While pregnant, what you eat and drink is even more important than usual because it impacts a child’s health. Some of your favorite foods may be among those you should avoid as they could pose a danger to your developing baby.
Undercooked or raw meat, eggs, and seafood: Undercooked or raw meat has a higher probability of being contaminated with coliform bacteria, toxoplasmosis, or salmonella. While you certainly don't want to be ingesting meat contaminated with this bacteria, it can be dangerous for your baby as well. So stay away from the sushi, oysters, and rare steak for a few months. The same goes for raw cookie dough, which contains raw eggs. Pay attention to labels, because some Caesar dressings, mayonnaise, and hollandaise sauces are made with raw eggs.
High-mercury fish: Mercury is toxic. There is no amount you can ingest that would be considered safe for you or your baby and, unfortunately, mercury-containing fish tend to be prevalent in popular dishes. Not all fish is considered high-mercury fish, however. The most common types that you need to stay away from are shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tuna.
You can eat fish that is considered low-mercury fish up to two times per week. In fact, fatty fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids, a nutrient that is important for your baby's development and is likely in your prenatal vitamins anyway. Salmon, tilapia, shrimp, and cod are all safe to eat in small amounts during your pregnancy.
Deli meat: Deli meats and hot dogs have a reputation for being contaminated with listeria – typically during the packaging process. It's a bad situation for an adult to suffer with listeria contamination. In fact, it can cause death. Even scarier, listeria has been known to cause miscarriage because of its ability to cross the placenta and infect the baby. This can lead to blood poisoning and might be life-threatening. If you're in a situation where you cannot avoid eating deli meat, make sure that you heat the meat until it is steaming to ensure that any bacteria have been killed.
Unpasteurized dairy products or juices: The pasteurization process is vital in reading food and beverages of harmful bacteria like listeria, salmonella, E.coli, and campylobacter. During the pasteurization process, these products are heated to a point that kills harmful bacteria without changing the nutritional value of the product. Avoid not only unpasteurized milk and juice, but also imported soft cheeses like Camembert, Roquefort, feta, gorgonzola, and cheeses that contain queso blanco or queso fresco unless the label specifies that they have been made from pasteurized milk.
Caffeine: For most of my new moms, giving up caffeine is the hardest blow they have to bear. Not only are you more tired because your body is creating a human, but now you can't have your morning cup of coffee. Most studies show that caffeine intake in slight moderation is fine. There are some studies, however, that suggest a link between caffeine intake and miscarriages. During your first trimester, avoid caffeine as much as possible. Once your doctor tells you it's OK to start drinking caffeine again, stick to the amount your doctor recommends.
Stay in constant contact with your physician during this time. If you are concerned that something might not be safe to eat, avoid it until you can talk with a medical professional.
Do you have a question about a particular food item? If so, leave a comment below!
Dr. Tiffany Tracy is an Obstetrics and Gynecology specialist at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic’s The Woodlands Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women’s Health. Her clinical interests include General Obstetrics; breastfeeding; minimally invasive gynecologic surgery, including certification in the use of the da Vinci robot; in-office procedures, including ablation and tubal occlusion; and adolescent health.