You’re eating for two, so that means paying more attention to everything you eat and drink. Follow these guidelines to help your baby grow safely while keeping yourself healthy.
Don’t drink alcohol while pregnant. There is no known safe level of alcohol intake during pregnancy, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the March of Dimes.
Alcohol use during pregnancy may cause problems such as miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth and low birthweight. Drinking while pregnant can also lead to Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs). Babies and children with FASDs may be permanently affected by numerous problems, including:
- Birth defects, include brain damage.
- Heart, hearing and vision problems.
- Growth and learning disabilities.
- Difficulty controlling emotions and impulses.
- Difficulty with communication and socialization.
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
- Depression and anxiety.
Caffeine can cause nervousness, irritability, anxiety, irregular heartbeats and sleep problems. Though research is ongoing, some scientists believe caffeine can contribute to miscarriage, premature or low-birthweight babies, or possible birth defects.
To be safe, cut down or eliminate items that contain caffeine, such as coffee, tea, colas and other soft drinks. Cocoa and chocolate also contain caffeine, though in smaller amounts. (Herbal “teas” do not contain caffeine.) According to the March of Dimes, you should limit your caffeine intake to about 200 mg each day — that’s the amount in one 12-ounce cup of coffee.
If you usually drink a lot of coffee, gradually decrease your intake by mixing in decaf coffee until you can cut out regular coffee altogether. Stopping caffeine all at once can cause severe headaches, nausea and fatigue.
Caffeine is also an ingredient in many non-prescription medicines, such as headache relievers, cold medicine, allergy treatments and anti-drowsiness pills. Check with your healthcare provider before using these products.
Fish and Seafood
Fish and seafood are low in fat and rich in valuable nutrients. However, some fish and seafood contain high levels of mercury, which can harm an unborn baby. To be safe, choose fish carefully and use these tips while pregnant:
- Eat no more than 12 ounces of cooked fish a week.
- Do not eat shark, swordfish, king mackerel or tilefish, which are high in mercury.
- Limit albacore (white) tuna, even canned, to once a week.
- Low-mercury fish sources include shrimp, salmon, pollock and catfish.
- If you eat fish caught by family and friends, check local advisories about its safety.
- Don’t eat raw fish, especially shellfish.
Fruits and Vegetables
Non-organic fresh produce may harbor harmful chemicals used on farms to kill insects and weeds. To limit your exposure:
- Eat USDA-Certified organic foods whenever possible.
- Choose low-pesticide conventional produce.
- Wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly.
- Peel conventionally grown carrots, celery and other thick-skinned produce to avoid eating pesticides in the skins.
Meat, Dairy and Eggs
- Drink only pasteurized milk and juices.
- Avoid unpasteurized (raw milk) soft cheeses.
- Don’t eat raw or barely cooked eggs, fish or meat, or foods made with them (such as tiramisu, classic Caesar dressing, eggnog, raw cookie dough and soft-scrambled eggs).
- Cook fish, meat, poultry and eggs thoroughly to destroy potential bacteria and parasites.
- Minimize processed meats, such as hot dogs, and foods containing sodium nitrate, such as cured meats like ham or bacon.
Always wash cutting boards with soap and water after slicing any raw fish, meats or poultry. Run plastic cutting boards through the dishwasher.