Foods to Avoid When You're Pregnant
Pregnant? Think twice about these foods to avoid health risks for you and your baby.
Bisphenol A (BPA)
BPA is an industrial chemical used to make many hard plastics and the liners of many canned foods. It's an endocrine disruptor that could disturb normal fetal development, Lu says.
The FDA is studying BPA and has not recommended that pregnant women avoid BPA. But in January 2010, the FDA stated that "recent studies provide reason for some concern about the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland of fetuses, infants, and children." Most of those tests have been done on animals, and the FDA says there are "substantial uncertainties" about BPA's effects on human health. The plastics industry has maintained that low levels of BPA exposure are safe.
If you choose to avoid BPA while pregnant, a wide range of BPA-free plastics and glass containers are available.
Herbal Teas and Supplements
Herbal teas are caffeine-free, but their safety is unclear when you’re expecting. There are no reliable human studies on the safety of herbal preparations, including supplements such as Echinacea and St. John’s wort, during pregnancy.The FDA does not routinely monitor the quality of dietary supplements.
"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.