When I was pregnant with my son, I wanted to give him the best start possible. That meant eating a healthy diet and avoiding certain foods and drinks that could cause him harm before he was even born. Sometimes it was hard work, and other times it was pretty simple to do. But in the end, it was worth it!
The number one drink to avoid is alcohol. It is surprising to me how many women actually drink while pregnant. But according to www.healthykids.org, alcohol is the “leading known preventable cause of mental and physical birth defects in the United States.” Drinking alcohol while pregnant can cause Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, which includes failure to thrive, low birth weight, developmental delays, poor social skills, seizure, and behavior disorders. In fact, alcohol consumption can even inhibit conception so if you are trying to become pregnant or think you are already pregnant, please don’t drink! Your baby will thank you.
Another less potent drink to avoid is coffee! Well, you do not have to completely avoid coffee, but you would be wise to limit your caffeine intake. For starters, too much caffeine causes dehydration, which can lead to preterm contractions. Www.babycenter.com says that caffeine crosses the placenta and can increase the risk of miscarriage and low birth weight. Also, unborn babies can become addicted to caffeine in utero and go through withdrawal symptoms when they are born. I know how badly a caffeine headache feels, I certainly wouldn’t want to give one to my newborn! And from a purely comfort standpoint, if you are like me, caffeine and coffee cause so much heartburn during pregnancy that you can’t stand to drink it anyway.
I drank plenty of fruit juice while I was pregnant because it helped me to stay hydrated and had lots of Vitamin C to help me stay healthy. But I made sure to avoid any juices that were not pasteurized, as these could contain harmful bacteria. Just read the label – it will say if it is pasteurized. You should also avoid cider, as this is generally not pasteurized.
There are a number of foods to be avoided during pregnancy, especially those containing nitrates. Tests have not been performed on humans, but animal testing has shown that nitrates can have an adverse affect on unborn baby animals (www.ivillage.com). It would be wise to avoid foods containing nitrates, such as: hot dogs, bacon, and other highly processed foods. These foods also tend to be high in sodium content, which will increase swelling and water-retention in an already bloated mommy-to-be (just look at those ankles!). Processed foods are usually poor in nutritional content anyway, and when pregnant it is a good idea to eat foods that are unprocessed, fresh, and high in nutritional content. I did not eat a hot dog my entire pregnancy, but after the baby was born I was quick to fulfill my craving for an overcooked, salty, crusty, gas-station hot dog. But don’t worry, just one did the trick. I haven’t had one since!
Some other foods that are important to avoid are soft cheeses, such as blue cheese or brie, and lunch meats. This is because these foods can contain bacteria which can cause a flu-like illness in the mother which could be harmful or fatal for the baby. You may eat lunch meat if you heat it to steaming in the microwave as this will kill all the bacteria. I sadly avoided these foods as I love to eat brie and especially blue cheese salad dressing. I found it ironic when I was in the hospital with complications that labor and delivery had a standard meal available at all times – lunch meat sandwiches! I opted for a salad instead.
One last food to avoid – fish that contain high levels of mercury. The FDA says that no more than 12 oz of low mercury fish should be consumed each week during pregnancy. High mercury fish, such as shark, king mackerel, swordfish, and tilefish, should be avoided (www.americanpregnancy.org).
I’m sure there are many more foods which are important to avoid during pregnancy, these are just a few of the ones that I avoided while I was pregnant. Remember to eat a healthy balanced diet and take good care of yourself. It may be hard work while pregnant, but when you get to hold a healthy, happy baby in your arms it will all be worth it.