1. Fish containing mercury
Fish such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tile fish have high mercury levels and must be shunned. Mercury, an element found in oceans, streams, and lakes, converts into methyl mercury in the human body. It is a neurotoxin and is linked to brain damage and developmental delays in babies. You could choose fish such as salmon, catfish, cod, and canned light tuna, which have low mercury levels. According to the US FDA, you can eat up to eight to 12 ounces of fish per week, which is two to three servings. Consumption of white tuna (albacore) should be limited to six ounces per week.
2. Unpasteurized (raw) milk and juices
While there are plenty of people who tout the benefits of raw milk and raw juices, there are serious health risks to drinking these during pregnancy. The main concern is listeriosis, a bacterial infection that can be very dangerous to your baby. You’re especially at risk during pregnancy because your immune system is suppressed.
The bacterium Listeria monocytogenes can lurk in unpasteurized milk and dairy products, unpasteurized juice, and other foods, and it can continue to grow, even in the refrigerator. That’s why it’s best to avoid these beverages completely.
3. Refrigerated meats and deli salads
Listeria contamination is also a threat with refrigerated deli meats like turkey, ham, bologna, roast beef, and hot dogs. These aren’t safe unless you heat them to steaming hot (165 degrees Fahrenheit) before you eat them.
Same goes for refrigerated smoked seafood, meat spreads, and deli salads such as coleslaw, potato salad, ham salad, and seafood salad. Unless you don’t mind eating these steaming hot, you’ll want to avoid them. (Smoked seafood, like lox and whitefish, is fine if it’s in a casserole or quiche that has been cooked to 165 degrees F.)
Canned, shelf-stable meats and seafood are safe to eat, but these products contain high amounts of sodium, so they’re not the best nutritional choice during pregnancy.
4. Raw Eggs
Raw eggs can be contaminated with Salmonella.
Symptoms of Salmonella infections are usually experienced only by the mother.
They include fever, nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps and diarrhea.
However, in rare cases, the infection may cause cramps in the uterus, leading to premature birth or stillbirth.
Foods that commonly contain raw eggs include:
- Lightly scrambled eggs
- Poached eggs
- Hollandaise sauce
- Homemade mayonnaise
- Salad dressings
- Homemade ice cream
- Cake icings
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 make sure.
Pregnant women should always cook eggs thoroughly, or used pasteurized eggs.
Caffeine is the most commonly used psychoactive substance in the world, and is mainly found in coffee, tea, soft drinks and cocoa.
Pregnant women are generally advised to limit their caffeine intake to less than 200 mg per day, or about 2–3 cups of coffee.
Caffeine is absorbed very quickly, and passes easily into the placenta and fetus.
Because unborn babies and their placentas do not have the main enzyme needed to metabolize caffeine, high levels can build up.
High caffeine intake during pregnancy has been shown to restrict fetal growth and increase the risk of low birth weight at delivery.
Low birth weight, defined as less than 5 lbs, 8 oz (or 2.5 kg), is associated with an increased risk of infant death and a higher risk of chronic diseases in adulthood, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.