Foods to Avoid While Pregnant

Expectant mothers have special dietary needs while pregnant, and therefore must pay close attention to what they eat and avoid harmful foods and beverages. During pregnancy, certain foods should be consumed only rarely, while others should be completely avoided. When you are pregnant, your diet must provide enough nutrients and energy for your growing baby to develop properly. At the same time, they also need to provide your body with the nutrition you need to stay healthy enough to deal with all the changes that happen during your pregnancy. Here are some foods that are best avoided while you are pregnant:

  1. High mercury fish. Mercury is highly toxic and there is no known safe level of exposure. It can be toxic to your immune system, nervous system, and kidneys in large amounts, and may cause serious developmental problems in children. You should limit consumption of high-mercury fish to no more than 1–2 servings per month. Types of high-mercury fish include shark, mackerel swordfish, and tuna, (especially albacore tuna). Consuming low-mercury fish during pregnancy is very healthy, and these fish can be eaten up to 2 times per week. Fatty fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for your baby.

  2. Undercooked or raw fish and shellfish. These fish can be contaminated with bacteria and parasites which can cause viral, bacterial or parasitic infections, one of which is Listeria. Some of these infections will only affect you, while others may be passed on to your baby with serious, or even fatal, consequences. Pregnant women are up to 20 times more likely to become infected by Listeria, which is found in soil, contaminated water, and plants. Listeria can be passed through the placenta, possibly leading to miscarriage, premature delivery, stillbirth, and other serious health problems.

  3. Undercooked, raw or processed meat. Eating undercooked or raw meat increases your risk of infection from several bacteria or parasites, including E. coli, Listeria, Toxoplasma, and Salmonella, which can pose a serious threat to the health of your unborn baby. Serious health issues such as severe neurological illnesses, intellectual disability, blindness, epilepsy, and stillbirth are possible. Processed meats such as deli meat and hot dogs should also be avoided while you are pregnant.

  4. Organ meat. Organ meat is a great source of iron, vitamin B12, vitamin A and copper, but consuming too much may cause vitamin A toxicity and abnormally high copper levels, which can result in birth defects and liver toxicity. To prevent this toxicity, pregnant women are advised to eat organ meat no more than once a week.

  5. Soft cheeses made with unpasteurized milk. Unpasteurized milk and soft cheeses may contain bacterial contamination that can have life-threatening consequences for an unborn baby. Pasteurization is the most efficient way to kill harmful bacteria without changing the nutritional value of the food or beverage. Pregnant women are advised to consume only pasteurized milk, cheeses, and fruit juice to minimize the risk of infection.

  6. Raw eggs. Salmonella is not uncommon in raw eggs. Symptoms of Salmonella infections include fever, nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps and diarrhea. In rare cases, Salmonella infections may cause cramps in the uterus, leading to premature birth or stillbirth. While you might not consume eggs raw by themselves, many foods contain raw eggs, including Hollandaise sauce, homemade mayonnaise, homemade ice cream, salad dressings, raw cookie dough, cake batter, and cake icings. Always cook eggs thoroughly or use pasteurized eggs while you are pregnant.

  7. Raw sprouts. The humid environment required by seeds to start sprouting is ideal for the growth of Salmonella, which is virtually impossible to remove by washing as it can be harbored inside the seeds. Pregnant women are advised to avoid raw sprouts altogether, although they are safe to eat after they have been fully cooked.

  8. Unwashed produce. While you’re pregnant, it’s very important to thoroughly rinse, peel, or cook all fruits and vegetables. Unwashed or unpeeled fruits and vegetables can be contaminated with several bacteria and parasites during harvest, production, processing, transportation, storage, or retail that can cause such serious problems as eye damage, blindness, brain damage, or intellectual disabilities in children who become infected.

  9. Caffeine. While you’re pregnant, you should limit your daily caffeine intake to two to three cups of coffee, or switch to decaf. High caffeine intake can limit your baby’s growth and increase the risk of low birth weight, which is associated with an increased risk of infant death. Low birth weight can also be a sign of a higher risk of serious diseases in adulthood, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

  10. Alcohol. It’s a good idea to completely avoid drinking alcohol while you’re pregnant, as it increases the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, and fetal alcohol syndrome. Even a small amount can negatively impact your baby’s brain development. It can also cause fetal alcohol syndrome, which involves facial deformities, heart defects and intellectual disability.

  11. Processed junk foods. While you are pregnant, a healthy pregnancy diet should consist mostly of whole foods with plenty of nutrients, and little to no processed foods. Eating processed foods during pregnancy can increase your risk of excess weight gain, gestational diabetes and complications, which can have long-term health implications for your child. The excess calories, sugar, and unhealthy fats can dramatically increase the risk of serious health problems, including gestational diabetes, type two diabetes, and heart disease, as well as pregnancy or birth complications.

The staff at Colorado Obstetrics and Women’s Health provides personalized, comprehensive health care for Colorado Springs women from puberty through the childbearing years, into menopause and beyond. If you are looking for a caring group of healthcare professionals to assist you in achieving your best health, please give us a call today at (719) 634-8800 to schedule an appointment. We look forward to serving you.