Just what’s on the no-no list when it comes to eating while pregnant? MH finds out.
WORDS JOANNA ONG
Food safety is very important during pregnancy as bacterial toxins and harmful chemicals such as alcohol and methylmercury can be passed from mother to baby, leading to undesirable outcomes, cautions Wong. Some of the foods to avoid before and during pregnancy are:
High Mercury Fishes
Mercury is an environmental contaminant that can impact foetal growth and the developing brain.
You should avoid taking big fishes (such as tilefish, king mackerel, shark and swordfish)
that contain high levels of mercury during pregnancy. Limit all other fish
(including tuna) and shellfish to 12oz (360g) or less per week.
Unpasteurised Milk, Soft Cheese, Liver Pates, Uncooked Hot Dogs, Ham and Luncheon Meat
These foods are prone to bacteria called Listeria Monocytogenes that cause listeriosis which may result in miscarriages and stillbirth.
Raw or Undercooked Meat, Poultry, Seafood and Raw or Half-Boiled Eggs
These foods contain a variety of food-borne bacteria and viruses. You are at increased risk of bacterial poisoning during pregnancy due to the changes in your metabolism and your reaction may be more severe than when you are not pregnant.
Unwashed salad may be contaminated with bacteria from soil whereas raw vegetable sprouts including alfalfa, clover, radish and mung beans have high levels of germs which can be detrimental to your health.
Drinking alcohol during pregnancy increases the risk of miscarriage and stillbirth. Excessive alcohol intake may even result in foetal alcohol syndrome including physical deformities, cognitive disabilities as well as social and behavioural issues.
Excessive Caffeine Intake
Recent studies have shown that consuming more than 300mg of caffeine a day will increase the risk of miscarriage. Limit your intake of caffeinated drinks to no more than two cups per day.
All these foods are supposed to be avoided throughout the entire pregnancy.
But you may start doing so before pregnancy as many women only realise that
they’re pregnant when they are four weeks or above.
Dr Christopher Ng, OBGYN at GynaeMD Women’s & Rejuvenation Clinic at Camden Medical Centre adds that if you have to have your sushi fix then choose a clean restaurant after 12 weeks as the risk of miscarriage is lower then and all the baby’s organs would have developed by then so the risk of congenital abnormality is lower. But if you want to be 100 per cent safe then avoid it completely. Most importantly have a healthy and well-balanced diet. As long as the food is properly cooked and prepared, it is fine.
What Should I do if I Have Taken These Foods?
Are there symptoms to look out for? Are there any foods or medications to counter its effects? If you don’t develop any adverse symptoms e.g. fever, abdominal cramps and diarrhoea, you do not have to be excessively concerned, Dr Ann Tan, OBGYN at Women Fertility & Fetal Centre in Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre counsels. However, to play it safe, Dr Ng advises that it is best to contact your gynaecologist as soon as possible who can then advise you appropriately. Serial ultrasound scans can be performed to ensure viability, to track the growth in order to detect any growth retardation and to screen for any structural abnormalities. In any case, watch out for the symptoms of food poisoning. Unfortunately, there are also no foods or medications that can counter the adverse effects of these forbidden foods. Hence, it is best to avoid these foods while pregnant to ensure a healthy baby, Wong Hui Xin, dietitian, Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital says.
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