Feeding during pregnancy is important. You’re growing a baby (yay you!), so be sure you stay clear of these foods to avoid when pregnant. After all, you need to maintain your body strong and healthy.
A pregnancy can become high-risk because of many reasons, but no matter what, abstaining from these big no-nos benefits your overall health.
As a general rule, some of the foods to avoid when pregnant are the shark, tilefish, swordfish, or King Mackerel. This is because of their levels of mercury.
Mercury can be found in bodies of water, so if you’re eating fish from a local market, make sure you know that its mercury levels are safe.
Don’t worry, though, eating salmon and low-mercury fish is a great way of consuming those omega fatties and folic acid. Just make sure that it’s low on mercury.
Undercooked eggs, meat, fish, poultry or shellfish
Cooking your meat submits it to high temperatures, killing all bacteria and parasites. Raw proteins are foods to avoid when pregnant because of their subjacent risk of contracting one of these bacteria and parasites.
Eating undercooked proteins may put you at risk of:
This is a disease which usually doesn’t produce any symptoms, but which you may pass to your unborn baby.
Babies born with toxoplasmosis may be born also without showing symptoms. But they are at greater risk of developing blindness or learning disabilities later in life.
Listeriosis is a grave infection which raises the risks of fetal death, premature birth, or infection in newborns.
Many strains of E. Coli are harmless and symptomless. However, some may cause an infection that can be passed on to your baby.
Women experience cramping, diarrhea, and fever. And pregnant women who contract some strains of E. coli are at a greater risk of premature delivery or miscarriage.
A salmonella infection has symptoms similar to food poisoning. In pregnant women, who are immunologically more vulnerable, it can even be life-threatening. High temperatures while cooking your food effectively kills salmonella. So it’s essential that you don’t eat undercooked protein.
Unpasteurized milk, cheese, and juice
As it happens to undercooked protein, unpasteurized milk, cheese, and juice is also rich with bacteria and parasites.
Pasteurization is a process in which products are put through high temperatures. This process effectively kills any living bacteria that may be potentially harmful to humans.
The Listeria particularly loves growing in unpasteurized milk, cheese, and juice.
Bottomline: Always drink pasteurized milk and cook well your food, that kills the Listeria for good!
Poorly washed vegetables or raw sprouts
Although vegetables are a great source of nutrition and you shouldn’t generally avoid them during your pregnancy, they all need to be thoroughly washed with to kill germs and parasites.
Toxoplasmosis can be found in the surface of vegetables, so wash them under hot, soapy water along with cutting boards, surface, and kitchen utensils.
However, some raw vegetables do fall under the list of foods to avoid when pregnant.
Eliminate raw sprouts completely from your diet. Avoid radish, beans, alfalfa, and clovers.
Sprouts grow in warm and humid conditions, which makes them ideal habitats for the E. coli, salmonella, and listeria. No amount of washing can make them safe to eat. But you can always cook them and eat them cooked!
Coffee and Energy Drinks
The studies of the effects of caffeine during pregnancy aren’t conclusive but they all have a negative tendency.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that pregnant women avoid consuming more than 200 mg of caffeine per day. Any more than that and it could lead towards miscarriage, low birth weight or stillbirth.
Although the evidence isn’t yet conclusive, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
For high-risk pregnancies, however, the risk can be greater depending on your condition. Caffeine raises your blood pressure and heart rate, so if you have developed pre-eclampsia in a previous pregnancy, have a history of high blood pressure, or are at risk of developing pre-eclampsia, you shouldn’t drink caffeine at all.
If the outer skin of the papaya is green (or greenish), it makes it another item on the list of foods to avoid when pregnant.
Ripe papayas are a great source of vitamins. But unripe papayas are especially dangerous for pregnant women and those who are at risk of developing a high-risk pregnancy.
Unripe papayas contain a pepsin called papain. Which does wonders to the digestive system! But, if you’re pregnant the risks overcome the benefits.
