Pregnancy is one of the most important stages in a woman’s life and plays a crucial role in the proper development and growth of the child, both inside and outside the womb.

If you are going to be a mother, you should give special importance to your diet and therefore make a special focus in the following article, where we will talk about what foods can be dangerous for your health and that of your baby and why.

What foods should not be eaten during pregnancy?

There is an extensive list, where a wide variety of factors influence the determination of which are the foods that we should avoid during the gestation period. Here is a list that also includes the reasons.

1. Unwashed food

It is always important to wash fruits , vegetables and vegetables well before consuming them, but this habit becomes even more important during pregnancy.

Note: Some bacteria, such as Salmonella , E. Coli or Listeria, and parasites such as Toxoplasma , can live on the skin of these fresh foods that are usually eaten raw. (1)

The presence of these pathogens can infect the mother and she can transmit the infection through the placenta to the baby , who can present symptoms both at birth and later in life.

Perhaps the most serious infection is caused by Toxoplasma , a parasite that frequently causes premature births and damages various aspects of the child’s health: eyes, ears, nervous system, etc  (2) .

Note: To avoid the risk of contamination , food must be washed, the skin removed and, if necessary, cooked before consumption. In this way, any trace of harmful microorganisms will be reduced on a large scale.

2. Caffeinated drinks

Caffeine consumption can be dangerous during pregnancy, since this psychoactive substance is absorbed very quickly and is very likely to cross the placenta and reach the fetus.

To highlight: According to several studies, drinking large amounts of caffeine during the gestation period can increase the risk of miscarriage, premature labor and stillbirth. (3)

Similarly, excessive caffeine consumption has been associated with restricted fetal growth and a higher incidence of low birth weight, which increases the risk of infant mortality and the onset of chronic diseases in adulthood (4) .

For this reason, it is recommended that pregnant women limit their caffeine intake to 100-200 mg per day, that is, approximately 1-2 cups of coffee per day.

3. Unpasteurized dairy and fruit juices

Fresh dairy products, such as milk and cheese, as well as untreated fruit juices may contain harmful microorganisms that can cause infections in the pregnant mother and the fetus. (5)

Some of these organisms include bacteria such as Salmonella , Listeria , Campylobacter or E. coli , as well as various parasites and viruses.

There are several methods to destroy these populations of microbes, but the most effective is pasteurization, since it does not modify the composition and qualities of the food. (6)

To highlight: If you are pregnant and you are a lover of milk or juices, make sure to consume these products only pasteurized.

4. Processed, raw or undercooked meat

The same bacteria and parasites present in fresh fruits and vegetables are often also found in raw or undercooked meat and processed meat (7)

The best known is the Toxoplasma parasite , which, as I have previously indicated, causes eye problems and damages the baby’s nervous system .

A pregnant woman should not consume chopped and chopped meat , hamburgers, minced meat, whether pork, beef or poultry, if it is not fully cooked. (8)

To highlight: Deli meats, delicatessen and processed meat in general are only safe when heated until steaming.

5. Raw sprouts

Just like any other fresh vegetable, raw sprouts can harbor certain types of bacteria such as Salmonella (9) . The difference is that washing and rinsing these vegetables does not eliminate pathogenic microorganisms, as these tend to lodge in the seeds.

Note: If you are pregnant and want to eat these foods, you can do so after they are cooked.

6. Guts

Generally, the offal, that is, the meat from organs, is one of the most nutritious and healthy meats that exists. Liver meat, for example, is extremely rich in vitamin B12, copper, vitamin A, vitamin B2, and protein. (10)

However, a pregnant woman is extremely sensitive to the deficiency or excess of some nutrients and, in this case, the high content of vitamin A and copper from foods of animal origin can cause malformations in the fetus. (eleven)

Note: During pregnancy, try to limit organ meat consumption to once a week to avoid excessive increases in blood levels of vitamin A and copper.

7. Raw or undercooked fish

Raw or undercooked fish is another great source of pathogenic bacteria and parasites that can transmit infections only to the pregnant mother or her baby as well. (12)

Although there are many microorganisms that live in fish, perhaps one of the most prominent is the Listeria bacterium, since pregnant women have a 17 times greater risk of contracting an infection by this microorganism. (13)

To highlight: Listeriosis can cause spontaneous abortion, intrauterine growth restriction, preterm labor, inflammation of the placental membranes, and stillbirth in utero. (14)

Experts recommend avoiding the consumption of raw fish and shellfish during pregnancy, so if you love sushi you should make an effort to protect your health and that of your child.

8. Alcohol

Some confirm that light alcohol intake during pregnancy has no negative effects on child development, although the scientific evidence to the contrary is indisputable.

Important: When a pregnant mother drinks alcohol, it can cross the placenta and reach the fetus, which entails a series of fatal consequences in the baby’s life.

Many studies have associated alcohol consumption during pregnancy with an increased risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth, and sudden infant death syndrome. (fifteen)

Similarly, the fact that a pregnant woman drinks alcohol can cause what is known as fetal alcohol syndrome , a disorder acquired by the fetus and whose most common symptoms include (16) :

  • Low weight and height at birth.
  • Mental retardation.
  • Deformities in the face.
  • Emotional and behavioral problems.
  • Heart defects.

9. Foods with raw eggs

The elaboration and preparation of food with raw eggs presents a high risk of Salmonella infection in the pregnant mother. If it becomes infected and acquires some type of salmonellosis , the risk of stillbirth and premature labor increases considerably. (17)

Note: Foods considered high risk for having raw eggs are, to name a few: poached eggs, homemade mayonnaise, glazes, salad dressings, and many others.

It is important that you get used to reading the labels of the products you buy to be 100% sure that you do not consume a food with raw eggs. However, most of the commercialized products contain pasteurized eggs and do not present risks.

10. Fish exposed to mercury

Some types of fish can contain significant amounts of mercury by inhabiting waters contaminated with this metal.

Noteworthy: Large species of fish, such as tuna, shark, mackerel, or swordfish, that feed on other fish are generally prone to accumulate certain contaminants such as mercury. (18)

According to the World Health Organization , maternal consumption of mercury-contaminated fish can damage the growing baby’s brain and nervous system, negatively affecting (19) :

  • Memory.
  • Cognitive thinking.
  • Language.
  • Capacity of concentration.
  • Motor skills and spatial-visual.

However, it must be taken into account that other types of fish, such as fatty fish , are not contaminated by mercury and their high omega 3 content is very important for the health of the baby.

11. Processed foods

Processed foods are made with refined ingredients and contain artificial substances such as additives, flavorings, stabilizers, and preservatives, among others.

They are packed with calories, sugar , refined carbohydrates, trans fats , and contain little in the way of essential nutrients , such as vitamins, protein , and fiber. (twenty)

Its excessive consumption contributes to a host of diseases , including obesity, diabetes or cancer.

Takeaway: Excessive weight gain during pregnancy increases the risk of developing gestational diabetes and can lead to complications during delivery and throughout pregnancy. (twenty-one)

Key takeaways

  • The gestation period is an extremely important stage for both the woman and the developing child, so it is important to take great care of the process and reduce the risks.
  • There are foods that, due to different factors, such as their nature or their constant exposure to microorganisms, could bring external agents and pathogens to the mother and her child , so they should be avoided during the gestation period.
  • Washing and cooking food well is the key to reducing risks during this stage.
  • The consequences of poor food handling and contamination or disease could bring irreversible physical and cognitive damage to the child.

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