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Foods to Avoid When You're Pregnant

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

Herbal Teas and Supplements continued...

"While it’s probably safe to drink the herbal teas found on supermarket shelves, pregnant women should avoid large quantities of herbal tea, and completely avoid herbal supplements," Lu says.

Duffy MacKay, ND, is the vice president of the Council for Responsible Nutrition, a trade group for the supplements industry. In an email to WebMD, MacKay states that "there are herbs and other supplements that can be used safely to support a healthy pregnancy” but tell your doctor or midwife about any supplement use during pregnancy.

MacKay says there is "scientific consensus" that these common herbs and supplements should be avoided during pregnancy:

  • Herbs that contain stimulants or caffeine-containing supplements, especially those that are intended to promote weight loss, guarana, kola nut, betel (Piper betle), Citrum aurantium, yohimbe, theobromine (cocoa extract), Garcinai cambogia.
  • Other botanicals to avoid while pregnant include golden seal, Cascara sagrada, black walnut, wormwood, tansy, pennyroyal, senna, saw palmetto, pao d'arco, MacKay says.

MacKay also advises women who are pregnant, or who could become pregnant, not to take 10,000 or more IU per day of vitamin A because of the risk of birth defects. And MacKay says that "many newer and specialty nutrients have not been proven safe for use during pregnancy and should be avoided." 

The bottom line: Talk to your obstetrician about any herbal supplements or vitamins before taking them during pregnancy.

Foods That May Cause Food Allergy

If you, your child’s father, or one of your other children has allergies, your baby is more likely to have food allergies.  

The American Academy of Pediatrics  says that avoiding certain food allergens, such as peanuts and peanut products, during pregnancy and when nursing a child may reduce allergy in susceptible children. 

But there’s little, if any, benefit to avoiding allergens during pregnancy and breastfeeding for everyone else. 

Before changing your diet, talk to your doctor about your family history of allergies and asthma, and speak with a registered dietitian who is knowledgeable about food allergies.

Excess Calories

You’re eating for two now, but you don’t need twice the calories. Gaining too much weight threatens your health, and may increase the risk of childhood overweight in your future child.

In the second trimester, add 340 calories a day to your pre-pregnancy calorie needs, and 450 a day more in the third trimester. But if you’re very overweight at conception, or if your physical activity level drops, you may need fewer calories during pregnancy. Still, pregnancy is not a time to try to lose weight. Ask your doctor or dietitian what calorie level is right for you. 

There is room for treats like ice cream, chips, and cookies during pregnancy, but it’s important to choose foods that do double duty by providing the additional calories you need, as well as the extra nutrients that maximize your baby’s development.

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Reviewed on July 16, 2011

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