During pregnancy, proper nutrition is one of your most important concerns
because what you eat has an impact on how your baby develops. Putting
the right kinds of food into your body includes avoiding foods that could
hurt your baby’s health.
“Expectant mothers need to steer clear of foods that present undue
health risks for the same reason that they need to eliminate tobacco use
and other risky habits or behaviors—to avoid anything that could
present a danger to the growing life inside them,” says
Lina Wong, DO, a board-certified OB/GYN at
St. Jude Heritage Medical Group in Fullerton. “It’s as crucial to make wise food choices as
it is to not smoke.”
Dr. Wong recommends staying away from the following foods until after the
Sushi. “Pregnant women should avoid raw seafood like sushi and uncooked
oysters or clams,” says Dr. Wong. Although sushi bars must follow
health and safety regulations, there is a small chance that a piece of
sushi or sashimi contains parasites that may make you sick. Sushi chefs
pride themselves on using high-quality fish and keeping their restaurants
clean, but you have no way of knowing whether store-bought or pre-packaged
sushi meets the same standards. Dr. Wong notes that proper cooking eliminates
parasites and bacteria, and there is nothing wrong with dining at a sushi
bar while you are pregnant as long as you limit yourself to cooked sushi
and items from the hot menu.
Hot dogs. Wieners and deli meats like ham, bologna, and turkey are candidates for
contamination by listeria bacteria that cause a type of food poisoning
called listeriosis. “Expectant mothers need to be careful about
eating processed meat products,” says Dr. Wong, “because they
might have a more serious reaction to listeriosis than they would if they
were not pregnant.”
Fish that contains mercury. Some kinds of fish are known to contain high levels of mercury as a result
of pollution. “A baby’s delicate nervous system could be harmed
if the mother eats too much mercury during pregnancy,” says Dr.
Wong. The fish to be avoided are larger, longer-lived species that accumulate
greater amounts of mercury in their system, like swordfish, shark, and
tuna. Dr. Wong recommends limiting consumption of canned tuna to six ounces
per week. “Since mercury is stored in the body for up to four years,
women who are contemplating having one or more babies may want to consider
giving up mercury-prone fish altogether during their childbearing years,”
Dr. Wong says.
Unpasteurized dairy. Raw milk and dairy products that have not gone through the pasteurization
process may contain germs and toxins that cause food-borne illness. “Pregnant
women should stay away from soft cheeses and anything else that contains
unpasteurized milk because they risk food poisoning from salmonella and
E. coli bacteria,” Dr. Wong says. Other foods to avoid are those
made with raw or undercooked eggs, such as cake batter, homemade ice cream,
and salad dressing.
Alcohol. A glass of wine with dinner probably won’t put your baby at risk,
but there is no level of prenatal drinking that has been established as
safe. “It’s in the best interest of you and your baby to refrain
from drinking alcohol while you are pregnant,” Dr. Wong says. “When
an expectant mother drinks, so does her baby. The alcohol passes to the
baby through the umbilical cord, but the baby’s tiny liver cannot
break down alcohol the way the mother’s liver can. This can damage
the way the baby develops.” Most dangerously, heavy consumption
of alcohol by pregnant women is associated with fetal alcohol spectrum
disorders, including fetal alcohol syndrome, which can cause a baby to
be born with mental and physical disabilities.
“Every expectant mother’s body manages alcohol differently,”
says Dr. Wong. “Some may be able to handle moderate drinking—say,
a single glass of wine one or two times a week—but others may not.
The best and only way to prevent alcohol-related health conditions in
your baby is to abstain completely from alcohol.”
Which foods did your doctor tell you to avoid when you were pregnant? Share
a comment below.
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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical
care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.