Being pregnant is the happiest moment of your life until the bliss bubble bursts when strangers come up to touch your belly and everyone has advice or birth stories scary enough for baby to start dancing in the womb. But with all the advice and information out there, do we really know why there is such a long food ban list? Let us look at the science behind the truth on food to avoid during pregnancy.
What The Doctor Says
1. Cold or Cured Meats
Listeria is a super scary bacteria that found in a lot of chilled ready to eat foods and can survive even through the vigorous food control methods in the factory. Pregnant women are 20 times more prone and susceptible to complications when infected with the Listeria bacteria. While cases are very rare, one in five cases (20%) of listeriosis in pregnant women will result in the death of the unborn baby.
2. Soft Cheese
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Soft cheeses such as Brie and Camembert are also at high risk of the Listeria bacteria due to their high pH level allowing the bacteria to grow during the shelf life. No matter how hard the cravings hit be sure to avoid as even in Australia an outbreak occured as recent as 2012. However, the loophole is cooking the cheese bubbling hot so start looking for baked soft cheese recipes.
3. Raw/Semi-Raw Food like Sushi and Oysters
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Eating sushi and raw fish (sashimi) is encouraged part of a healthy diet during pregnancy in Japan as long as you eat fish with safe mercury levels (ie salmon instead of tuna or mackerel). The main thing to look for when dealing with raw or semi-raw foods such as oysters and sashimi sushi are the dangerous food borne pathogens which can cause still birth and many other complications. While the food itself is not bad for you, it is the risk of it not being prepared or stored properly before coming to your plate that requires caution.
4. Coffee And Alcohol
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Caffeine is fine up to 200mg which equals to about two cups a day. That covers all caffeine including coca-cola, teh tarik and green tea, not just coffee. Having more than the recommended amount regularly can increase the risk of miscarriage or baby to be born with low birth weight. Caffeine flows through the placenta and affects the baby with a bigger impact as it does you and therefore gives baby faster heart rates, increased breathing rate and will also spend more time awake.
Most doctors will say alcohol is a huge no-no while some doctors allow for the occasional glass of wine. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), a serious condition that can affect a child throughout life with have problems with development, learning, behaviour and social skills. As the effects of small quantities of alcohol on baby is still unknown, it is just best to avoid.
What Makcik Says
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The first trimester of pregnancy comes with the ‘pantang’ to avoid pineapples as it can cause miscarriage. While pineapples do contain something called Bromelain which in large quantities can help soften the cervix and cause miscarriage, it is said that a woman would have to eat at least 7 fresh pineapples to gain enough Bromelain. In this case moderation is key.
2. Cooling Foods
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Eating cooling foods such as ice cream, cucumber and watermelon will be frowned upon as it contains too many yin (negative) qualities which might cause a miscarriage. Though there is not much fact to dispute it, this carries on to confinement too as both the Malays and Chinese believe “cooling” elements found in foods should be avoided as they are said to cause rheumatism, arthritis and weak joints in a mother’s body.
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It is believed that eating crab will cause your baby to be born as a thief due to the symbolic of many limbs which somehow translates to stealing and pick-pocketing. The basis might stem from the high cholesterol content that might cause pre-eclampsia in women with high blood pressure.
With all the information out there that can boggle any pregnant brain, finding a gynaecologist you trust to ask all these questions is important in helping you to draw the line on what you are comfortable to risk food wise. Most importantly, it’s all to make sure baby is safe and healthy! The ban is only temporary and you will be back to sushi and rule breaking in no time.