PREGNANCY GUIDE: Decoding the Best and Worst of Pregnancy Evils

Posted by queenmadison

What's the lesser of the "pregnancy evils" (caffeine, artificial sweeteners, deli meats, high-mercury fish, alcohol, and so on)? And what do you do if you really want to indulge in a favorite thing just once in your pregnancy? Find out what's really off limits ... and what's OK in moderation.

There are so many things to keep in mind during pregnancy. Doctor appointments, vitamins, foods to eat, foods to avoid … It can make your head spin! Let's try to make this easy! Here's a look at some common pregnancy concerns, with some important information on just how bad (or not so bad) they are for you and your baby.
According to research, caffeine is probably something that's OK in small quantities during your pregnancy. The March of Dimes recommends the following: "Limit the amount of caffeine you consume to no more than two, 8-ounce cups of coffee per day. It's better for your body and your baby if you drink water, milk, and fruit juice during your pregnancy. You can drink decaffeinated colas, coffee, and tea, too."
Artificial sweeteners
There are three common artificial sweeteners found in foods and soft drinks:
Aspartame: Equal and NutraSweet
Saccharin: Sweet 'N Low
Sucralose: Splenda
Of the three sweeteners saccharin is the one that should be used with caution. The March of Dimes considers saccharin to be safe for women who are not pregnant, however research has shown that saccharin crosses the placenta and can linger in fetal tissue. Your best bet is to avoid saccharin.
The FDA deems sucralose to be safe for consumption in pregnancy. This is being widely used, so you have a good chance of encountering this sweetener. If you want to avoid artificial sweeteners altogether, become a careful label reader.
The FDA also reports aspartame is safe during pregnancy when consumed in moderate amounts. Note: If you have a condition known as PKU (pheynlketonuria), a genetic metabolic disorder, if you have liver disease or high levels of phenylalanine in your blood, watch labels carefully. Phenylalanine is an ingredient in aspartame and can accumulate to unsafe levels or may not be properly processed by your body if you fall into any of these categories.
Many women who consume artificial sweeteners do so when drinking sodas or processed foods. My take? Drink more water, juice, or milk and try to consume more whole foods (those that are not processed).
Unpasteurized foods, raw fish, and high-mercury fish
These are some pregnancy evils best avoided altogether. To make this clear, the March of Dimes, whose mission is to prevent prematurity and birth defects and to promote healthy pregnancies and healthy babies, has complied a list of what foods you should stay away from. Here's a look:
-Swordfish, shark, king mackerel and tile fish: These fish can contain potentially risky levels of mercury. Mercury can be transferred to the growing fetus and cause serious health problems. Also avoid game fish until you check its safety with your local health department. (A game fish is any fish caught for sport, such as trout, salmon, or bass.)
-Raw fish, especially shellfish (oysters, clams)
-Soft-scrambled eggs and all foods made with raw or lightly cooked eggs
-Soft cheeses made with unpasteurized milk: Examples are Brie, feta, Camembert, Roquefort, blue-veined, queso blanco, queso fresco, and Panela. (Check the label to see what kind of milk was used to make the cheese.)
-Unpasteurized milk and any foods made from it
-Unpasteurized juices
-Raw vegetable sprouts, including alfalfa, clover, radish and mung bean
-Herbal supplements and teas

Undercooked meat, luncheon meats, and smoked seafood
Although these are not recommended as safe during pregnancy, the March of Dimes does offer these tips, if you feel you really must have that deli sandwich:
Undercooked meat, poultry, and seafood: Cook all of these thoroughly to kill bacteria.
Hot dogs or luncheon meats: Examples are deli meats such as ham, turkey, salami, and bologna. If you wish to eat these foods, first reheat them until steaming hot.
Pâtés or meat spreads: Be sure you refrigerate these, and use caution. Canned versions are safer.
Smoked seafood: Refrigerate it, unless it has been cooked (as in a casserole). Canned versions are safer.

Alcohol should be completely avoided during pregnancy. Many women may have consumed alcohol before knowing they are pregnant. As soon as you know you are pregnant, it is wise to cease all consumption of alcohol.
Alcohol, when over consumed can case problems for your developing baby. Each person processes alcohol differently, so it is really unknown if there is a safe quantity. Best bet? Avoid it.
So, in looking at all this information, if you absolutely must indulge in a pregnancy evil, your safest bets are a cup of coffee or a sweet treat. Be sure to talk to your doctor when making decisions and ask for help with nutritional counseling if you feel overwhelmed or unsure of your food choices.


TeriS said...

Moms and moms-to-be can estimate mercury exposure from eating sushi and other seafood while "on-the-go" with the new calculator for cell phone browsers: The main calculator offers more info at
The new book Diagnosis Mercury by Dr. Jane Hightower delves into the mercury in fish issue and tells the truth about the problem.