Must You Avoid These 19 Foods During Pregnancy? Here’s Why

When you’re pregnant, it’s common knowledge that your immunity levels are really that much lower and hence, it’s imperative that you watch the type of food that you consume lest risking your baby’s development and health. Before taking a meal, do take some time to eliminate all risk from your food by doing a little research about the ingredients in your meal. Trust us, it’s better to spend a little time to read up than put your child at risk.

Here, we share 19 different types of food and drinks that are commonly avoided during pregnancy or rather, that expecting mothers are advised to consume in moderation. It’s just 9 months, we can do this! Also, if you have other insights on other food that should be avoided, do let us know so we can update this article as well.

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#1 Alcohol

Just don’t even think about it, don’t even try. Alcohol should be avoided during pregnancy altogether as caffeine could interfere with the healthy development of the baby. The more you drink, the greater the risk to your baby’s development. Severe implications of alcohol consumption include Foetal Alcohol Syndrome amongst other developmental disorders.

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#2 Aloe Vera

Though aloe vera is rich in nutrients and fibre, it is also a uterine stimulant i.e. can cause a woman’s uterus to contract, which can be dangerous during pregnancy. Further, aloe vera (in juice form), is known to lower a person’s blood glucose level which would result in lightheadedness and a loss of balance. As such, small doses of aloe vera is still fine but do consult your gynaecologist prior to consumption.

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#3 Bittergourd

Bitter melon / bittergourd is another type of food that the community is divided on. Whilst bittergourd does contain nutrients which are beneficial for a baby’s health, there have discussions about the risk of consumping bittergourd during pregnancy. For example, bittergourd is typically used as a natural remedy to promote menstruation. When applied to the case of a pregnant woman, consumption of bittergourd could start menstrual bleeding and hence, any unwanted risks of miscarriage. So we’d say that if you just want to be safe, avoid consuming bittergourd altogether. Anyway there are so many other different vegetables out there to eat, you can give it a miss for just a few months, right?

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#4 Black Licorice

A study in Finland has reported that consumption of an excessive amount of black licorice during pregnancy could affect the development of a baby’s brain. In particular, children whose mothers consumed a large amount of licorice during their pregnancy were reported to have lower IQs (poorer cognitive reasoning skills) than children whose mothers avoided or consumed small amounts of licorice. In addition, if you consumed a lot of licorice during your pregnancy and you’re having a girl, the study showed that your baby girl would reach puberty earlier than others.

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#5 Caffeine
Cocoa / Coffee / Soft Drinks / Tea

Whilst you don’t have to completely remove caffeine from your diet, this is one thing that you should take in moderation. In general, you should limit your caffeine consumption to not more than 200mg per day as caffeine has a quick absorption rate, which will consequently enter the placenta and reach the foetus. A foetus lacks the necessary enzymes to metabolise caffeine and thus, the levels of caffeine would increase significantly if caffeine consumption is not regulated as per the recommended rates.

If you’re still in your first trimester of pregnancy, avoiding caffeine could reduce your chances of suffering a miscarriage. In addition, as caffeine is a diuretic, excessive consumption of caffeine could result in loss of water and calcium. Studies have also shown that high consumption of caffeine is associated with miscarriage, premature birth, low birth weight and withdrawal symptoms in infants.

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#6 Crabs

As with other types of shellfish, crabs must be well cooked before consumption in pregnancy. Do not eat any raw crab as this will increase your risk for food poisoning. If you’re intending to consume crab, do opt to eat king crab as other types of crabs (blue crab, snow crab, Dungeness crab) are not considered safe for consumption due to their high mercury content. Mercury can potentially affect the development of your baby’s brain and nervous system.

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#7 Eggplant (or Brinjal)

Containing fibre, folate and potassium which could have benefits for fetal development, eggplant (or brinjal) is also recognised for being a heat-producing vegetable which also has the potential of causing an abortion. eggplants contain phytohormones which has menstruation-stimulating properties. Do also ensure that the eggplant is washed well before consumption to avoid any contamination with toxoplasmosis.

