The Foods To Avoid When Youre Pregnant
Pregnancy can be an exercise in patience: not only in figuring out what to eat and drink for yourself, but in fielding a stream of other peoples opinions.
This guide was originally published on May 22, 2019 in NYT Parenting.
Though its been more than six years since, I still tense up when I think about the time a coffee shop barista questioned whether I really meant to order a caffeinated tea when I was eight months pregnant.
For many women, pregnancy can be a nine-month exercise in patience: not only in figuring out what to eat and drink for yourself, but in fielding the stream of other peoples opinions from family members, strangers and medical professionals alike.
You dont exactly need a nutrition degree to understand that the foods you eat during pregnancy affect your growing baby. But the barrage of dos and donts can sometimes be as stressful as the pregnancy itself. And experts arent exactly settled on which foods to cut, limit or eat with abandon.
For this guide, I read through the latest research and spoke with four food safety experts and an ob-gyn to help you eat well while minimizing risk and stress.
Household Activities Pregnant People Should Avoid
- Do not lift or move furniture.
- Do not climb up on footstools or chairs to grab items that are out of reach. This can result in a serious fall.
- Be mindful of how long youre on your feet and remember to take a seat occasionally. In the kitchen, its easy to forget youve been standing for hours, especially when cooking a big meal or washing dishes.
Need A Boost Of Fiber Try Hummus And Veggies
One of the unfortunate side effects of pregnancy can be constipation. Alongwith drinking enough fluid, getting good sources of fiber like vegetablescan keep you regular.
Vegetables also have antioxidants, phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals substances that protect the health of your cells and support your immunesystem, which is slightly lowered during pregnancy. And, when you dipveggies like carrots and broccoli into hummus, you get an extra helping offiber along with protein to keep you feeling full longer.
Choosing healthy snacks doesnt have to take a lot of effort. Prioritize nutrition during pregnancy by keeping your kitchen stocked with nourishing options. That way, when youreach for a snack it will be a good one for you and your baby.
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What About With Twins
If twins are visible at your 12-week ultrasound, the sonographer will perform a chorionicity scan to determine if the twins share a placenta.
Twins who share a placenta are called monochorionic twins and are always identical. Theyre at greater risk for:
- twin anemia polycythemia sequence
- selective intrauterine growth restriction
If the twins are monochorionic, the sonographer will also check about the amnionicity. This is important, because mo/mo twins will require more monitoring to ensure theres no cord entanglement or compression.
Dichorionic twins have their own separate placentas. These account for all fraternal twins and about one third of identical twins. Because each fetus has its own separate space to develop, these twin pregnancies typically carry the lowest risk of complications.
Twin babies dont tend to be much smaller than singletons early in pregnancy. If your sonographer notices a size difference between your twins, the larger baby can be used to date the pregnancy in most cases.
Theres a very small chance that a twin may be hiding and missed during your first ultrasound . Chances of missing a twin are higher if they share the same amniotic sac.
After your 20-week anatomy scan, you can pretty much rule this out, though.
Undercooked Raw And Processed Meat
Some of the same issues with raw fish affect undercooked meat, too. Eating undercooked or raw meat increases your risk of infection from several bacteria or parasites, including Toxoplasma, E. coli, Listeria, and Salmonella.
Bacteria may threaten the health of your little one, possibly leading to stillbirth or severe neurological illnesses, including intellectual disability, blindness, and epilepsy.
While most bacteria are found on the surface of whole pieces of meat, other bacteria may linger inside the muscle fibers.
Some whole cuts of meat such as tenderloins, sirloins, or ribeye from beef, lamb and veal may be safe to consume when not cooked all the way through. However, this only applies when the piece of meat is whole or uncut, and completely cooked on the outside.
Cut meat, including meat patties, burgers, minced meat, pork, and poultry, should never be consumed raw or undercooked. So keep those burgers on the grill well done for now.
