It is said that, as an expecting mother you are eating for two. That means you should have a well-balanced diet to provide proper nutrition for you and the little one. And, a healthy diet helps you prevent any pregnancy complications.
Pregnancy is a time of great excitement. The concept of bringing a new life into the world is awe-inspiring. There are so many things to do while preparing for your baby’s arrival. Doctor’s appointments, decorating the nursery, and packing your bags to be ready to go to the hospital are only a few. Women should be kind to their bodies during pregnancy. Following a healthy diet and doing moderate exercise help pregnant women to keep their weight under control.
Too many women take on the task of ‘eating for two’ and have a lot of excess weight to lose after giving birth. Resting and taking care of yourself are also an important part of pregnancy. In the last few weeks, pregnant women are encouraged to get as much sleep as possible… they’re going to need it! Following a healthy diet while pregnant is not as easy as it sounds. There are plenty of foods that may seem healthy that can be harmful to mums-to-be and their babies. As much as you may enjoy some of them, avoid them while you’re pregnant in the best interests of your little bundle of joy.
Here are 30 things you should avoid eating while you’re pregnant:
1. Mercury-ridden fish
The types of fish that contain the highest levels of mercury are king mackerel, tilefish, sharks, and swordfish. The source of the mercury in fish is still the subject of investigation. Contrary to popular belief, pollution is not necessarily to blame. Long-term studies have shown no changes in the mercury levels of tuna despite increased exposure to the element. Tuna also contain significant levels of mercury.
Freshwater fish show signs of mercury which many scientists attribute to rising mercury levels resulting from pollution. Upon entering the human body, mercury converts to methylmercury. As a heavy metal and neurotoxin, exposure to excessive amounts of mercury can have negative consequences for the body. This is more of a risk for pregnant women. High levels of methylmercury in the body may cause brain damage in unborn fetuses and can result in delayed achievement of developmental milestones. These are lifelong effects.
2. Smoked seafood
Smoked seafood is cured with salt. Raised salt levels put the kidneys under strain and may result in high blood pressure. Raised blood pressure leads to swelling in joint areas such as the knees, ankles, and fingers. Excessively high blood pressure, called preeclampsia, can be fatal for both mother and baby. Avoid smoked seafood that is labeled as ‘lox,’ ‘jerky,’ or ‘smoked.’ One buys uncanned smoked seafood at the deli counter of your local grocery store. There is a risk that it contains the listeria bacteria. Infection by this bacterium is listeriosis, and it can be fatal.
Pregnant women are at higher risk. Their lowered immune system means they are more susceptible to opportunistic infections. Listeriosis can result in miscarriages and stillbirths. Babies born to mothers with listeriosis may experience postnatal complications. The symptoms of listeriosis include diarrhea and vomiting. Pregnant women who experience such symptoms should seek immediate medical attention.
3. Industrially polluted fish
The byproducts of industrial plants such as tanneries are pumped into nearby dams and rivers. Alternatively, the waste seeps into the groundwater and reaches bodies of fresh water. Fish consume these pollutants. The pollutants absorbed by the fish remain in the flesh which the diner eats. An example of one such pollutant is polychlorinated biphenyls. Industrial pollutants can have a profound impact on a woman’s unborn baby.
The physical effects include a reduced cranial diameter and lower than average weight at birth. The pollutants may also affect the brain which can result in conditions which hamper learning and memorization. Pregnant women should exercise caution when eating freshwater fish caught from local streams, rivers, and lakes. Local authorities publish information about the safety of consuming fish from these bodies of water. Heed these warnings. Better yet, abstain from eating freshwater fish that wasn’t bought at a local grocery store.
4. Uncooked shellfish
Shellfish contain several toxins, viruses, and bacteria. Clams and oysters are susceptible to retaining toxins from the water around them. An example would be the red tide. The event creates a toxin. If ingested, the toxin may result in Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning. Raw shellfish can also contain bacteria such as salmonella and Vibrio vulnificus. Both can cause severe gastrointestinal illness with diarrhea, cramps, nausea, and vomiting.
A weakened immune system is common during pregnancy. This predisposes pregnant women from becoming ill from eating raw shellfish. Ingestion of toxins and bacteria can cause infection in the unborn child. The result may be a miscarriage or stillbirth. Alternatively, there is a risk that the baby might be born with neurological complications that are lifelong conditions. The risk is at its highest in the first and third trimesters of pregnancy. Shellfish such as oysters can be eaten during pregnancy in moderate amounts provided that they are thoroughly cooked.
5. Underdone eggs
From raw egg in a protein shake to eggs that aren’t properly cooked, not being careful about eggs can affect a pregnancy. Eggs are an excellent source of protein which the body of a pregnant woman needs. However, exercise caution in how the eggs are prepared and cooked.