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#8 Fenugreek Seed

Used for treating menstrual problems and even inducing labour, would it be safe for expecting mothers to consume fenugreek seed during the course of their pregnancy? Again, consuming fenugreek seed in moderation can boost the immune system greatly. However, do bear in mind that fenugreek seeds can cause certain complications especially after the 37th week of your pregnancy i.e. premature labour (as they can induce ocntractions), birth defects and your baby even being born with unusual body odour!

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#9 Fish
High in Mercury / Undercooked / Raw

Expecting mothers should avoid fish which contain high levels of mercury. When consumed during pregnancy, research has shown that mercury can cause developmental delays and brain damage to your baby. Fish which are known to have high levels of mercury include shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish.

Aside from the aforementioned effects of mercury in fish, raw fish / undercooked fish could also contain bacteria or parasites especially when they have not been handled with care. The principle is the same. Given that pregnant women have a lower immunity throughout the course of their pregnancy, just be cautious with what you put into the body for the sake of your child. Opt to eat fish that has been cooked thoroughly instead of giving in to those sashimi cravings. That, can wait.

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#10 Fruits

As with unwashed vegetables, unwashed or unpeeled fruit could be contaminated with several types of bacteria and parasites. Examples of such bacteria and parasites includes Toxoplasma, E. Coli, Salmonella and Listeria, which can be passed onto the surface of these unwashed fruit through soil or during the handling process For infants who are infected with Toxoplasma in vitro, most will not exhibit any symptoms at birth. Symptoms such as blindness or intellectual disabilities could develop later on. That being said, there have been reports of a small percentage of infected newborns suffering from serious eye or brain damage at birth.

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#11 Herbal supplements

If you’re intending to consume herbal supplements, please seek your gynaecologist’s advice on the supplements before consuming them. There has been little research done on the benefits of herbal supplements for pregnant women, and these natural herbs are not subject to the FDA’s review. The herbal supplements with supposed benefits for your pregnancy could contain agents which are damaging for pregnancy and even cause miscarriage, premature birth, uterine contractions and/or injury to the foetus.

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#12 Meat
Undercooked / Raw / Processed / Organs

Avoid consuming any rare or undercooked beef of poultry, otherwise you’d run the risk of contamination with coliform bacteria, toxoplasmosis and salmonella. Cook all meat and poultry well until the extent that there is no more blood left in the meat. Do also ensure that you keep your preparation tools clean, and wash your hands thoroughly after preparing the meat.

For deli meats such as ham, did you know that such meats are known to be contaminated listeria? This is also the same for refrigerated pate or meat spreads. Aside from having the ability to cause miscarriages, Listeria can permeate through the placenta’s barriers and thereafter affect your baby. This could result in infection, blood poisoning and even be life-threatening. If you’re still intending to consume deli meats, do reheat the meat and ensure that the meat is well cooked before consumption.

And if you can’t stay away from pate, do choose to consume canned pate or shelf-safe meat spreads. Those can be eaten without much cause for worry. But do avoid liver pate as liver contains plenty of vitamin A which could harm your baby.

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#13 Milk and Cheese
Raw milk & unpasteurised Cheese

Listeria strikes again. For soft cheeses such as Brie, Camembert, Roquefort, Feta, Gorgonzola and Mexican-stye cheeses, they may contain listeria unless the cheeses are only made from pasteurised milk. Likewise, milk that is unpasteurised may contain listeria, which could lead to miscarriage, stillbirth or even severe illness in a newborn baby.

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#14 Pineapple

Myth or truth? Again, the community is divided on this delightful fruit. Whilst some hold the view that it is perfectly safe to consume pineapple during pregnancy, others would caution you against the fruit as it may cause early micarriage and even induce labour. Truth be told, pineapple does contain a small amount of Bromelain, an enzyme which could stimulate and thin the cervix. As an acidic fruit, pineapple can alsocause or worsen your heartburn. Thus, if you’ve got to have some pineapple, have this in moderation. Better be safe than sorry.

