5 Tips About Food Safety During Pregnancy
Pregnancy is undoubtedly one of the most physiologically and emotionally demanding periods of a woman’s life. The growth and development of the baby are completely dependent on the food the mother consumes. Thus, a healthy diet during pregnancy should not only have the right balance and combination of nutrients but should also avoid certain foods. Let’s explore 5 important tips about food safety during pregnancy that you must follow.
Properly cook fish and meat
One of the foods to avoid during pregnancy is raw or undercooked food. Eating such foods during pregnancy can expose the mother and the developing baby to a variety of pathogenic bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites. This severely affects both the mother and the growing fetus resulting in stunted growth, birth defects, and even stillbirth.
Follow these steps to prevent any foodborne infections:
- Cook the meat at temperatures equal to or higher than the Safe Minimum Internal Temperature. The Safe Minimum Internal Temperature is the minimum temperature the core of the meat should be at during cooking to destroy food pathogens.
- Allow the meat to rest undisturbed for several minutes after cooking. During this time the internal temperature remains almost the same. This kills off pathogens which weren’t already killed off during cooking. You can easily measure the internal temperature using a thermometer.
Avoid Precooked Commercially Prepared Meat Salads
Precooked commercially prepared meats are one of the major foods to avoid during early pregnancy. Avoid meat salads or deli meats as it can be infected with Listeria which is known to cause miscarriages during early pregnancy even when the mother shows no apparent signs of infection. Ideally properly cooked fresh meat salads should be prepared at home and consumed soon after preparation.
Foods to avoid during pregnancy: High Mercury Fishes
Some species of fish contain high levels of mercury that can have adverse effects on the baby’s health. This includes developmental delays, nervous system damage, malformations, and even stillbirth.
However, fishes are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and a variety of other nutrients which are beneficial for the developing fetus. Thus, consume fish responsibly and with caution to ensure pregnancy food safety.
Avoid Raw and Undercooked Eggs at All Costs
One of the major foods to avoid during pregnancy is raw and even lightly cooked eggs. They can cause Salmonella infections which result in the mother suffering from gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, and diarrhea. However, in rare cases, the bacteria might infect the fetus and cause fetal death.
Take special care with foods which often contain raw egg as an ingredient. Some examples of food containing raw egg include:
- salad dressings
- ice creams
- raw cookie dough
- cake batter
Be Cautious with Raw and Smoked Seafood
Purchase seafood preparations which serve raw or lightly cooked fish such as smoked fish only from reputed vendors. Eat with caution as it can be infected by bacteria which cause gastroenteritis, vomiting, and severe abdominal cramps.
Limit your intake of shellfish to maintain food safety during pregnancy. Contamination of shellfish such as oysters, clams, and scallops with fish-borne parasites such as Anisakiasis can cause severe abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. Fish-borne parasites lead to anemia in pregnant women as well as restrict fetal growth and cause preterm delivery.
Be Careful around Drinks and Beverages
Beverages are essential and irreplaceable in our life. However, one needs to be careful with some beverages during pregnancy. You need to aware of the natural properties of the constituents in your beverage. Some of the things you must watch out for:
- Check if the ingredients of your beverage have a strong diuretic effect. This means that it helps in eliminating body fluids. Resultantly, it may cause water and calcium loss. It may even cross the placenta and affect the heart rate and the breathing of the baby.
- Alcohol (ethanol) directly affects the human brain. Our liver is strong enough to process alcoholic content. However, your baby may get affected if you consume high levels of alcohol in a day. Special precaution must be taken by breastfeeding mothers. Check the wait time you must have after alcohol consumption before breastfeeding!
- Excessive use of some of the seemingly innocuous herbs could be very dangerous. Excessive consumption of licorice and chamomile tea may even lead to miscarriages and preterm labor.
One of the drinks to absolutely avoid during pregnancy is alcohol. Alcohol (ethanol to be more precise) is intoxicating and adversely affects the human brain. In adults, it can be broken down and processed by the liver so it can be consumed without any immediate concerns of toxicity. Exposure of alcohol to the developing baby poses harmful risks as the baby’s liver is still developing and cannot effectively deal with the toxic shock of the alcohol crossing the placenta into the baby’s bloodstream.
Food safety during pregnancy is of utmost importance. Prevention is always better than cure and more so when one is pregnant. While it’s perfectly safe for expectant mothers to consume animal proteins, make sure your food is free from foodborne pathogens. These pregnancy food guidelines will help you make better choices for you and your newborn.