Pregnancy is one of the most vital and delicate times in a woman’s life. Therefore, it is more important than ever to eat a healthy diet. This means paying attention to what you eat, and making 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 the nervous system, immune system and kidneys. Pregnant women should not eat high-mercury fish more than 1–2 times each month. This includes shark, swordfish, tuna and mackerel.
Undercooked or Raw Fish
Raw fish, especially shellfish, can cause several infections. These include norovirus, Vibrio, Salmonella, Listeria and parasites.
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. 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.
Pregnant women are therefore advised to avoid raw fish and shellfish. This includes many sushi dishes.
Undercooked, Raw and Processed Meat
Eating undercooked or raw meat increases the risk of infection from several bacteria or parasites. These include Toxoplasma, E. coli, Listeria and Salmonella.Bacteria may threaten the health of the unborn baby, possibly leading to stillbirth or severe neurological illnesses, including mental retardation, blindness and epilepsy. 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 can be contaminated with Salmonella. Symptoms of Salmonella infections are usually experienced only by the mother. They include fever, nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps and diarrhea. 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. Pregnant women should always cook eggs thoroughly, or used pasteurized eggs.
Caffeine is the most commonly used psychoactive substance in the world, and is mainly found in coffee, tea, soft drinks and cocoa. Pregnant women are generally advised to limit their caffeine intake to less than 200 mg per day, or about 2–3 cups of coffee. Caffeine is absorbed very quickly, and passes easily into the placenta and fetus. Because unborn babies and their placentas do not have the main enzyme needed to metabolize caffeine, high levels can build up. High caffeine intake during pregnancy has been shown to restrict fetal growth and increase the risk of low birth weight at delivery
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 infections. These infections can all have life-threatening consequences for an unborn baby. Pasteurization is the most effective way to kill off 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. This syndrome involves facial deformities, heart defects and mental retardation. 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. Your body needs increased amounts of many essential nutrients, including protein, folate and iron. Yet even though you’re “eating for two” now, you don’t need twice the calories. An optimal pregnancy diet should mainly consist of whole foods, with plenty of nutrients to fulfill the needs of the mother and growing child. Processed junk food is generally low in nutrients, and high in calories, sugar and added fats. While, some weight gain is necessary during pregnancy, excess weight gain has been linked to many complications and diseases. These include an increased risk of gestational diabetes and pregnancy or birth complications. It can also increase the risk of having an overweight child.
Leshani Samaradiwakara is a recent graduate with a BA in Economics and a minor in Psychology and Sociology. She is currently working as a Business Entrepreneur in MAS Holdings. In her role as a Business Entrepreneur, she explores new trends in the apparel industry, studies the consumer behaviour and conducts market research, especially in the area of women health & wellness. She is a enthusiastic individual who is interested in discovering new places, traveling the world, exploring new cultures and meeting new people.