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#15 Raw Eggs

Whether eaten in Sukiyaki or in any other manner, expecting mothers should avoid consumption of raw eggs as this would expose them to salmonella. In rare cases of salmonella infections, the infection could cause cramps in the uterus which would lead to premature birth or stillbirth. If you are intending to consume any Caesar dressings, mayonnaise, ice cream or custards, do check to ensure that the eggs were cooked at some point during the recipe so that it will decrease your risk to salmonella.

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#16 Seafood and Shellfish
Smoked / Raw / Undercooked

During your pregnancy, do avoid consuming any raw / uncooked seafood (yes, that means sashimi and I completely understand the frustration) as this will put you at risk of contamination with coliform bacteria, toxoplasmosis and salmonella. As for smoked seafood (i.e. lox, nova style, kippered or jerky seafood), expecting mothers should steer clear from such seafood as they could be contaminated with Listeria. However, if you do put the smoked seafood through an additional round of cooking i.e. baking, it is safe to consume them.

Whether you’re pregnant or not, you run the risk of contracting algae-related infections (and more) whenever you eat raw shellfish (oysters, claims and mussels). Even when the aforementioned shellfish are cooked, this does not kill any possibility of you catching the algae-related infections associated with red tide. Thus when it comes to pregnant women (who have lower immunity), it’ll just be safer to avoid consuming these shellfish altogether.

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#17 Sesame Seeds

Can you eat sesame seeds during your pregnancy? The community appears to be divided on this point as there is no particular science that proves that the ingestion of sesame seeds will lead to any damaging effects on your developing baby. Whilst sesame seeds are known to be rich in calcium, iron, protein and vitamin C, there are still side effects of consuming excessive sesame seeds. For example, you may experience bleeding in your first trimester of pregnancy if you eat them in excess. Also, sesame seeds are one of the more common food allergens.
As such, it’s better off to consume sesame seeds in moderation.

Given that every pregnancy is different and that it’ll be best to err on the side of caution, do check in with your gynaecologist about the risks of consuming sesame seeds in your pregnancy.

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#18 Sprouted Potatoes

A natural source of solanine and chaconine (i.e. its glycoalkaloid compounds), potatoes which have sprouted could be harmful for women who are expecting. When a potato sprouts, the levels of its glycoalkaloid contents will increase and as such, ingestion of sprouted potatoes means that you’re ingesting more glycoalkaloid content into your body than necessary. The consequences of eating sprouted potatoes include vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal pain (for lower doses) and when eaten in larger amounts, this can cause low blood pressure, a rapid pulse, fever, headaches, confusion and in extreme cases, death.

Studies have shown that expecting mothers should avoid the consumption of sprouted potatoes as it may increase the risk of neural tube defects and orofacial clefts in the foetus. If you’re expecting, it doesn’t hurt to play on the safe side. Just have your potatoes fresh and all should be well.

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#19 Vegetables
Raw / Unwashed

No, this doesn’t mean that you can skip your vegetables because really, we all know that they’re good for not just you, but your baby. However, the tricky part about consuming vegetables during pregnancy is that manner by which you consume them. First, raw fruits and vegetables do run the risk of being contaminated with toxoplasma gondii, a parasite which is present in undercooked meat, unwashed vegetables (in the soil) and dirty cat littler boxes. This parasite has the potential to cause serious illnesses, affect your baby’s development and even cause premature birth.

To avoid all those unwanted complications, make sure that you rinse all your vegetables properly before consumption. When handling vegetables, ensure that your boards and knives are cleaned properly with hot soap and water and wash your hands properly after handling these vegetables. As such, it’ll be safer for expecting mothers to avoid raw vegetables / salads that have been prepared by F&B establishments since it is impossible to have sight of how thorough the establishment was with washing the ingredients of the salad. In the alternative, just opt to eat cooked vegetables throughout your pregnancy.

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