Just as there are certain foods that you should be sure to stock up on, so too are there foods that you should avoid as though they would give you the plague if you were to breathe in their general area if you were pregnant. Of course, this list changes from year to year so take most of these recommendations with a grain of salt!
If you’re unsure whether a food is safe for you to eat, or if you have heard mixed reports or have a concern based on your individual circumstances, consult your OB/GYN. Since they are regularly required to take continuing education classes and receive frequent updates from the research fields they would be the most qualified to provide you with information pertaining specifically to your pregnancy.
Alcohol is first on the list of No-No’s for Mommies to Be, and with good reason. The amount of alcohol that is safe to consume in a day while pregnant has yet to be determined, and the incidence of known cases of birth defects due to alcohol consumption is on the rise. According to the March of Dimes “alcohol is the most common known cause of damage to developing babies in the United States and is the leading cause of preventable mental retardation.”
On a more personal note, alcohol can also aggravate many of the common side effects of pregnancy such as nausea and heartburn. It also takes up space in your stomach that could be filled with more healthy things, like water or juice. If you can forsake alcohol completely during your pregnancy, that would be the best choice for you and your baby. Does that mean that a sip of your glass when you toast your cousin’s wedding is going to leave your baby scarred for life? No, probably not. Use your good sense. While a sip or two of wine every now and then probably won’t hurt your growing angel, a shot or two of tequila might not be as forgiving. Pregnancy is only nine months long. Your baby lasts a lifetime.
The other scare when it comes to pregnancy eating has come from an unexpected source-fish. Long lauded as the best source of protein for pregnant women, it was recently discovered that fish was also high in mercury, a condition caused by the dumping of waste into the water. Mercury can cause irreparable damage to a fetus’s developing nervous system. The debate as to whether specific fish can be considered safe or not is still ongoing, but pregnant women are currently being encouraged to avoid shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish, bluefish, tuna steak, striped bass, freshwater fish and canned tuna.
While highly processed foods may not cause permanent damage to your unborn baby they usually contain enough preservatives to qualify them as highly suspicious. Remember, anything that claims to be sugar free yet tastes sweet has some form of sugar substitute in it. The question is, what are they substituting? Labels such as “fat free” and “caffeine free” should also be approached with caution. Take the high road here and attempt to buy whole, natural foods as often as possible. Look at the list of ingredients on the label. The longer it is, the less likely it is to be healthy for your baby.
If you have a hard time getting started in the morning without your cup of Joe, now’s going to be the time to learn. Caffeine impedes iron absorption, contributing to anemia in pregnant women who don’t have enough to spare, robs the body of precious calcium and aggravates heartburn all in one fell swoop. It also transfers to your baby through your breast milk, which means that if you like to drink coffee and you’re planning on breastfeeding you can expect a lot of late nights.
Although you could switch to decaf, for the dedicated coffee drinker this is about the equivalent of taking a perfectly good cup of coffee and filling it 2/3 full of water. As a placebo it’s a poor substitute. Instead, try a cup of hot chocolate or apple cider in the morning. (Heating apple juice and adding a little cinnamon works too.) The hot beverage will hit a few of the “wake up” buttons that coffee triggers, and while you’ll probably feel the lack of caffeine for the first week or two you should find that getting through the day gets easier-and hey, pregnant women are supposed to nap regularly anyway!
Unpasteurized cheeses, soft or fresh cheeses such as Brie, deli meats, hot dogs, undercooked eggs, fish, rare to medium well meats and unpasteurized juices are also being added at various intervals to the “no-no” list that OB/GYNs are handing out to their patients in an attempt to stop the spread of pathogens such as E.coli, Salmonella and Listeria, all of which are often present in undercooked or uncooked meats.
Listeria, the leading cause of meningitis in children less than one year old, has the ability to cross the placenta and infect the baby. It can also cause miscarriage. Salmonella has been associated with stillbirth. Even if fetal death doesn’t occur, dehydration from the diarrhea and vomiting that accompany Salmonella infection is a serious risk. A severe infection with E. coli can cause dehydration as well as potentially triggering premature labor or miscarriage.