Papain causes a reaction in the body that is similar to what happens when doctors administer prostaglandins to promote labor. It can cause contractions and lead to miscarriage or preterm labor. It also weakens membranes that are vital to the fetus.
Trans fats are everywhere. So they are difficult to avoid (but so worth it!)
They are linked to heart diseases and affect brain function. This isn’t only one of the foods to avoid when pregnant, it’s also one of the foods to avoid in your daily diet.
If a pregnant woman consumes trans fats, they can allocate in the baby’s brain cells. Incipient studies have started gathering evidence that trans fat can cause memory problems, hyperactivity, and emotional issues.
Additionally, it’s linked to cardiovascular diseases and may affect negatively your blood pressure.
This hidden poison has a negative effect that’s completely opposite to those omega 3 fatty acids, which boost brain development.
Try to limit your consumption of trans fats as low as possible. During pregnancy and lactation, and, if you can, to your regular daily diet.
Your body will thank you.
For non-high-risk pregnancies, eating sugar is risky. But, for high-risk pregnancies, it’s downright dangerous.
Eating sugar may…
- Promote the development of fatty liver.
- Contribute to baby’s low birth weight (due to Intrauterine Growth Restriction.)
- Increase the risk of gestational diabetes.
- Cause unborn baby to be prone to metabolic syndrome and diabetes.
- Contribute to increasing the risk of pre-eclampsia.
- Increase the risk of heart diseases in your unborn baby’s lifespan, and…
- May cause preterm delivery.
Straight to the point: Avoid sugar like the plague!
Salt consumed in moderated amounts is healthy and needed to maintain the fluid volume in your body. In fact, pregnant women are advised to have 1.5 grams of sodium per day.
The problem with salt is how it affects high-risk pregnancies. In my case, I developed pre-eclampsia because of high blood pressure, and my doctor recommended to keep my salt (and sodium) intake at a minimum and to avoid it at all if possible.
For women with pre-eclampsia or chronic hypertension, eating with sodium may increase the risk of superimposed pre-eclampsia.
Granted, this isn’t one of the foods to avoid when pregnant, it’s one of the drinks to avoid when pregnant.
Soda is a big no-no for pregnancies, high-risk or not, because they contain sodium, sugar, and caffeine.
As you know now, those three are risky elements, particularly in an already high-risk pregnancy!
Sweetened drinks, such as canned ice tea, or bottled juices, are also dangerous for the same reasons!
Stay on the natural side with water and juices with no sugar.
There is no safe amount of alcohol consumption for pregnant women. So doctors recommend abstaining completely.
Alcohol travels fast in your bloodstream and penetrates the placenta to reach your baby’s bloodstream.
This may directly cause preterm labor, miscarriage, stillbirth, and low birth weight. In the case of heavy consistent drinking, damages to the nervous system of the baby, heart defects, problems in mental and/or physical development, and partial or total vision and hearing problems.
Processed Junk Food
Last but not least, you should avoid processed junk foods. The last of my list of foods to avoid when pregnant is one of the most important ones!
They contain high levels of sodium, trans fat, and sugars. And they pose additional risks of their own.
Junk foods may…
- Increase the risk of having gestational diabetes.
- Promote digestive problems.
- Cause low birth weight in babies.
- Increase the chances of genetic abnormalities in babies.
- Increase the risk of your unborn child developing allergies later in life.
- According to a study done on pregnant rats, babies may develop a liking for fatty, unhealthy foods.
That’s a Wrap
It all comes down to eating healthy. When I was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia, the doctors told me to eat healthily but weren’t too emphatic about that.
We could hold on for 12 weeks with pre-eclampsia, and Oliver went from an unviable baby to a preemie (and now, a healthy toddler). The doctors, then, told me that my choosing to eat healthily and avoid this list of foods probably contributed to our happy outcome.
Although having a preemie has complications of its own, Ollie was expected not to survive at all, so it was a big win for us.
Are you currently pregnant? What do you like to eat? Let us know in the comments below!