Getting pregnant and having a baby is one of the most exciting events that can happen in a woman’s life. The thought of raising up a child of your own brings feelings of happiness, fulfillment, and completeness for any mother-to-be.
As a result, they take the utmost care when it comes to their habits so that they can ensure that their new bundle of joy is born happy and healthy. One of those habits pregnant women examine carefully is their daily food intake. They are careful to note what they should and shouldn’t eat.
However, one of the biggest problems pregnant women get when it comes to this is that they can’t seem to find the resources for them to be educated when it comes to what they should and shouldn’t eat.
If you are an expectant mother searching for an answer (or you know someone who is!), make sure you learn more about the three types of foods below. You may have thought they were safe or even healthy to eat, but are actually not recommended while you are pregnant:
1. Uncooked Fresh Vegetables
An increased intake of greens during pregnancy is definitely healthy for any mother. Vegetables provide antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that any pregnant woman needs in order to keep up with the increased demand. However, you might want to think twice on indulging too much on that large bowl of salad.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), two of the most important food-borne infections that can gravely affect pregnancy and the unborn fetus are listeriosis and toxoplasmosis. The ominous names of these two diseases certainly carry with them a danger not only to the mother, but to the baby as well.
Listeriosis is a bacterial infection caused by the small organism called Listeria monocytogenes. This bacteria usually thrives in abundant amounts in soil and grass, and thus can easily be transferred in fruits and vegetables.
While the disease itself is uncommon, the CDC’s web guide on listeria shows that it might actually be under-reported. Research shows pregnant women are up to twenty times more likely to be affected by the disease by non-pregnant women.
Listeria in pregnant women causes a condition called amnionitis, wherein the uterus, sometimes together with the amniotic sac (aka the bag of waters), becomes infected and inflamed. It usually starts with nonspecific symptoms, like fever or muscle aches and pains. Nausea and vomiting may also occur.
From there, as the uterus and amniotic sac get more inflamed due to the action of the bacteria and the body’s own immune defense mechanism, abscesses develop in the lining of the uterus, which poses a threat to the baby inside.
Those abscesses could rupture and lead to a massive infection of the whole organ. The body’s immune system goes into overdrive and this haywiring mechanism, together with the deadly infection, could lead to death of the infant via a condition called septic abortion.
Sure, this might be a worst-case scenario, but the alternative isn’t exactly a better prospect. You see, apart from outright killing the fetus, the organism could instead be transferred to the fetus itself via the bloodstream through the placenta. This, in turn, leads to an infection in the fetus which could lead to premature delivery of the baby. The baby delivered will unlikely be healthy at that point.
Apart from the problems accompanying prematurity, like not fully functioning lungs, the infant is also most likely to be meningoencephalitis – which is an inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. This disease, if not properly taken care of, usually leads to early death of the infant.
Apart from listeriosis, uncooked fresh vegetables, if not thoroughly well-prepared, can also lead to toxoplasmosis.
Toxoplasmosis is a disease brought about by parasite Toxoplasma gondii. This organism finds itself in the soil through cat feces. As such, this parasite can also be easily transferred to fruits and vegetables that are grown on the ground.
While toxoplasmosis in the mother rarely causes much harm apart from flu-like symptoms as well as muscle aches and pains, toxoplasmosis is recognized by microbiologists as a clear threat to the fetus during pregnancy – as it can cause congenital toxoplasmosis, which is highly associated with fetal death and abortion.
Should the fetus be successfully delivered, the baby has an increased risk to develop chorioretinitis, which is a inflammation of the vascular coating of the eye, along with the retina. This causes blurring of vision, and can ultimately lead to blindness.
As such, the CDC recommends the avoidance of eating vegetables if they are not cooked. If you still insist on eating them, you must ensure the vegetables are thoroughly washed through running water before ingestion.
2. Raw Meats and Deli Meats
Pregnant women certainly have higher protein demands than a normal individual. They can meet this demand by eating more meats, nuts, and legumes. However, this does not excuse them on eating meat that are cooked medium-rare or barely cooked at all, as this carries a risk as well.
Ingestion of undercooked meat carries the risk of ingesting tapeworms, scientifically called Taenia parasites. There are two types of tapeworms found in meat: T. solium, or the pork tapeworm, and T. bovis, or the beef tapeworm. These parasites live and multiply inside pigs and cattle, respectively.
These organisms can also stay alive inside those animals for a long time, even after the animals have already been slaughtered. As such, when infected meat is eaten by unsuspecting humans, the humans usually contract the disease called taeniasis.
While taeniasis from beef tapeworm has, in general, not much of an effect on the fetus, disease from the pork tapeworm has more deleterious effects. Mature pork tapeworms, called cysticercus, can travel to the mother’s brain and cause all sorts of havoc while in there. This disease is called neurocysticercosis.
According to a study published by the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric, and Neonatal Nurses in 2012, a pregnant woman experienced mental status changes and severe hypertension when her brain was engulfed with the pork tapeworm. This caused an eclampsia-like state that could definitely lead to the death of the fetus, not to mention the mother.
It is also important to note that there have been numerous cases of listeriosis occurring in the past that have come from ingesting raw meat. Meat can be poorly handled in transit to stores and supermarkets, and improper cleaning and preparation of these contaminated produce may harbor diseases like listeriosis that could potentially be harmful to both the expectant mother and her baby, as was talked about earlier.
CDC suggests that in order to avoid this disease, pregnant women should be careful in not only washing the meat they eat, but also thoroughly cooking them. Cooking meat destroys the harmful bacteria in it so that food becomes safe to eat.
3. Ocean-caught Fish
According to popular belief, if pregnant women want to indulge themselves and prefer to add some protein to their diet, they are safer if they opt for seafood, specifically fish. However, according to various scientific studies, it has been found that ocean-caught fish might not be a good choice for the expectant mother as the fishes from the sea contain a high level of mercury.
Mercury is a naturally occurring element that is commonly encountered in liquid form. It is used in a variety of industries from manufacturing to health care. However, mercury is a substance that is not meant to be ingested by a person at all, much less a pregnant woman.
According to the CDC, as little as 85 micrograms per liter of mercury – as little as a quarter of a quarter of a tablespoon! – is enough to cause early neurodevelopmental effects in the unborn fetus.
Further study by the Boston Children’s Hospital in 2014 found out that mercury can cause neurotoxicity in the baby, which could lead to a number of defects including muscle and nerve defects.
So what are these types of fish high in mercury? In general, it is best to avoid fish caught in the ocean. Particularly, species of fish such as swordfish, mackerels, and tilefish should be avoided.
Tuna, while containing lower mercury levels than the other fish species, still have mercury in them and is best eaten in careful moderation, if it cannot be helped.
It is very important to note that mercury does not lower in level in food when the food is cooked. The mercury remains in the food and therefore the best precaution is to avoid the food altogether.
Expecting? Eat This, Not That!
Looking for more information on what you should and shouldn’t eat while pregnant? For a mother responsible for her child’s safe growth inside the womb, being unsure is simply not acceptable.
That’s why we recommend books such as Eat This, Not That When You’re Expecting to anyone who is expecting a child soon. The book is written by Dr. Jennifer Ashton, one of the most renowned Ob/Gyn practitioners in the United States and chief women’s health correspondent at ABC News.
This comprehensive guide gives you everything from meal plans to grocery strategies and restaurant recommendations. Make sure to check it out to ensure that you give birth to the healthiest baby possible!