Foods that can harm pregnant women

The minute you get pregnant, your life changes. Everyone starts showering attention on you, and you become the most important person in the family. Similarly, your diet becomes everyone’s concern, including yours.

A healthy and well-balanced diet assumes priority during pregnancy as the body undergoes several changes. During this time the body requires necessary nutrients and energy and should be consumed properly for the better growth of the unborn. However, there are also some foods which should be avoided so that they don’t cause any harm to the developing child. It is better to be safe than sorry. Watch out for the following foods in your diet:

Raw and frozen meat carries harmful bacteria like salmonella and toxoplasmosis, which are harmful for both the mother and the baby. This is particularly in the case of foods such as sandwiches, hot dogs, sausages and burgers which are made of minced meat. Deli meats might be contaminated with the deadly bacteria listeria which can cause miscarriage or even stillbirth. Listeria is life threatening to the unborn child because it has the ability to cross the placenta and may infect the baby leading to infection or blood poisoning.

Have it fully cooked so none of it is left pink. Always wash your hands before touching the raw meat and keep it separate from the foods that are ready to eat.

Avoid having liver as it is high in fats and cholesterol and may pose a threat to the developing fetus.

Fish and seafood
Both saltwater and freshwater fish have high mercury levels and can be harmful if consumed in excess; larger fish have especially higher levels. Mercury consumption during pregnancy can lead to developmental delays, or nervous system and brain damage in the baby. Restrict oily fish such as sardines and salmon to not more than two portions a week. Fish is considered to be a healthy food, but do not have it raw – for example sushi, as it can harm the fetus.

Avoid raw or undercooked eggs as these could contain harmful bacteria, such as salmonella. Cook eggs until both the white and the yolk are firm enough. Be careful while having home-made chocolates, salad dressings or scrambled eggs that may have been prepared using raw or lightly cooked eggs.

Dairy products
Unpasteurized dairy products have the risk of transmitting toxoplasmosis (a type of parasite).Consumption of unpasteurized milk (buffalo or cow milk) is harmful and has the potential to carry listeria and other bacteria. It is safe to have processed cheese (cheese spreads) and mozzarella.

Raw fruits, vegetables and sprouts
Avoid unwashed raw or undercooked fruits and vegetables during pregnancy. Raw unwashed sprouts such as broccoli sprouts, onion sprouts, snow peas, clover, radish and moong or soya beans may also be harmful. It is always better to wash these foods properly before consumption.

Apart from this, you may want to avoid certain fruits and vegetables. Papayas, especially unripe ones, contain latex that can trigger uterine contractions. Besides, the papain in papayas is believed to induce abortion. For this reason some experts suggest avoiding papayas or eating only properly ripened ones in moderation during pregnancy. Also fruits such as pears, watermelons, pineapples, jackfruit and coconut, and vegetables such as eggplant, red chili, okra and potatoes sometimes induce adverse reactions in women who are naturally sensitive to them. If you fall in this category you may be better off avoiding these foods, especially during the first trimester when it pays to be extra careful. Speak to your doctor if you are not sure.

Chinese food
Chinese food containing ajinomoto or monosodium glutamate (MSG), which is high in sodium content, should be avoided during pregnancy. Foods high in salt or MSG can raise blood pressure or cause headaches, dehydration, diarrhea or allergic reactions in some people.

High levels of caffeine can result in low birth weight or even miscarriage. Caffeine is found in tea, coffee, chocolates and several soft and ‘energy’ drinks. It is advised not to take more than two cups of mild tea and coffee. Aerated beverages should be avoided.

Drinking alcohol is an absolute NO because it can lead to serious abnormalities, including physical defects, learning disabilities, and emotional problems, in children. Since alcohol may pass through the breast milk, it should be avoided while breastfeeding also. It is also important to give up smoking during pregnancy to avoid health complications for both the mother and the baby.

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