Food and Pregnancy

Pregnancy is supposed to be an exciting time, but if often turns to a stressful one when you begin to wonder about what is safe and what’s not safe during pregnancy.

If you’re planning on becoming pregnant or are already expecting, here’s a list of 12 of the most common things your doctor will likely tell you to avoid during pregnancy.

1. Alcohol. Alcohol can cause a range of birth defects in your developing baby. The Eat for Health Australian government initiative recommends that women trying to become pregnant and those that are pregnant avoid alcohol completely.

2. Raw eggs, fish, meats and soft cheeses. Raw eggs should be avoided to prevent potential exposure to salmonella. Raw fish and meats should be avoided because they are at a higher risk to become contaminated with bacteria, toxoplasmosis and salmonella. Raw shellfish, like oysters, mussels and clams should be avoided to prevent seafood borne illnesses. Soft cheese should be avoided because they may contain bacteria called Listeria, which can cause miscarriage.

3. Deli meats. Deli meats can also carry the bacteria listeria. If you must eat deli meats, be sure you reheat them until they are steaming hot to help kill off bacteria.

4. Caffeine.  Reduce or eliminate caffeine from your diet while pregnant. While there are conflicting studies regarding the safety of consuming caffeine while pregnant, NSW Health recommends that pregnant women limit themselves to 200mg of caffeine daily .

5. Fish with high mercury content. Shark, swordfish, billfish and other fish with high levels of mercury should be avoided during pregnancy. Sushi should also be avoided due to its high mercury content and salmonella risk. Mercury ingested during pregnancy has been linked to brain damage and developmental delays.

6. Ibuprofen. Ibuprofen is not recommended for use during pregnancy by the Therapeutic Goods Administration. Ibuprofen should especially be avoided during late pregnancy to avoid the risk of your baby developing heart problems. Advil and Nurofen are two common brand names of ibuprofen.

7. Cyclamate and saccharin. While most artificial sweeteners are considered safe to use during pregnancy, the Nutrition Professionals of Australia recommends limiting saccharin and cyclamate. Saccharin should be avoided during pregnancy because it may cross the placenta.

8. Smoking. Smoking isn’t good for anyone, especially a pregnant woman and her unborn child. Smoking while pregnant can lead to low-birth weight, pre-term delivery and stillborn birth.

9. Drug use. Both illicit drugs and some prescription drugs can harm your unborn baby. It is vital that you speak to your healthcare provider about any drugs you are taking or plan to take.

10. Hot spas. Most hot tubs are programmed to keep the water temperature at 40°C. Sitting in a spa for just 10 to 20 minutes can raise your body temperature high enough to potentially harm your baby, especially during the first trimester. Hyperthermia (an abnormally high body temperature) may cause neural tube defects (where the spine or skull does not close properly) in developing babies.

11. Cat litter boxes. Toxoplasmosis, which can cause birth defects, can be caused by coming into contact with cat faeces. While pregnant, have someone else take care of the litter box duties.

12. Some beauty treatments. Acne treatments, skin treatments containing Salicylic acid, mud baths, skin peels and teeth whitening should be avoided during pregnancy. Before having any beauty treatment, check with your health care provider and the salon manager to be sure it’s considered safe during pregnancy.

If you have concerns about what’s safe and what’s not during your pregnancy, always address your concerns with your health care provider.

More ways to care for your health during pregnancy:

Image: Getty