Foods To Avoid During Pregnancy

Nutrition & Fertility Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy
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Exercise During Pregnancy Cystic Fibrosis Screening

Alcohol

Alcohol ingested during pregnancy quickly crosses the placenta and can harm the fetus. In the United States, alcohol consumption during pregnancy is the leading preventable cause of mental retardation in children. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is characterized by a cluster of symptoms including low birth weight, facial deformities, small head size, low IQ and behavioral problems. Heavy drinking ( more than 2 drinks per day) or binge drinking (more than 5 drinks on one occasion) can lead to FAS. Even moderate drinking (1 to 2 drinks per day) has been associated with attention deficit and memory problems in children. The safest plan is to avoid alcohol during pregnancy.

Un-Pasteurized Juices

Most juices sold in the United States are pasteurized. Un-pasteurized juices are required by the Food and Drug Administration to carry a label stating such. Un-pasteurized apple and orange juice may contain bacteria such as Escherichia coli or salmonella which can cause diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramping and fever that may persist for several days.

Undercooked Meat

This includes all meat: fish, shellfish, poultry, pork, beef and even eggs. Consuming undercooked meat is the leading cause of toxoplasmosis in the United States. Toxoplasmosis is a parasite which can infect the fetus and cause birth defects. Raw eggs carry a risk of bacterial contamination with can lead to nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration. Caesar salad dressing, hollandaise sauce and un-pasteurized eggnog may contain raw eggs. Seared seafood served rare, ceviche, undercooked shellfish and some sushi items may contain parasites such as tapeworm. Only fully and properly cooking fish destroys tapeworm eggs and other parasites. Some sushi such as California roll, cooked eel or shrimp and vegetable sushi may be eaten during pregnancy.

Certain Fish and Shellfish

Fish and shellfish are great sources of lean protein and healthy omega-3 fatty acids. However, certain types of fish may contain high levels of methyl mercury and should be avoided during pregnancy. The effects of methyl mercury on the fetus include permanent brain and kidney damage. Large fish that feed on other fish are the most likely to accumulate high levels of methyl mercury and include shark, swordfish, mackerel and tile fish. The Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection agency recommend pregnant women avoid eating these types of fish altogether. These agencies say you can safely eat up to 12 oz of cooked fish or shellfish per week (about 2 average meals) that are low in methyl mercury such as shrimp, salmon, pollock, catfish and canned light tuna. Albacore or “white” tuna may contain higher amounts of methyl mercury and should be limited to 6 oz per week. Also, avoid all uncooked shellfish (oysters, clams, mussels). Be sure to check and follow local advisories regarding the safety of fish caught in local waters. If no advisories have been issued, you may consume fish caught by family and friends but limit the amount to about 6 oz per week and don’t eat any other fish that week. Finally, there have been reports about chemical contamination of salmon. This has primarily been a problem with farm-raised salmon. Salmon is an extremely healthy source of protein and omega-3 fatty acid but consumption of wild salmon (i.e. not farm-raised) is preferable.

Soft Cheeses and Deli Meats

Certain soft cheeses, deli meats (including packaged luncheon meat) and un-pasteurized milk products have a higher chance of being contaminated by a bacteria known as Listeria monocytogenes. Listeria infection is very rare but pregnant women are more susceptible due to changes in their immune system. Listeria infection during pregnancy increases the risk for preterm labor, miscarriage and stillbirth. The following are soft cheeses which should not be eaten during pregnancy: feta, blue, Roquefort, Gorgonzola, Brie and fresh mozzarella. Hard cheeses like Cheddar and Swiss and semi-soft cheeses such as mozzarella (made with pasteurized milk) and pasteurized processed cheese slices, cottage and cream cheese are safe to eat during pregnancy. Hot dogs, luncheon and deli meats should not be eaten unless they have been heated to steaming hot.

Refrigerated smoked seafood products like salmon, trout, whitefish, cod, tuna and mackerel should not be eaten unless cooked. This includes anything labeled as “nova-style,” “kippered,” “jerky,” “lox” and “smoked.” Shelf-stable smoked seafood products such as tuna and salmon are safe to eat while pregnant. Meat spread and meat pate' should be avoided while pregnant.

Excessive Caffeine

There is no evidence that small amounts of caffeine - the equivalent of 1-2 cups of coffee per day - are harmful to the fetus. Some studies suggest heavy intake of caffeine may be associated with low birth weight, miscarriage and preterm labor. The amount of caffeine contained in coffee depends on the brewing method and types of beans. An 8 oz cup of brewed coffee contains about 150 milligrams (mg) of caffeine while the same amount of instant coffee has about 95 mg of caffeine. Decaf coffee contains about 5 mg per serving. Some large serving specialty coffee drinks contain up to 550 mg of caffeine !!!

For tea drinkers, green tea is the best choice as it contains antioxidants and only 15-40 mg of caffeine per 8 oz serving. Black tea has about 35-55 mg per 8 oz serving.

Soft drinks can contain significant levels of caffeine too. The typical cola drink has 30-60 mg and Mountain Dew and Mellow Yellow have about 55 mg of caffeine per 12 oz serving chocolate contains small amounts of caffeine. The average caffeine content is 5-35 mg per 8 oz serving dark chocolate has more caffeine than milk chocolate.

If you can, try to consume no more than 1-2 cups of coffee (about 300mg of caffeine) or the equivalent (tea & soft drinks) per day.

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