11 foods and drinks that you MUST avoid during pregnancy

Pregnant woman with two servings of pasta Bolognese in front of her Pregnant woman with two servings of pasta Bolognese in front of her

Pregnancy is one of the most beautiful and delicate moments in a woman’s life, which is why it’s extremely important to have a healthy diet during this time. This means that you should pay attention to all the things you eat, and make sure to avoid foods and drinks that could be harmful.

That’s why we show you here 11 foods and drinks that you should avoid, or lower your intake, during pregnancy.

  1. Fish with high mercury content

It’s well known that mercury is a highly toxic element. High amounts of it can be extremely harmful for your nervous system, immune system and kidneys. It doesn’t have a safe level of exposure, and it’s most commonly found in contaminated water, where big fishes that live in these oceans may accumulate high amounts of it, and pregnant women should only consume this kind of meat once or twice a month.

Fishes with high mercury content include:

  • Shark
  • Sword fish
  • King mackerel
  • Tuna (specially albacore)

As you can see, not all fishes contain mercury, and consuming those with low content of it during pregnancy is super healthy, and these fishes can be eaten even twice a week.

  1. Raw or undercooked fish

Raw fish, especially shellfish, can cause several infections. These include norovirus, Vibrio, Salmonella, Listeria and other parasites. Some of these infections only affect the mother, leaving her dehydrated and weak. Other infections may be transferred to the baby, and cause serious, even fatal, consequences.

One of the most common infections in pregnant women is caused by Listeria. In fact, pregnant women have a 20 fold higher chance of infection by Listeria than the general population.

These bacteria can be found on the ground and plants or contaminated water. Raw fish may get infected during processing, like smoked and dried.

Listeria can be transferred to the unborn baby through the placenta, even if the mother isn’t showing symptoms of disease. This may lead to a premature labor, miscarriage, death and other health problems.

Therefore, pregnant women are advised against eating raw fish or shellfishes, this includes sushi.

  1. Raw, undercooked or processed meat

Eating raw or uncooked meat increases the risk of infection due to several bacteria and parasites, like Toxoplasma, E. coli, Listeria and Salmonella.

Bacteria can be a threat to the baby’s health, causing death or severe neurological disorders, including mental retardation, blindness and epilepsy.

Some whole cuts of meat, like loin, sirloin or ribeye from beef, lamb and veal, may be eaten safely even when they’re not totally cooked. However, this only applies when the piece of meat is whole, and completely cooked on the outside. Cut meat, including hamburgers, minced meat, pork and poultry, should never be eaten raw or undercooked.

  1. Raw eggs

Raw eggs may be contaminated with Salmonella. Symptoms of Salmonella infection are usually experienced only by the mother and include fever, nausea, vomit, stomach cramps and diarrhea.

However, in rare cases, the infection may cause cramps in the uterus, leading to a premature birth, and even, the baby’s death.

Almost all cases of raw eggs intake happen with homemade meals, since most commercial products that say they contain raw eggs, are actually pasteurized eggs, which can be eaten safely. However, you should always read the label to make sure.

  1. Organ meat

Organ meat is a great source of iron, vitamin B12, vitamin A and copper, and all of those are good for a pregnant woman and her baby, however, the intake of too much vitamin A from animal sources (preformed vitamin A) is not recommended during pregnancy.

This is due it may cause vitamin A toxicity, as well as abnormally high copper levels, which may cause birth defects and liver toxicity.

  1. Caffeine

Pregnant women should limit their caffeine intake to 200 mg per day, which is around 2 to 3 cups of coffee. High caffeine intake during pregnancy can limit fetal growth and cause low birth weight at delivery.

  1. Raw sprouts

Raw sprouts could be contaminated with bacteria inside their seeds, which make them impossible to wash off. So pregnant women should only eat cooked sprouts.

  1. Unwashed products

The surface of unwashed or unpeeled fruits and vegetables could be contaminated by several bacteria and parasites, like Toxoplasma, E. Coli, Salmonella and Listeria, which may be acquired from the floor or through manipulation. Contamination can actually occur at any moment during production, harvesting, processing, storage, transportation or retail.

Most infants infected with Toxoplasma while they’re still in the womb don’t show symptoms at birth. However, blindness or mental disabilities may occur later.

  1. Unpasteurized milk, cheese and fruit juice

Raw milk and unpasteurized cheese may contain a variety of harmful bacteria including Listeria, Salmonella, E. Coli and Campylobacter.

Same thing applies to unpasteurized juice, which is also likely to contain bacterial infections. All of these infections may have consequences that threaten the life of an unborn baby.

  1. Alcohol

Pregnant women are advised to avoid alcohol intake completely, since it increases the risk of miscarriage and death. Even a little amount can cause a negative impact on your baby’s brain development.

It can also cause fetal alcoholic syndrome. This syndrome includes facial deformities, heart defects and mental retardation.

  1. Processed junk food

When a woman is pregnant, her body needs higher amounts of many essential nutrients, including proteins, folate and iron. However, even though she’s “eating for two” now, she doesn’t need the double amount of calories. Actually she only needs around 350 to 500 extra calories a day during the second and third trimester.

Processed junk food is generally low in nutrients, and high in calories, sugar and added fats. And although some weight gain is necessary during pregnancy, excess weight gain has been associated with many diseases and complications, like gestational diabetes, or complications during pregnancy or labor. It can also increase the risk of having an overweight baby.

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