuts of meat—such as tenderloins, sirloins or ribeye from beef, lamb and veal—may be safe to consume when not cooked all the way through. However, this only applies when the piece of meat is whole or uncut, and completely cooked on the outside.
Cut meat, including meat patties, burgers, minced meat, pork and poultry, should never be consumed raw or undercooked. Hot dogs, lunch meat and deli meat are also of concern. These types of meat may become infected with various bacteria during processing or storage. Pregnant women should not consume processed meat products unless they’ve been reheated until steaming hot.
Raw eggs may be contaminated with Salmonella, which can lead to sickness and an increased risk of premature birth or stillbirth. Pasteurized eggs can be used instead.
Foods that commonly contain raw eggs include:
- — Lightly scrambled eggs
- — Poached eggs
- — Hollandaise sauce
- — Homemade mayonnaise
- — Salad dressings
- — Homemade ice cream
- — Cake icings
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.
Organ meat is a great source of iron, vitamin B12, vitamin A and copper. To prevent vitamin A and copper toxicity, pregnant women are advised to limit their intake of organ meat to no more than once a week.
Pregnant women should limit their caffeine intake to 200 mg per day, which is about 2–3 cups of coffee. Caffeine is absorbed very quickly and passes easily into the placenta and fetus. High caffeine intake during pregnancy can limit fetal growth and cause low birth weight.
Raw sprouts, including alfalfa, clover, radish and mung bean sprouts, may be contaminated with Salmonella. The humid environment required by seeds to start sprouting is ideal for these kinds of bacteria, and they’re almost impossible to wash off.
For this reason, pregnant women are advised to avoid raw sprouts altogether. However, sprouts are safe to consume after they have been cooked.
Unpasteurized Milk, Cheese and Fruit Juice
Raw milk and unpasteurized cheese can contain an array of harmful bacteria, including Listeria, Salmonella, E. coli and Campylobacter.
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
Pasteurization is the most effective way to kill any harmful bacteria, without changing the nutritional value of the products
To minimize the risk of infections, pregnant women are advised to consume only pasteurized milk, cheese and fruit juice.
Pregnant women are advised to completely avoid drinking alcohol, as it increases the risk of miscarriage and stillbirth. Even a small amount can negatively impact your baby’s brain development. It can also cause fetal 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 is recommended to avoid it altogether.
Processed Junk Foods
Pregnancy is a time of rapid growth. As a result, pregnant women need increased amounts of many essential nutrients, including protein, folate and iron. Processed junk food is generally low in nutrients and high in calories, sugar and added fats. Eating processed foods during pregnancy can increase your risk of excess weight gain, gestational diabetes and complications. This can have long-term health implications for your child.