Prior to getting pregnant, women must ensure that they are taking the utmost care of their physical and mental health. The very first step in pre-pregnancy healthcare management becomes the consumption of a balanced and nutritious diet. A balanced diet would generally contain 5-6 servings of fruits vegetables every day, as well as plenty of whole grains and foods that are high in calcium – like milk, calcium-fortified foods, and yogurt – along with a variety of protein sources, such as pulses and legume, soy products, poultry, meats, and an amount of healthy fats such as nuts and seeds.
Women seeking to get pregnant must also ensure that their diet contains sufficient quantities of folic acid. By taking 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid a day for at least three months before conceiving and during the first trimester, women can cut their chances of having a baby with neural-tube defects, such as spina bifida, by 50 to 70 percent. The primary sources of folic acid include leafy vegetables, potatoes, grains and liver. In addition to folic acid, a special vitamin compound containing vital micronutrients is also recommended as a supplement to a balanced diet.
However, in order to ensure that there are no complications during pregnancy, women should also avoid certain food substances. Listed below are foods that might be detrimental to women during the course of their pregnancy:
- Raw Meat: Uncooked seafood and rare or undercooked beef or poultry should be avoided because of the risk of contamination with coliform bacteria, toxoplasmosis, and salmonella.
- Deli Meat :Deli meats have been known to be contaminated with listeria, which can cause a miscarriage. Listeria has the ability to cross the placenta and may infect the baby, which could lead to infection or blood poisoning and may be life-threatening.
- Fish with Mercury: Fish that contain high levels of mercury should be limited to 2-3 servings per week and cannot be avoided, as it is the best source of DHA. However, since high levels of mercury consumption during pregnancy has been linked to developmental delays and brain damage, eat up to 12 oz. (340 g) or 2 average meals a week. Seafood is also the predominant source of omega-3 fatty acids that are vital for neural development.
- Smoked Seafood –Refrigerated, smoked seafood often labelled as lox, nova style, kippered, or jerky should be avoided because it could be contaminated with listeria.
- Raw Shellfish: The majority of seafood-borne illness is caused by undercooked shellfish, which include oysters, clams, and mussels. Cooking helps prevent some types of infection, but it does not prevent the algae-related infections that are associated with red tides.
- Raw Eggs: Raw eggs or any foods that contain raw eggs should be avoided because of the potential exposure to salmonella.
- Soft Cheeses: Imported soft cheeses may contain listeria. You would need to avoid soft cheeses such as brie, Camembert, Roquefort, feta, Gorgonzola, and Mexican style cheeses that include queso Blanco and queso fresco, unless they clearly state that they are made from pasteurised milk.
- Pate: Refrigerated pate or meat spreads should be avoided because they may contain the bacteria listeria.
- Caffeine: Although most studies show that caffeine intake in moderation is permissible, there are others that show that caffeine intake may be related to miscarriages, insomnia and increased levels of heartburn. Avoid caffeine during the first trimester to reduce the likelihood of a miscarriage. As a general rule, caffeine should be limited to fewer than 200 mg per day during pregnancy. Sources of caffeine include tea, coffee, soft drinks, energy drinks etc.
- Alcohol: There is NO amount of alcohol that is known to be safe during pregnancy, and therefore alcohol should be avoided during pregnancy. Prenatal exposure to alcohol can interfere with the healthy development of the baby. Depending on the amount, timing, and pattern of use, alcohol consumption during pregnancy can lead to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome or other developmental disorders.
Dr. Sejal Devendra Surti
Aster Hospital, Mankhool