What Foods Should I Avoid During Pregnancy?

By in Food & Nutrition, Pregnancy & Labor on 03 November 2008

Hormonal changes during pregnancy make a pregnant woman susceptible to illness and infection. Having a regular prenatal check up is not enough to ensure overall health and wellness. Women need to ensure that whatever they consume is safe for them, and their growing baby. Since nutrition is a very important part in the growth and development of the baby, it is important to identify the foods that may potentially cause harm.

Seafood contains protein, iron and omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acid has been found helpful in the brain development of the baby. Research has shown that holding back on seafood during pregnancy, may lead to poor verbal skills, behavioral problems and other developmental issues during childhood. However, it is important to choose the kind of fish you eat. The FDA or the Food and Drug Administration encourage women to avoid swordfish, shark, king mackerel and tilefish. Some fishes contain high levels of mercury and it may harm the baby’s developing nervous system.

The recommended amount of seafood is 12 ounces a week which is equivalent to two meals consisting of shrimp, canned light tuna, pollock, catfish and salmon. Albacore tuna and tuna steak should only be limited to no more than 6 ounces a week. In order to avoid ingesting harmful bacteria, raw seafood should be avoided. Avoid eating raw clams, oysters, fish, and shellfish. Stay away as well from refrigerated smoked seafood, not unless it is an ingredient in another dish, which needs to be cooked. A temperature of 145 ° F, is a good internal indicator that the fish is cooked. Clams, mussels and oysters should be cooked until their shells are open. Scallops, shrimps and lobsters need to be cooked until they are milky white. It is also good to know where your seafood is coming from. Avoid seafood caught in contaminated rivers, lakes, steams and any other body of water.

Undercooked meat and meat products also need to be avoided. There is an increased risk of bacterial food poisoning among pregnant women because of the changes of pregnancy. It is necessary to cook the meat all the way through. A meat thermometer may be useful in determining the doneness of meat and poultry. Eggs need to be cooked until they are no longer runny. Meat products like hot dogs, luncheon meats, deli ham, bologna, turkey, and salami need to be cooked until they are steaming hot. These are potential sources of listeria, a bacteria that cause miscarriage, still birth and other serious complications.

Unpasteurized dairy products should also be avoided because these may contain bacteria, which causes food-borne illnesses. Avoid as well brie, feta, camembert, blue cheese, Mexican style cheeses like queso fresco, queso blanco, queso de crema, queso asadero, and queso de hoja. These can only be safely eaten if the label clearly states that it is made with pasteurized milk. Cider or any other unpasteurized juice is also not recommended because it may contain harmful bacteria like E.coli.

Pregnant women should also limit if not avoid consuming foods and beverages containing caffeine. Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant and it can cross the placenta and affect the baby. A daily intake of four cups of coffee equivalent to more than 300 mg of caffeine, has been linked with low birth weight. Other studies have also shown that excessive caffeine intake can put the woman at risk for miscarriage and stillbirth. Women also need to be aware that they can also get caffeine from other food sources aside from coffee. Chocolate, soft drinks and tea are some of the common beverages that contain caffeine. Although herbal tea may be soothing during pregnancy, there is only little data to support its specific effects on the baby. Discuss with your primary care provider as to how much caffeine you can take, or if you should avoid it completely during your pregnancy.

One glass of alcohol may not have any detrimental effects to the baby, but no alcohol level has been proven to be safe during pregnancy. It is best to avoid it because excessive alcohol consumption can cause problems like fetal alcohol syndrome, heart problems, facial deformities, low birth weight and mental retardation.

Avoiding these food items is only a little sacrifice in making sure that, you don’t get any food-borne illnesses while you are pregnant. Pregnancy may entail that your food preferences has to change during this delicate time, but it goes a long way in terms of protecting yourself and your baby from any complications.

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