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Health & Pregnancy

Foods to Avoid When You're Pregnant

Pregnant? Think twice about these foods to avoid health risks for you and your baby.
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Certain Seafood and Fish

Large fish -- such as swordfish, shark, tilefish, and king mackerel -- harbor higher concentrations of mercury, compared to other fish. Mercury is a byproduct of coal-burning plants that interferes with the normal development of a growing child's brain and nervous system.

According to the FDA, pregnant and nursing women may eat up to 12 ounces weekly of seafood low in mercury, including salmon (farmed and wild), shrimp, canned light tuna, pollock, sardines, tilapia, and catfish.  Because albacore (white) tuna has more mercury than canned light tuna, the FDA recommends that pregnant women limit albacore tuna to no more than 6 ounces a week, and include it in the 12-ounce limit.

Fish caught for sport in rivers, lakes, ponds, and streams may also contain industrial pollutants that play havoc with a developing nervous system. Recreational anglers should check the safety of waterways with their local health departments.

Raw Vegetable Sprouts

The FDA advises everyone, regardless of pregnancy, not to eat raw sprouts -- including alfalfa, clover, radish, and mung bean sprouts.

The reason: Bacteria can get into sprout seeds and are "nearly impossible" to wash out, states the FDA's web site.  The FDA recommends that pregnant women request that raw sprouts not be added to your food.

It's OK to eat thoroughly cooked sprouts, according to the FDA.

Drinks to Limit or Avoid

Alcohol (beer, wine, or spirits) robs developing cells of oxygen and nutrients, preventing normal fetal development. The effects of alcohol exposure in the womb on intellectual abilities and physical growth are permanent.

According to the CDC and the March of Dimes, there is no level of alcohol consumption that's known to be safe at any time during pregnancy. 

Unpasteurized juices, such as cider purchased from roadside stands, at farms, or in stores. These products are prone to germs, including E. coli. Check the label to be sure juice is pasteurized.

Lead is linked to low birth weight, preterm delivery, and developmental delays in children. If you have an older home with pipes made of lead, it can leach into your tap water, and home filtration systems may not prevent it from reaching you.

If you’re in doubt about your tap water, have it tested.

Bottled water isn't necessarily purer; it's often repurposed municipal water.

Caffeine from coffee, tea, soft drinks, energy beverages, and other sources may increase the risk of miscarriage, reduced birth weight, and stillbirth, but the research is conflicting. The March of Dimes recommends limiting caffeine consumption to 200 milligrams a day. That's about the amount found in 12 ounces of coffee.

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