Hot dogs, lunch meat, and deli meat are also of concern, which is sometimes surprising to pregnant people. These types of meat may become infected with various bacteria during processing or storage.
Pregnant women should not consume processed meat products unless theyve been reheated until steaming hot.
Raw eggs can be contaminated with the Salmonella bacteria.
Symptoms of salmonella infections include fever, nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, and diarrhea.
Foods that commonly contain raw eggs include:
Although this is mostly
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More Activities That Should Be Avoided While Pregnant
- Do not change the litter box. It puts you at risk of catching toxoplasmosis, which can harm a developing fetus and even cause blindness or brain damage.
- Avoid skiing, ice-skating, and rock climbing.
- Stay away from basic meds like ibuprofen, cold medicines, acne medications, and herbal remedies. Medication other than prenatal vitamins should be run by your doctor first.
- Although water exercises put less stress on the body, avoid rigorous aquatic activities like swimming in the ocean with aggressive waves or jumping off a diving board.
- After the first trimester, stay away from workouts that require you to lie on your back. This will keep pressure off the uterus and from restricting blood flow to the baby.
Foods To Avoid In Pregnancy
When you’re pregnant, everything that goes into your mouth gets shared with your growing baby. Even though some types of foods and even some types of food poisoning may not hurt you, they may harm your little one.
To avoid food poisoning, be careful not to eat any food left out of the refrigerator for more than two hours .
Be sure to limit caffeine to 200 mg a day . And, as you probably know, forget alcohol while your baby is growing inside you.
To stay safe, also avoid these foods during your pregnancy.
- Cold cuts, deli meats, hot dogs, and other ready-to-eat meats.
- Pre-stuffed, fresh, turkey or chicken
- Steak tartare or any raw meat
- Rare cuts of meat and undercooked meats
- Refrigerated pates or meat spreads.
- Locally caught bluefish, pike, salmon, striped bass, trout, and walleye
- King mackerel, shark, swordfish, and tilefish, which have high levels of mercury
- Smoked cod, smoked salmon or lox, smoked mackerel, smoked trout, smoked tuna, and smoked whitefish, or other smoked fish
- Sushi or any raw fish or raw shellfish
- Raw eggs
- Raw cookie dough.
- Caesar salad dressing, bearnaise sauce, hollandaise sauce, mayonnaise, and any homemade dressings and sauces made with raw eggs
- Mousse, meringue, tiramisu, and any homemade desserts made with raw eggs
Milk and Cheese
- Unpasteurized milk
- Any cheese made from unpasteurized milk.
Fruits and Veggies
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What Do I Need To Know When Storing Food
It is important to keep cold food cold and hot food hot. Perishable food should never reach temperatures between 4 °C to 60 °C . This is because this temperature range is where bacteria can quickly grow and cause food poisoning.
You can reduce your chances of getting food poisoning if you:
- set your fridge at 4 °C or lower
- set your freezer at -18 °C or lower
- put raw meat, poultry, fish and seafood in sealed containers or plastic bags on the bottom shelf of your fridge – this prevents raw juices from dripping onto other food
- store cut fruits and vegetables in the fridge
- refrigerate or freeze raw meat, poultry, fish, seafood and leftovers immediately dangerous bacteria can grow if left out for more than:
- 1 hour during summer outdoor activities
- 2 hours at room temperature
Fridge and freezer storage
If you freeze food that is well-wrapped, it can last longer. Here are the recommended refrigeration and freezing times for different foods.
Is It Safe For Baby
Sushi rolls that contain fully-cooked fish and vegetarian or vegan rolls are safe for your developing baby. However, any raw or smoked fish, meat, or shellfish poses a risk of listeria. Listeria can pass from mother to fetus and lead to pregnancy loss or preterm labor. Babies born with listeria are among the highest risk groups for dying from it.
Fish supports your baby’s brain development but eating too much fish, or any fish that contains a large amount of mercury can lead to birth defects.
