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Seven food items to avoid during pregnancy

One of the first things women should learn about when they are pregnant is what they can or cannot eat.

It is advisable to pay close attention to what you eat and drink to stay healthy.

Certain foods should only be consumed rarely, while others should be avoided completely. According to Adda Bjarnadottir on Healthline, these are some foods to avoid or minimize during pregnancy.

1. High mercury fish

Mercury is a highly toxic element. It has no known safe level of exposure and is most commonly found in polluted water. In higher amounts, it can be toxic to your nervous system, immune system, and kidneys. It may also cause serious developmental problems in children, with adverse effects even in lower amounts.

Since it’s found in polluted seas, large marine fish can accumulate high amounts of mercury. Therefore, it’s best to avoid high mercury fish while pregnant and breastfeeding. High-mercury fish you want to avoid include sharks, swordfish, king mackerel, and tuna. However, it’s important to note that not all fish are high in mercury, just certain types.

Consuming low-mercury fish during pregnancy is very healthy, and this fish can be eaten up to three times per week, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Fatty fish like salmon is a good option, as they are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for your baby.

2. Undercooked or raw fish

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.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), pregnant women are up to 10 times more likely to get infected by Listeria than the general population. 

Listeria bacteria can be passed to your baby through the placenta, even if you’re not showing any signs of illness. This can lead to premature delivery, miscarriage, stillbirth, and other serious health problems, according to the CDC.

3. 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, 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.

Cut meat, including meat patties, burgers, minced meat, pork, and poultry, should never be consumed raw or undercooked. Also, hot dogs are of great concern. This type of meat may become infected with various bacteria during processing or storage. Pregnant women should not consume processed meat products unless they have been reheated until steaming hot.

4. Raw eggs

Raw eggs can be contaminated with the Salmonella bacteria. Symptoms of salmonella infections include fever, nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, and diarrhoea.

However, in rare cases, the infection may cause cramps in the uterus, leading to premature birth or stillbirth.

Most commercial products that contain raw eggs are made with pasteurized eggs and are safe to consume. However, you should always read the label to be sure.

To be on the safe side, make sure to always cook eggs thoroughly or use pasteurized eggs. Save those super runny yolks and homemade mayo until after the baby makes its debut.

5. Caffeine

Pregnant people are generally advised to limit their caffeine intake to less than 200 milligrams (mg) per day, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).

Caffeine is absorbed very quickly and passes easily into the placenta. Because babies and their placentas don’t have the main enzyme needed to metabolize caffeine, high levels can build up.

High caffeine intake during pregnancy restricts fetal growth and increases the risk of low birth weight at delivery.

6. Unwashed produce

The surface of unwashed or unpeeled fruits and vegetables may be contaminated with several bacteria and parasites. These include Toxoplasma, Salmonella, and Listeria, which can be acquired from the soil or through handling.

Contamination can occur at any time during production, harvest, processing, storage, transportation, or retail. One dangerous parasite that may linger on fruits and vegetables is called Toxoplasma. Most infants who are infected with the Toxoplasma bacteria while still in the womb have no symptoms at birth. However, symptoms such as blindness or intellectual disabilities may develop later in life.

7. Processed junk foods

There is no better time than pregnancy to start eating nutrient-dense foods to help both you and your growing little one. You will need increased amounts of many essential nutrients, including protein, folate, choline, and iron.

It’s also a myth that you’re “eating for two.” You can eat as you normally do during the first semester, then increase by about 350 calories per day in your second trimester, and about 450 calories per day in your third trimester.

An optimal pregnancy eating plan should mainly consist of whole foods, with plenty of nutrients to fulfil your needs and your baby’s needs. Processed junk food is generally low in nutrients and high in calories, sugar, and added fats.

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