Congrats momma and welcome to the exciting first phase to motherhood — pregnancy. Now’s the time to celebrate the wonderful journey you have started. However, pregnancy isn’t easy, and you must stay healthy, so your baby is healthy.
Eating and indulging in your cravings may be one of the best parts of pregnancy, but there are foods that you need to limit or avoid altogether. Before reading for hours, we’ve done the research and found all the food you need to avoid during pregnancy.
For your entire pregnancy, you have to avoid high-mercury fish. Mercury is a highly toxic element that has no known safe levels. Mercury is found in polluted water. The ocean can have high traces of mercury. Large marine fish can accumulate high amounts of mercury. Therefore, you must avoid shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish, and tuna (especially albacore tuna).
If higher amounts of mercury are consumed, it can be toxic to the nervous system, immune system, and kidneys. If your baby absorbs high amounts of mercury in the womb, studies have found serious developmental problems for the child.
However, eating low-mercury fish is healthy for mom and baby. Fatty fish that are low in mercury are high in Omega-3 fatty acids, which is good for the baby. Canned, chunk light tuna is low in mercury and can be consumed twice a week.
Undercooked or Raw Fish
Raw or undercooked fish can cause serious viral, bacterial, or parasitic infections. Raw fish can be contaminated with Vibrio, Salmonella, and Listeria. These infections can leave mom weak and dehydrated. Plus, these infections can be passed onto the baby with serious or fatal consequences. Cooking can prevent some infections, but not algae-related infections from red tides. Raw or undercooked fish that you need to avoid include oysters, clams, and muscles.
Smoked and refrigerated seafood must be avoided because it can contain Listeria. These foods include lox, nova style, kippered, and jerky. Once cooked, it is safe to consume. Canned smoked seafood is safe to consume as well.
Undercooked, Raw, & Processed Meats
If you eat undercooked or raw meat it can increase your risk of bacterial infections or parasites like Toxoplasma, E. coli, Listeria, and Salmonella. These infections threaten the health of the baby and can cause stillbirth and neurological disabilities like intellectual disability, blindness, and epilepsy.
Processed meats like hot dogs, lunch meat, and deli meat can be infected with various bacteria like Listeria during processing and storage. If listeria crosses the placenta, it can cause miscarriage or blood poisoning.
To avoid any of these infections, cook your meat all the way through. And, reheat processed meats until it is steaming hot.
Organ meats contain great nutrients for mom and baby like iron, vitamin B12, vitamin A, and copper. However, eating too much animal-based vitamin A is not recommended because it can cause vitamin A toxicity and abnormally high copper levels. This can lead to birth defects and liver toxicity. You should only consume organ meats once a week.
Pate & Meat Spreads
Listeria has been found in refrigerated pate and meat spreads. Listeria is super dangerous to mom and baby. Pregnant women are 120 times more susceptible to Listeria, and it can cause life-threatening issues for a baby. Canned pate and shelf-safe meat spreads are safe for consumption.
Eggs are a great source of protein for mom and baby, but raw eggs must be avoided. Raw eggs can be contaminated with Salmonella. Mom’s symptoms from salmonella poisoning range from fever, nausea, stomach cramps, and diarrhea. In rare cases, it can cause cramps to the uterus which can lead to premature labor or stillbirth.
Foods that commonly contain raw eggs include lightly scrambled eggs, poached eggs, hollandaise sauce, homemade mayonnaise, salad dressings, homemade ice cream, and cake icings. You don’t have to worry about commercial products that you buy from the grocery store because they use pasteurized eggs, but always read labels before you purchase.
Before eating any fresh produce, you need to wash it thoroughly. Unwashed produce may contain several bacterial and parasitic infections like Toxoplasma, E. coli, Salmonella, and Listeria that can happen through the soil or handling.
Out of the infections, Toxoplasma is very dangerous for the baby. The mom can show no symptoms and the baby doesn’t show symptoms right away. It can cause blindness and intellectual disabilities later in life. Plus, a small percentage of infected newborns have serious eye or brain damage at birth.
Fresh vegetables are great for baby and mom, but you need to avoid raw sprouts during pregnancy because they may have salmonella. Salmonella is impossible to wash off sprouts like alfalfa, clover, radish, and mungbean. These are all safe to consume after cooking.
Unpasteurized Milk, Cheese, & Fruit Juice
During pregnancy, you should only consume pasteurized milk, cheese, and fruit juice. Unpasteurized cheese, milk, and fruit juice can contain Listeria, Salmonella, E. coli, and Campylobacter. The cheeses to avoid are brie, camembert, roquefort, feta, gorgonzola, queso blanco, and queso fresco. Pasteurization is the most effective way to kill harmful bacteria.
Even though before pregnancy caffeine was the one way to keep you going during the day, you have to consume it in moderation now. Caffeine is absorbed quickly and passes easily to the baby. Studies have shown that high amounts of caffeine throughout pregnancy can restrict fetal growth and increase the risk of a low birth rate. And, a low birth rate can increase the risk of infant death and chronic disease in adulthood like Type 2 Diabetes and heart disease.
Caffeine is mainly found in coffee, tea, soft drinks, and cocoa. If you do consume caffeine, keep it to less than 200 milligrams per day or 2-3 cups of coffee per day.
All alcohol must be avoided during pregnancy. If you consume alcohol, there is an increased risk of miscarriage and stillbirth. It can also impact the baby’s brain development and cause fetal alcohol syndrome which includes facial deformities, heart defects, and intellectual disabilities.
During pregnancy, you don’t only have to think about yourself, but also your baby. To have a healthy pregnancy, delivery, and baby avoid these foods. And, if you have any questions or concerns about any foods, you should always contact your doctor or nurse. If you find yourself with any food illnesses, contact your doctor right away.