The tiny spark of life growing inside you is incredibly exciting. But one of the key things you’ll need to remember is that for the next 9 months, you’ll be sharing everything you eat and drink.
You can safeguard your baby’s health throughout your pregnancy by avoiding the following foods:
It was previously thought that the occasional small glass of alcohol during pregnancy was nothing to worry about. However, the Australian Medical Association, the National Health and Medical Research Council and the World Health Organisation now agree that when pregnant or trying to conceive, it is safest for your little person if alcohol is avoided entirely. Risks include birth defects, intellectual disability, behavioural issues and restricted growth both before and after birth.
2. Excessive Caffeine
Whilst consuming excessive caffeine may increase your risk of giving birth prematurely or even miscarrying, experts agree that it is safe to consume caffeine in controlled amounts. However, you should also check with your doctor first. Australian guidelines recommend limiting your caffeine intake to 200mg per day or less (which equates to roughly 1-2 cups of coffee or 3-4 cups of tea). As a general guide, you should also completely avoid any energy drinks that contain caffeine.
3. Raw Meat & Seafood
Like alcohol, the recommendation is that there is no safe level of consumption during pregnancy for any type of raw meat or seafood. Toxoplasmosis, an infection that may cause your baby to become blind or brain damaged, is one risk. Another is salmonella infection that may cause miscarriage. You should avoid raw poultry, beef, pork, lamb, fish, prawns, oysters, etc. If you choose to eat steak, lamb or other types of red meat, make sure these are ‘well done’ – i.e. with no traces of pink or blood.
4. Raw or Undercooked Eggs
What’s so bad about raw eggs? For starters, they may contain salmonella and this can be harmful to your baby. If you’re eating eggs out or at home, make sure they’re thoroughly cooked and not raw or runny. Avoiding raw eggs altogether can be tricky, as their presence in food is not always apparent. Keep your eye on homemade mayonnaise, chocolate mousse and aioli, which can all contain raw eggs.
5. Chicken Stuffing
While a roast chicken is fine to eat, you’ll need to avoid the stuffing. This is because it may not reach the required temperature while cooking to avoid the risk of salmonella poisoning.
6. Pre-prepared food including salads, sandwiches and wraps
Pre-prepared foods often have a shelf life of several days and as such, may contain listeria bacteria, which can cause food poisoning. For lunch, stick to freshly made sandwiches with fresh ingredients only.
7. Raw or lightly cooked bean sprouts
Unfortunately, all undercooked or raw bean sprouts may harbour salmonella. Varieties include alfalfa, broccoli, onion, clover, radish, snowpea, mung bean and soybean. Talk to your doctor about how you can keep your nutrients up, even when avoiding these foods.
8. Soft Cheeses & Pate
Uncooked soft cheeses and pates should also be off limits if you’re pregnant, as these may contain listeria as well. However, the good cheese news is that if cooked to at least 75ºC and consumed shortly afterwards, it’s perfectly safe. Even better, soft cheese contains calcium, an important nutrient for pregnancy.
9. Processed/cured deli meats
Deli meats (such as ham, chicken, turkey, salami etc.) can also consist of listeria. If you do want to eat deli meats, ensure you cook them to at least 75ºC first.
10. Soft serve & fried ice cream
You should also stay away from soft serve and fried ice cream throughout your pregnancy, as the bacteria in these could harm you or your baby. On the positive side, pre-packaged, frozen ice cream is both safe and a good source of calcium. It can also help satisfy those sweet cravings!
Dr Matthew Wilson is a gynaecologist and obstetrician operating at Norwest Private Hospital. To book an appointment, contact the clinic on 02 9680 9669.