There is a chance that eggs may contain salmonella. The bacterium is killed in the cooking process as they are exposed to heat. A salmonella infection will result in diarrhea and vomiting. Gastrointestinal illness presents the danger of dehydration. The body is expelling liquids before they can be absorbed and used. This can lead to the baby being dehydrated as well. Avoid any dishes that contain raw egg, no matter how little. A lot of refrigerated desserts such as mousse contain raw eggs. Salad dressings may also include raw egg. Cook eggs thoroughly. Boiled eggs should not be soft and runny.
6. Uncooked meat and poultry
Uncooked meat and poultry present a health risk under normal circumstances. However, these risks are compounded by pregnancy where a woman’s body is more vulnerable than ever. The salmonella bacterium is present in raw or under-cooked meat and poultry. The only way to eliminate it is to cook meat thoroughly. A salmonella infection leads to all the hallmarks of food poisoning and the potential for dehydration.
Another possible risk of eating uncooked meat and poultry is toxoplasmosis. The Toxoplasma parasite is destroyed by heat. As uncooked or under cooked meat has not been heated throughout, there is a chance that the parasite will enter the body. Toxoplasmosis can have severe effects on an unborn fetus. The fetus may spontaneously abort resulting in a miscarriage. Death during delivery is also a very real risk. Any meat eaten during pregnancy must be cooked throughout with no raw spots at all.
7. Delicatessen meat
Processed meats, such as those sold at your local deli, should be avoided during pregnancy. Foods like sliced meats, sandwich meats, cold cuts, and hot-dogs are processed meats. During the manufacturing process, it is possible for these foods to be contaminated by the listeria bacterium. An infection causes listeriosis which can cause serious pregnancy complications. The Listeria bacterium can move between the mother’s body and the placenta. The placenta feeds the baby. If listeriosis reaches the placenta, the fetus will be infected.
Both mother and her unborn child can become very ill. One of the consequences of listeriosis is the death of the fetus. One of the ways to make deli meats safer to eat is heating and cooking them at high temperatures. This kills off the bacteria. This process needs to be undertaken with care. Thorough heating is necessary. The Listeria bacterium is notoriously stubborn.
8. Unpasteurized milk
Milk that has not yet been pasteurized is regarded as being raw. Pasteurization of the milk involves heating it to very high temperatures to kill off any bacteria and germs. Unpasteurized milk is a breeding ground for listeriosis, salmonella, and E. coli. Infection with any of these bacteria will cause gastrointestinal severe illness. A healthy immune system should be able to fight off the bacteria, and the drinker will have only mild symptoms. However, pregnant women’s immune systems are weakened. This means that an infection will be more serious. The harm done to the baby can result in miscarriage, stillbirth, and birth complications.
Due to the dangers posed by unpasteurized milk, the sale of the product is not allowed in many areas. Where unpasteurized milk is being sold, it must be labeled clearly. Drinking milk during pregnancy is harmless unless the mother-to-be is lactose intolerant. Always check the label to make sure the milk is pasteurized.
9. Unpasteurized cheese
Soft cheeses are not pasteurized. The lack of pasteurization of the milk used to make the cheese means that germs may be present. Bacteria such as listeria lurk in unpasteurized milk and can make a pregnant mother and her child very ill. Listeriosis can result in the death of a baby. Examples of soft cheeses include Brie, Camembert, feta, and blue-veined cheeses. Mexican-style cheeses are also categorized as soft cheeses.
Cheddar cheese is a hard cheese which is considered safe. Mozzarella cheese is also safe although it is classed as a semi-soft cheese. Processed cheeses, cream cheese, and cottage cheese can be safely consumed during pregnancy as they are made with pasteurized milk. Some feta cheeses are made with pasteurized milk and can be included in a pregnant woman’s diet. Pregnant women should read the labels of all cheeses they eat to make sure pasteurized milk has been used.
10. Unrinsed fruit and vegetables
Many people underestimate the importance of rinsing fruits and vegetables before consuming them. One of the most important things to look out for on fruits and vegetables is soil. The soil is a ripe breeding ground for germs and bacteria. Soil contains animal droppings and organic fertilizers which encourage the growth of all organisms including bacteria.
Bacteria such as E. coli can attach themselves to fruits and vegetables. In 2011, an E. coli outbreak in the United Kingdom was traced back to leeks and potatoes. Both vegetables grow underground. It seems that the bacteria attached itself to the vegetables from the soil. E. coli is characterized by diarrhea and vomiting. Pregnant women are less able to resist such bacteria as their immune systems are suppressed. Trace amounts of pesticides may also be on the skin of your fruits and vegetables. These pesticides contain chemicals which may be harmful both mother and baby.