If you’re an expectant mom, you may be eating more carefully – what you eat and drink is feeding your growing baby after all.
And it turns out, pregnant women need to steer away from some common everyday foods, experts warn.
“Healthy pregnancy requires major physiological changes and metabolic adaptations on the part of the mother … inadequate nutrition, both in the form of over-nutrition as well as under-nutrition, will increase the risk of poor pregnancy outcomes – for the mother and for the baby,” Dr. Joshua Klein told Global News.
He’s a reproductive endocrinologist and chief clinical officer at Extend Fertility – he’s been working in the fertility field for almost a decade.
“During pregnancy there are specific guidelines out there … your body needs calcium, vitamins and minerals. You also want to make sure you take certain supplements,” Dr. Sony Sierra, a Women’s College Hospital reproductive endocrinology and infertility specialist, said.
The duo shed light on what women should be eating more of, less off, and avoiding altogether.
Prior to conceiving: Take a folic acid supplement – at least 0.4 to 1 milligram for most women. This can be taken ideally one month before conception.
Stop smoking, even when you’re trying to get pregnant. The experts tell their clients to give up smoking as soon as they start working with them – the toxins in cigarettes can affect the fluid eggs are basted in. Women who smoke in their 20s, statistically speaking, have lower egg supply in their 30s and 40s compared to their non-smoking peers.
Limit your caffeine intake, too. You should stick to about one small coffee a day – or 40 milligrams of caffeine. This helps with blood flow to the ovaries and pelvis.
What foods should women avoid once they’re pregnant?
Fish with high mercury levels: Chances are high that you’re already cutting back on your intake of fish and seafood if you’re pregnant. Stick to about eight to 12 ounces of a variety of fish each week, according to U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidelines.
Four types of fish have been singled out as being high in mercury: tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico, shark, swordfish, and king mackerel. Limit white (albacore) tuna to six ounces a week.
Undercooked or raw fish, meat and eggs: Raw fish and meats, such as tartare, are off limits, too because they can cause infections, such as norovirus or listeria. This isn’t good for mommy and growing baby.
This extends to unpasteurized juices, dairy, and raw sprouts, according to Klein.
Smoked dishes, like smoked salmon, even apply to this category.
Raw eggs: Stay away from lightly scrambled eggs, poached eggs, Hollandaise sauce, homemade mayonnaises, and other food that includes raw eggs, too. There’s risk of getting sick from Salmonella.
Processed meats and unpasteurized milk and cheeses: Cold cuts, deli meats, and undercooked cuts of meat, like steak, burger patties or tartare, are off limits during pregnancy.
That’s because raw or cured meats could have bacteria or parasites, the experts warn.
Even processed meats like hot dogs or deli meats could be an issue because of contamination.
Expectant moms can eat meat – as long as it’s cooked all the way through.
Pregnant women should stop eating soft and unpasteurized cheeses, too. Infections from bacteria, like E. coli or Listeria, could make expectant moms sick and risk the health of baby, too.
Junk food: Try to stay away from “empty calories,” Klein said. This includes foods that are high in added sugars and fats, from soda to pastries, fried food and any snacks coming from a box instead of whole foods.
These ingredients hand you calories without any nutrition.
Alcohol: Could a sip of wine once a month cause birth defects? Most likely not, the experts say.
“But since there’s no established threshold for safety of alcohol in pregnancy, none is the bottom line, safest recommendation,” Klein said.
So what should women focus on when it comes to nutrition during pregnancy?
Appropriate weight gain: Eating for two is an exaggeration and not a good guideline, the experts say. Stick to sensible portions of whole foods and keep an eye on your weight gain to make sure it isn’t veering off track. Some women grapple with gestational diabetes during their pregnancy because of excess weight gain, which could spell long-term trouble even after they’ve given birth.
Take a multivitamin supplement: Klein suggests women take a multivitamin to cover their bases for iron, calcium, folate, iodine and vitamin D.
Pay attention to trimesters: These guidelines on what not to eat don’t change much by trimester, but organogenesis – the formation of fetal organs – occurs in the first trimester. This is traditionally seen as the most “sensitive” time for women in terms of birth defects.