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5 foods to avoid while pregnant

Pregnancy can bring about unusual cravings or complete repulsion for some foods. And though most meals are considered safe, there are some foods pregnant women should avoid.

Tia Guster, M.D., an obstetrician and gynecologist at Piedmont Newnan, shares five foods pregnant women should skip.

1. High-mercury fish. Some fish like tilefish, mackerel and shark have a high mercury content. If pregnant women consume too much mercury, it can accumulate in the bloodstream and damage the baby’s brain and nervous system.

Dr. Guster says it’s best to avoid eating high-mercury fish during pregnancy, but women can still enjoy other types of seafood with a lower mercury count.

“Shellfish and fish such as salmon can be eaten at least two or three times a week,” Dr. Guster says. “These foods are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which helps with the baby’s brain development.”

Pregnant women can also eat white albacore tuna, but they should limit their consumption to 6 ounces per week.

2. Caffeine.  Avoid caffeinated beverages, like coffee, tea, sodas and energy drinks. Caffeinated beverages increase your blood pressure and heart rate, and are not recommended during pregnancy. Caffeine can cross the placenta causing changes in the baby’s sleep patterns and movement. Studies suggest high exposure to caffeine may increase the risk of miscarriage.

“I usually tell my patients they can consume about 150 milligrams of caffeine per day, which is the recommendation because it's the amount in one cup of coffee,” Dr. Guster says.

3. Unpasteurized cheese and milk. Eating unpasteurized cheese or drinking raw milk can put pregnant women at risk for listeriosis. Listeriosis is a food-borne illness that can cause mild, flu-like symptoms in healthy adults.  Unfortunately, liseteriosis can be devastating for pregnant women, causing miscarriages, stillbirths and premature deliveries.

Soft cheeses like feta, goat cheese, blue cheese and queso fresco are more likely to be made with unpasteurized milk than harder cheeses like parmesan or cheddar.

“A lot of soft cheeses that you find in the grocery store are pasteurized and safe to eat,” Dr. Guster says. “You just have to be diligent and read the food labels.”

4. Deli meat and cold cuts. Deli-counter meats and cold cuts also pose the threat of listeriosis. Avoid eating cooked rotisserie chicken and lunch meat found in the refrigerated case at the deli-meat counter.

If you can’t live without your cold cuts, heat the deli meat before eating it.

“You have to heat the meat until it is steaming,” Dr. Guster says. “Usually I tell patients to put it in the microwave or in a panini maker. The heat will help kill any bacteria that may be on the meat.”

5. Raw sushi. Raw sushi may contain bacteria that can lead to food poisoning.  Food poisoning can be a serious problem for pregnant women, because vomiting and diarrhea can cause dehydration.

If you simply must have a sushi roll, opt for fully-cooked sushi rolls made with battered and fried crab, shrimp or fish, or consider a veggie roll.

To learn more about Piedmont’s maternity services, click here.

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