As we all know, there are certain foods, drinks, and drugs to avoid during pregnancy, but what are these, and why are they dangerous? Find out, here.
There are certain foods, drinks, and drugs that may have an adverse effect on your unborn foetus. When pregnant, it’s important that you steer clear from these substances to ensure both you and the baby remain safe.
In some extreme cases, these substances may lead to congenital abnormalities and even death. This is why consulting a midwife or doctor is extremely important before consuming anything that may harm your unborn child.
If they advise you incorrectly, a birth injury solicitor may be able to help you to claim for any damages incurred from your misinformation. That said, in order to avoid this altogether, let’s dive into some of the substances you should dodge to keep everyone healthy.
Food to Avoid During Pregnancy
Starting with the foods you should steer clear of throughout your pregnancy, some that you should be cautious of include:
Unpasteurised Cheeses and Milk
The rules on dairy are simple; avoid anything unpasteurised, raw, and mould ripened. But what does this mean, and why should you avoid it?
Unpasteurised food is anything that hasn’t been heated and cooled prior to packaging, which is a process used to remove bacteria and extend shelf-life. This can include goats cheese, and even fruit juice. Without this process, harmful bacteria, like Listeria, Salmonella, E. coli, and Campylobacter, might be present.
Anything mould-ripened should also be avoided. This includes any cheese with the classic white coating, like Camembert and Brie, which can only be eaten if served steaming hot. It also includes any blue cheese, again to only be consumed if piping hot.
Although most meats, including chicken, pork, beef and lamb, are all safe to consume when pregnant, it’s important to be careful with certain types of meat. For example, cold and cured meats should be avoided, unless cooked through, as they may contain parasites like toxoplasmosis; a risk factor of miscarriage and birth defects.
What’s more, any organ meats, like kidneys and liver, should be avoided. This is because they contain large amounts of Vitamin A, which can be harmful to the unborn baby. Pâté should also be avoided, as it may contain harmful listeria.
Ultimately, all the meat you consume should be thoroughly cooked all the way through. Otherwise, there may be parasites roaming around which could cause problems during and after birth.
Raw chicken eggs, alongside quail, goose, or duck eggs, should all be steered clear from during pregnancy. This is because they may contain Salmonella, which can cause food poisoning in the pregnant individual.
British Lion eggs are deemed to be of a high enough standard to consume raw. You might eat raw eggs in condiments like mayonnaise, or in raw cake batter or mousse. Otherwise, if from another brand, ensure to cook your chicken eggs thoroughly before consuming.
Too Much Fish
The debate on seafood during pregnancy continues constantly, but the general consensus is that it’s safe to eat most types of fish you find in the supermarket. So, consuming the following is all deemed safe:
- Cooked fish and seafood
- Smoked fish
- Lightly cooked or raw fish, if frozen first
- Cooked shellfish
- Cold pre-cooked prawns
There are some limitations to this, though. For example, you should limit your consumption of oily fish, including salmon, trout, herring, and mackerel, to two portions a week. You should also limit your tuna intake to around two tuna steaks or four cans a week. This is on account of the mercury and pollutant levels within these fish.
Along this vein, the mercury levels in other fish are extremely high. What’s more, some fish can contain toxins and bacteria worth avoiding. So, if you fancy trying some more exotic sea creatures, it’s best to steer clear from:
- Raw shellfish
- King mackerel
- Bigeye tuna
Although it’s safe to consume liquorice sweets, it’s best to avoid the root. This is because it may lead to an increase in stress hormones in the placenta, thus affecting the child.
Fruit and vegetables, when unwashed, may be ridden with bacteria and parasites picked up from the soil in the vegetable patch. This includes things like toxoplasma, Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria.
Contamination can occur at any point during the process of growing vegetables, all the way up to arriving in the supermarket. This could include being picked up from the earth itself, during harvest, transportation, or storage, or just from the handling of the vegetables.
These bacteria and parasites can have a nasty effect on anyone, particularly an unborn foetus. Specifically, Toxoplasma may not affect the baby in the womb or at birth, but they may later develop blindness, intellectual disabilities, or brain damage.
Ultimately, to avoid these risks, be sure to carefully wash and peel any fruits and vegetables before cooking them.
This one may surprise you, but raw sprouts, including alfalfa, radish, clover, and mung bean sprouts, may contain Salmonella. This is because they’re grown in a very humid environment in order to sprout, which breeds bacteria like this. Although they are safe to consume after cooking, it’s almost impossible to wash off this bacteria so it’s best to avoid it altogether.
