The Truth About What You Can & Can’t Do During Pregnancy

pregnancyPregnancy is a scary time for any woman – the realization that you are responsible for a tiny being is enough to make anyone wary of eating, drinking and taking certain things. The media is constantly giving us conflicting advice on what is okay and what is not okay during pregnancy – for example, some news stories say that a glass of wine once a week is okay, whilst others state that any alcohol is harmful. I’ve taken a look at some of the major news stories surrounding pregnancy to find out exactly what you can and cannot do during pregnancy.

Food cravings are common during pregnancy. We’ve all heard the stories about women eating pickles for breakfast or ice cream for lunch, and whilst these cravings may sound odd, most of the time they are perfectly safe and are simply your body’s way of getting what it needs – a yearning for ice cream may indicate a need for extra calcium, for example. Whilst food cravings are usually safe, food choices are sometimes not, so you need to know what is safe to eat and what is not safe to eat.

A lot of fish is unsafe to eat during pregnancy, and this is because it contains a high level of mercury, which is potentially harmful to your baby. Fish to avoid includes shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tile-fish and albacore tuna. Even if you are trying to conceive, you should avoid this fish as the mercury levels contained in them can stay in your bloodstream for up to a year after consumption. Most other fish is considered safe to eat as they have lower mercury levels, but you should limit your consumption of the following fish to less than two average portions a week: shrimp, salmon, pollock, canned tuna and catfish.

Raw, undercooked and deli meats should also be avoided during pregnancy. This is because they contain potentially harmful bacteria. If you want to eat deli meat such as salami, heat it until it is piping hot before consuming. Eggs can be eaten, but make sure they are hard-boiled rather than soft-boiled, especially if you are consuming hen’s eggs or farm eggs that haven’t been graded.

Steer clear of unpasteurized cheese, dairy products and juices. The pasteurization process removes harmful bacteria from the products, so pasteurized products are safe, but unpasteurized cheeses such as brie, feta and gorgonzola are not safe to eat. You should also wash all fruit and vegetables before you eat them – washing veg is important anyway, but it is especially important when you are pregnant as you remove all of the potentially harmful bacteria.

Coffee and tea are allowed during pregnancy, providing you drink only a small amount – under two cups a day. Drinking over eight cups of coffee a day increases your risk of having a stillbirth or a miscarriage, so don’t go overboard on the caffeine. Herbal teas are not considered safe to consume during pregnancy as no studies have been conducted in their safety – and some herbs, such as goldenseal and mugwort have been associated with uterine contractions, which is definitely not what you want during pregnancy!

The guidelines on alcohol consumption are very confused. The general line of information seems to be that no ‘safe’ amount has yet been identified. Too much alcohol during pregnancy and your baby could be born with fetal alcohol syndrome, which is a disorder that can cause a whole range of learning disabilities, facial abnormalities and behavioral problems. However, we don’t yet know what that level is – whether it is a glass of wine a day or more than that. If in doubt, the best thing to do would be to simply avoid alcohol through the pregnancy. For more information on the things discussed in this article, speak to your midwife.