Unpasteurized foods, raw fish, and high-mercury fish
These are some pregnancy evils best avoided altogether. To make this clear, the March of Dimes, whose mission is to prevent prematurity and birth defects and to promote healthy pregnancies and healthy babies, has compiled a list of what foods you should stay away from. Here's a look:
- Swordfish, shark, king mackerel and tile fish: These fish can contain potentially risky levels of mercury. Mercury can be transferred to the growing fetus and cause serious health problems. Also avoid game fish until you check its safety with your local health department. (A game fish is any fish caught for sport, such as trout, salmon, or bass.)
- Raw fish, especially shellfish (oysters, clams)
- Soft-scrambled eggs and all foods made with raw or lightly cooked eggs
- Soft cheeses made with unpasteurized milk: Examples are Brie, feta, Camembert, Roquefort, blue-veined, queso blanco, queso fresco, and Panela. (Check the label to see what kind of milk was used to make the cheese. Most cheeses found in American supermarkets are in fact pasteurized.)
- Unpasteurized milk and any foods made from it
- Unpasteurized juices, such as fresh-pressed apple cider
- Raw vegetable sprouts, including alfalfa, clover, radish and mung bean
- Herbal supplements and teas
Undercooked meat, luncheon meats, and smoked seafood
Although these are not recommended as safe during pregnancy, the March of Dimes does offer these tips, if you feel you really must have that deli sandwich:
- Undercooked meat, poultry, and seafood: Cook all of these thoroughly to kill bacteria.
- Hot dogs or luncheon meats: Examples are deli meats such as salami and bologna. If you wish to eat these foods, first reheat them until steaming hot. Many people feel that turkey "off the bone" is safer as it has not been extensively processed. There are some concerns not only about bacterial contamination, but about the preservatives used. These are not proven.
- Pâtés or meat spreads: Be sure you refrigerate these, and use caution. Canned versions are safer.
- Smoked seafood: Refrigerate it, unless it has been cooked (as in a casserole). Canned versions are safer.
Alcohol should be completely avoided during pregnancy. Many women may have consumed alcohol before knowing they are pregnant. As soon as you know you are pregnant, it is wise to cease all consumption of alcohol.
Alcohol, when over-consumed can cause problems for your developing baby. Each person processes alcohol differently, so it is really unknown if there is a safe quantity. Best bet? Avoid it.
So, in looking at all this information, if you absolutely must indulge in a pregnancy evil, your safest bets are a cup of coffee or a sweet treat. Be sure to talk to your doctor when making decisions and ask for help with nutritional counseling if you feel overwhelmed or unsure of your food choices.