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Undercooked Or Raw Fish
This one will be tough for you sushi fans, but its an important one. Raw fish, especially shellfish, can cause several infections. These can be viral, bacterial, or parasitic infections, such as norovirus, Vibrio, Salmonella, and Listeria.
Some of these infections may only affect you, causing dehydration and weakness. Other infections may be passed on to your baby with serious, or even fatal, consequences.
Pregnant women are especially susceptible to listeria infections. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , pregnant women are up to 10 times more likely to get infected by Listeria than the general population. Pregnant Hispanic women are 24 times more at risk.
This bacteria can be found in soil and contaminated water or plants. Raw fish can become infected during processing, including smoking or drying.
Listeria bacteria can be passed to your baby through the placenta, even if youre not showing any signs of illness. This can lead to premature delivery, miscarriage, stillbirth, and other serious health problems, according to the CDC .
Its definitely advised to avoid raw fish and shellfish, including many sushi dishes. But dont worry, youll enjoy it that much more after baby is born and its safer to eat again.
Nutrition For Expectant Moms
A healthy diet includes proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, and plenty of water. The U.S. government publishes dietary guidelines that can help you determine how many servings of each kind of food to eat every day. Eating a variety of foods in the proportions indicated is a good step toward staying healthy.
Food labels can tell you what kinds of nutrients are in the foods you eat. The letters RDA, which you find on food labeling, stand for recommended daily allowance, or the amount of a nutrient recommended for your daily diet. When you’re pregnant, the RDAs for most nutrients are higher.
Here are some of the most common nutrients you need and the foods that contain them:
|meat, whole-milk dairy products, nuts, peanut butter, margarine, vegetable oils|
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Raw Processed And Undercooked Meats
The pregnant individuals body is more susceptible to infections and illnesses caused by various types of bacteria and parasites. These could harm your babys well-being eventually even if you develop a simple fever. Bacteria and parasites can come from untidy places and the foods that you eat, such as raw, processed and undercooked meats. Put these on top of your what-not-to-eat-during-pregnancy list!
Toxoplasmosis, for example, is an infection caused by Toxoplasma parasite and can be found in raw or undercooked meats. It is usually harmless in non-pregnant people. In pregnant individuals, it can cause stillbirth, miscarriage or organ damage to your baby. As much as possible, stay away from raw meat, or make sure to wash and cook thoroughly before consumption.
Unpasteurized Foods And Raw Meat
According to the USDA, pregnant women are at high risk of getting sick from two different types of food poisoning: listeriosis, caused by the Listeria bacteria, and toxoplasmosis, an infection caused by the Toxoplasma gondii parasite.
Listeriosis is about 20 times more common in pregnant women than in the rest of the population, according to a study published in the journal Reviews in Obstetrics and Gynecology. The CDC says that Listeria infection may cause miscarriage, stillbirth, pre-term labor, and illness or death in newborns.
To avoid listeriosis, the USDA recommends avoiding the following foods during pregnancy:
- Unpasteurized milk and foods made from it, such as feta, Brie, Camembert, blue-veined cheeses, queso blanco and queso fresco. Pasteurization involves heating a product to a high temperature to kill harmful bacteria.
- Hot dogs, luncheon meats and cold cuts, unless heated to steaming hot before eating to kill any bacteria.
- Store-bought deli salads, such as ham salad, chicken salad, tuna salad and seafood salad.
- Unpasteurized refrigerated meat spreads or pâtés.
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Why Should You Avoid Certain Foods During Pregnancy
Your immune system is weakened during pregnancy, so youre more susceptible to bacteria, viruses and other things that can cause foodborne illnessthink E. coli, salmonella and toxoplasmosis. Not only can these make you sick, but severe cases can cause preterm labor or miscarriage.
Also, since youre passing along most everything to your growing baby, what you eatfrom the mercury in fish to caffeine in coffeeaffects them too.
