I’m pregnant. What foods should I avoid eating?
During pregnancy, the future mother experiences a number of hormonal changes. It is also very important to be aware of nutritional requirements since they can vary throughout gestation.
It is important to follow a balanced diet that has been adapted to the woman’s new circumstances so that both the mother and baby obtain the nutrients, vitamins and minerals that they need. The future mother must pay extra attention to what she eats and take particular care with certain foods.
Food poisoning. It is worth pointing out that there are many kinds of food poisoning and that, in most cases, it is very difficult to determine its exact cause. We do know that in approximately 60% of cases the food products themselves are involved and that they are a means of transportation for microorganisms. This is why all pregnant women must take particular care with mayonnaise and similar foods, eggs and derivatives, fish, seafood, meat and derivatives and confectionery.
Both the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) and the NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) offer some suggestions and advice to follow whilst pregnant. These include refraining from eating white cheeses such as Camembert, Brie, Feta, fresh cheeses, etc., unless they are labelled as pasteurised. Cheeses that have not been pasteurised and that have been made with fresh milk can contain listeria. Other foods that can contain this bacteria include pates and vegetable-based foods.
Uncooked fish, sushi, oysters, sashimi, clams and mussels can contain parasites such as Anisakis. Therefore, consumption of previously frozen and cooked fish is recommended during pregnancy. According to the Spanish Food Safety and Nutrition Agency, consumption of large fish such as sword fish, bluefin tuna, etc. should be avoided. These species contain elevated amounts of mercury, a highly toxic substance that penetrates the placenta and can harm the baby’s development. However, it should be pointed out that fish also have a number of benefits. Appropriate amounts are 3 portions of fish a week. Consumption is linked to a lower risk of heart diseases in adults and improved neuronal development in children.
Coffee, tea and some soft drinks should be consumed with moderation because they contain caffeine. This substance penetrates the placenta and is associated with arterial hypertension (high blood pressure), abnormal heart rates and interrupted sleep patterns. Controlled consumption of caffeine means no more than 200mg a day.
Toxoplasmosis is a common parasitic infection. It can be contracted during pregnancy as a result of eating undercooked meat, cold meats and cured ham. The Ministry of Health recommends that meat is cooked at temperatures in excess of 66ºC and/or previously frozen for at least 24 hours. An obstetrician or doctor can use a specific blood test to determine if a woman has had this infection before.
Furthermore, all pregnant women must take some essential hygiene precautions including cleaning kitchen utensils in order to avoid cross contamination, washing fruit and vegetables before eating them, cooking meat and fish well and checking the expiry dates on foods.
Pregnancy is an ideal time to acquire healthy eating habits. With this in mind, the Endocrinology and Nutrition Unit at Instituto Bernabeu can help you to improve your eating habits and avoid nutritional deficiencies during pregnancy that can have an impact not only on the mother’s health but also on the child that is developing at the time.