Q&A: What is the real story about eating peanuts during pregnancy?
What is the real story about eating peanuts or any form of it? Is it really true that if I eat peanuts or peanut butter while pregnant that I will cause my unborn child to have the terrible peanut allergy?
This is a great and important question. Peanuts are a great source of protein and nutrients, and are relatively low in carbohydrates. Peanut allergies, however, can be very serious. Even small exposures can lead to anaphylaxis in some people—a dangerous swelling of the throat and drop in blood pressure. So, of course, a mom-to-be with a peanut allergy herself should not eat peanut-containing foods. Maternal allergic reactions are not healthy for the mom or for the baby she is carrying. But here’s the good news: eating peanuts in pregnancy does not lead to peanut allergy in the child.
In the past, many experts believed that if you avoided peanut exposure during pregnancy, breastfeeding, and infancy, a child would be less likely to develop a peanut allergy. Since peanut allergies can be serious, many moms were avoiding peanuts to try to protect their offspring. New research, however, has shown that even in families with peanut allergies, peanut intake in pregnancy does not predispose the baby to peanut allergy. This is true for breastfeeding too—peanut intake has no effect on peanut allergy in the child. Interestingly, early exposure to peanuts is statistically associated with a decreased chance of peanut allergy, although that may not be cause and effect. Families without peanut allergies may just eat more peanuts!