With all the joys that come with pregnancy, there also comes a lot of responsibility. As an expectant mother, there are a lot of things you can do to provide the healthiest environment possible for your developing baby. One of the most significant ways to do this is through proper nutrition. In other words, there are foods and drinks that are great for you, but there are also items you should definitely avoid. In this article, we’re going to discuss which foods and drinks are ones you need to be careful of, providing helpful explanations as to why they’re dangerous.
1. High-Mercury Fish
While fish can be a great source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, certain types of fish like swordfish, shark, and king mackerel are high in mercury and can be dangerous to eat while pregnant. Consuming large amounts of mercury can damage the nervous system of a developing fetus, leading to developmental delays or even brain damage. To prevent this, you should be exceptionally wary of how much high-mercury fish you consume - it’s much more ideal to limit your intake to lower-mercury fish and seafood like salmon or shrimp.
2. Raw or Undercooked Seafood
Unfortunately, if sushi is your favourite food, you’re going to have to completely avoid it during the duration of your pregnancy. Raw seafood like oysters, clams, and sushi can harbour harmful bacteria and parasites; these dangerous pathogens can lead to foodborne illnesses (like listeriosis and toxoplasmosis) which could be harmful to your baby. They can cause miscarriages, stillbirths, premature delivery, or severe health problems for your newborn. So if you’re going to enjoy seafood while pregnant, you must be certain that it is thoroughly cooked before consuming it.
3. Raw or Undercooked Eggs
No more runny eggs for you while pregnant! Uncooked or undercooked eggs can pose a dangerous threat, possibly containing Salmonella bacteria which can cause vomiting, diarrhea, cramps, fever, or even a life-threatening infection. Although the fetus may not be affected directly, the mother can become seriously ill. Without a healthy environment to grow in, this may cause premature labour. Just make sure you always eat eggs that are well-cooked during your pregnancy to prevent this.
4. Unpasteurized Dairy and Juice
Same as the last two items on this list, consuming raw milk or juice is dangerous while pregnant; they are susceptible to bacterial contamination including Listeria, Salmonella, and E. coli. Listeria is especially harmful as it can cross the placenta, leading to miscarriage, preterm labour, or even severe illness in newborns. While it’s okay to enjoy dairy products and juices while pregnant, just take extra care to ensure they are pasteurized.
5. Processed Meats
By now, you probably understand that Listeria is an incredibly dangerous bacteria that must be avoided at all costs during your pregnancy. As such, it’s best to avoid processed meats like hot dogs, deli meats, and sausages that can harbour Listeria, especially when these items aren’t stored or heated up properly. Consuming contaminated processed meats can lead to a rare but potentially fatal infection that leads to miscarriage, stillbirth, or severe illness. There are two options to choose from here: either avoid these foods altogether while pregnant or make sure you heat them until steaming hot before eating.
6. High-Caffeine Foods and Drinks
If there’s ever a time to fix your coffee addiction, it’s definitely during your pregnancy. Caffeine can cross the placenta, and while adults can metabolize it, babies can not. This can lead to developmental delays, low birth weight, or increased risk of chronic diseases in adulthood. While you can still enjoy a cup of coffee here and there, take note to limit your daily caffeine intake to less than 200mg, the equivalent of about a 12-ounce cup of coffee.
This one’s a no-brainer: there is absolutely no safe level of alcohol to consume during pregnancy. Drinking alcohol while pregnant is arguably the biggest, and most common “no-no” that people are aware of. It’s dangerous for a number of reasons - it can interfere with the healthy development of the baby, causing a range of lifelong physical and intellectual disabilities also known as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). There are no ifs or buts when it comes to this item on the list: avoid alcohol entirely during pregnancy.
Although knowing what foods and drinks are safe to consume and which ones should be avoided during pregnancy can be an overwhelming challenge, it’s an important part of ensuring your baby has a healthy environment to thrive in. With careful research and help from family or healthcare providers, you can rest comfortably knowing you have a safe diet plan to follow.