Activities That Could Cause Dehydration
- Hot Yoga
- Hot Pilates
Obviously, there are a lot more things that could be added to this list, but at the very least let it serve as a helpful guideline of what to avoid over these next several months and potentially beyond, depending on how your postpartum recovery goes and whether or not you have a vaginal or cesarean delivery . I know it can be tough to give up some of the things you love, even if its only temporary. But just keep reminding yourself that at the end of this journey, youll come to love your little bundle of joy more than words can say and realize that it was all well worth the sacrifice.
And, of course, if you have any specific questions or concerns, never be afraid to talk to your obstetrician. Because even though your workout routine may look a little different these days, that doesnt mean it cant still be fun as you navigate life with your beautiful and growing belly.
*If you feel chest pain, dizziness, headaches, or difficulty breathing at any point during an exercise, take a beat, and if things worsen, call 911.
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Health Conditions Help Determine What Not To Eat During Pregnancy
Pre-pregnancy, you may already have an existing health condition like diabetes or hypertension. Your dietitian will take this into consideration before setting any food restrictions during pregnancy. For example, fruits are highly beneficial for your health, but you may have to take a break from some of them if your blood sugar spikes every time you eat one. The same goes if you develop an allergic reaction to other foods.
Nausea, vomiting, morning sickness and fatigue are common symptoms of pregnancy that occur during the first and second trimesters. Food may have something to do with the degree of these symptoms. They can be worse or almost non-existent. To know exactly how to alleviate them, it is important to talk to a certified prenatal nutritionist near you, who will provide you sound guidance on what to eat during pregnancy.
Fish With High Levels Of Mercury
Seafood such as swordfish, shark, king mackerel, marlin, orange roughy, some types of tuna and tilefish are high in levels of methylmercury, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and should be avoided during pregnancy. If a person eats high-mercury fish regularly, the mercury can accumulate in their bloodstream and, if pregnant, this mercury can be passed on to a woman’s baby and damage their developing brain and nervous system, said the Mayo Clinic. Canned light tuna has less mercury than albacore “white” tuna and is safer to eat during pregnancy, according to a study published in 2004 in the journal Environ Res.
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Should I Exercise While Pregnant
Absolutely! Exercise is a great way to help your body adjust to all the changes it needs to go through over the next 9 months. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that pregnant people incorporate at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity into their weekly fitness regime. This could be in the form of fun group activities like prenatal yoga classes or simply power walking, swimming, or even riding on a stationary bike.
So, where do you draw the line when it comes to exercising, and at what point could physical activity be considered potentially dangerous? There are definitely a few workout options youll want to steer clear of until your baby comes out into the world. This brings us to exercises to avoid.
Be Choosy About Cheeses
As with refrigerated meat and unpasteurized dairy products, cheese can harbor listeria and other pathogens. But unlike the cook it or skip it recommendation for meat products, the advice on cheese isnt always straightforward.
In general, the softer and wetter a cheese gets, the more you have to worry about pathogens surviving and growing. Bacteria like moisture, said Dr. Dennis DAmico, Ph.D., a professor of food microbiology at the University of Connecticut, so pathogens tend to grow on soft cheeses more quickly than they grow on harder ones.
As you go from a mozzarella with high moisture to something like a cheddar or a Monterey Jack, the risk is starting to go down, said Dr. DAmico. Dry, hard cheeses such as a traditional Parmigiano or a Pecorino Romano have virtually zero risk of foodborne illness, said Dr. DAmico.
Soft cheeses made with unpasteurized milk are by far the riskiest: C.D.C. estimates suggest theyre as much as 160 times more likely to cause foodborne listeria infection than soft cheeses made with pasteurized milk. But even pasteurized soft cheeses are not risk-free: A 2018 C.D.C. report revealed that there were 12 times more listeria outbreaks linked to pasteurized soft cheeses between 2007 and 2014 than there were between 1998 and 2006. One such outbreak in 2015 hospitalized 28 people six of whom were pregnant. Latin-style cheeses, like Queso Fresco, have been implicated in more outbreaks than other types.
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