Drinks to Avoid During Pregnancy
Alongside this long list of foods you should be wary of, there are also a couple of drinks to keep in moderation or cut out altogether! These include:
We all love a cup of tea, or more, a day, but for pregnant people, this should be limited to 200mg a day. This is because caffeine is absorbed quickly into the placenta, but unborn foetuses don’t yet have the main enzyme used to metabolise it. These levels can then build up in the baby’s system, leading to obstructions in their growth.
To give you a sense of how much tea, coffee, and soda you should be consuming during your pregnancy, this list shows you how much is in each drink:
- A cup of instant coffee: 100mg
- A cup of filter coffee: 140mg
- A cup of tea, including herbal teas: 75mg
- Can of Coca-Cola: 40mg
- Can of energy drink: 80-160mg
- 50g of dark chocolate: just under 25mg
- 50g of milk chocolate: 10mg
Although alcohol was not deemed to be dangerous for an unborn baby a few decades ago, it’s since been linked with foetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). These are developmental and brain abnormalities, which could have a profound and lasting effect on the child when born.
Drugs to Avoid During Pregnancy
The effects of taking most drugs, be it prescriptions or otherwise, during pregnancy are pretty much unknown. This is because pregnant people are often excluded from clinical trials due to safety, so research is few and far between.
The studies that do exist indicate that the effects can only be negative. So, it’s advised to steer clear of anything unnatural, and consult your midwife or doctor if you have any questions. Here is a list of some of the standout substances you should be avoiding if you’re pregnant:
Research shows that there is a correlation between tobacco use and the risk of stillbirth. In fact, stillbirths are thought to be between 1.8 and 2.8 times higher in heavy smokers, and 2.1 times higher for passive smokers.
To add to this, scientists believe that tobacco is a common gateway drug, changing pathways in the brain to seek out more substances later on. This means it can lead the user to experiment and become addicted to illegal drugs later in life. For an unborn baby, this can do the same, meaning the child’s brain functions are already leaning towards drug use before birth.
Marijuana and CBD have been a big talking point these days, and legalisation is well on its way in a number of countries. That said, although there’s not enough research to demonstrate the exact effects of marijuana on an unborn foetus, it’s thought that no amount is good.
In fact, some evidence shows that marijuana use can increase the risk of stillbirth by 2.3 times. Best to avoid it.
The pain relief you’re probably most acquainted with, which you should look to avoid during pregnancy, is Ibuprofen, alongside a number of lesser-known drugs. The ever-faithful over-the-counter pain relief pill contains high doses of OTC, which may cause problems, including:
- Heart defects, especially during the third trimester
- Delayed labour
- Haemorrhaging of the mother and baby
- Necrotizing enterocolitis, otherwise known as damage to the lining of the intestines
- Low levels of amniotic fluid (oligohydramnios)
- Certain types of brain damage in the foetus
In general, it’s thought that prescription pain relievers pose a stillbirth risk of 2.2 times greater than the average, healthy person. So, for mild and moderate pain relief, doctors recommend you stick to paracetamol. But, for anything more severe, speak to your midwife or doctor, who can prescribe something safer for you.
You should always consult your doctor before you start to take any vitamin supplements. After all, without a deficiency, you may find that these added vitamins have an adverse effect on your body. The same goes, especially if you’re pregnant; you should be careful not to consume high dosages of any vitamin, so you don’t exceed your daily allowance.
Specifically, it’s advised that you don’t overdose on Vitamin A, which can be found in certain foods. This is because vitamin A is fat-soluble, meaning it causes your body to store excess fat in the liver, which can be toxic. For a foetus, this has been known to lead to congenital birth abnormalities and birth defects.
This should go without saying, but illegal drugs, such as cocaine and heroin, should be avoided at all costs during pregnancy. This is because the drugs can seep into the placenta, affecting the foetus’ brain function, and potentially leading to abnormalities.
In some cases, babies can already be addicted to these drugs when they’re born, through the mother’s usage of them. This means that the new-born must go through the painful process of withdrawal at birth. What’s more, they may then be more likely to abuse drugs later in life.
Unfortunately, women of reproductive age are most likely to fall victim to substance abuse, which means that pregnant women may be likely to abuse illegal drugs. It’s really important that you don’t become one of these statistics.
Good Luck on Your Pregnancy Journey
It may seem like being pregnant is a minefield, and that keeping your baby healthy is a chore. That said, as long as you ensure you consume healthy ingredients, and prepare them all safely, you should have minimal issues.
Now that you know the foods, drinks, and drugs you should be avoided throughout your pregnancy, you should be prepared for the months ahead. We wish you luck!