A positive pregnancy test creates a wide range of emotions and concerns. After the initial excitement wears off, many pregnant women start wondering what is safe during pregnancy. A healthy diet during pregnancy is important to the developing baby. Just as important is learning the foods to avoid during pregnancy. Many foods on the list to avoid during pregnancy can potentially cause serious risks to an unborn baby.
High Mercury Fish
Fish is considered a healthy food yet certain fish and shellfish contain high levels of mercury. High levels of mercury may damage a growing baby’s nervous system. Swordfish, tilefish, shark, and king mackerel are not recommended for pregnant women. The FDA recommends that pregnant women eat no more than 12 ounces of fish per week. Safe choices that are low in mercury are shrimp, salmon, pollock, catfish, and canned light tuna. Light albacore tuna and tuna steaks should be limited to 6 ounces per week.
Refrigerated Smoked Seafood & Pate
Smoked seafood and pate carries the risk of listeria contamination and should be avoided by pregnant women unless cooked in another dish. Shelf stable smoked seafood, pate and meat spreads are considered safe by the FDA.
Deli meat also carries the potential of listeria contamination. Listeria is rare but can result in very serious side effects to the unborn baby. Deli meats and hot dogs may be consumed if they are first heated to steaming.
Unpasteurized Dairy Products
Dairy products that are not pasteurized hold the potential of listeria contamination. Unpasteurized milk and many soft cheese should be avoided during pregnancy. Soft cheeses to avoid include Brie, Feta, Gorgonzola, Camembert, Roquefort and Mexican-style cheeses. These soft cheeses are sometimes made with pasteurized milk. If the label states that the cheese is made from pasteurized milk, it is safe for consumption during pregnancy. If the label is not clear, it is best to avoid it.
Raw Meat & Eggs
Raw fish, shellfish, meat and eggs should be avoided during pregnancy. These raw foods have the potential to cause many food-borne illnesses such as salmonella. Homemade foods, such as Caesar dressing, mayonnaise and custards that contain raw eggs should be avoided. Meat, fish and eggs should be completely cooked before consumption in pregnancy.
Alcohol consumption during pregnancy carries serious potential side effects to the unborn baby. Fetal alcohol syndrome, miscarriage, stillbirth and an impact on brain development can result from alcohol consumption during pregnancy. No amount of alcohol has been deemed safe during pregnancy, so it should be avoided completely.
Studies on the affects of caffeine on unborn babies are mixed. High caffeine consumption may be linked to lower birth weight, miscarriage, and slower fetal growth. The general guideline is to keeping daily caffeine consumption below 200 mg per day during pregnancy. Caffeine consumption should be discussed with the doctor.
Sufficient research data is not available on the effects of herbs on unborn babies. Some herbs, such as red raspberry leaf, are thought to cause contractions. It is best to discuss any herbal tea or herbal remedy consumption with your doctor.