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Health & Pregnancy

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How to Sort Through All the News on Pregnancy


According to a recent report from the FDA, pregnant women should avoid eating certain species of large ocean fish including shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish because they may contain harmful mercury kevels that may harm the nervous system of a developing fetus.

Michele Curtis, MD, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Texas at Houston tells WebMD that if you eat seafood, "be aware of what the local health department has said if about fish in that area." If you are a sushi fan, "make sure that you go to a reputable restaurant that handles foods properly to minimize the risk of bacterial infections."

More importantly, she says, pregnant women should not consume unpasteurized milk or cheese because it can contain Listeria, which can cause an infection that can sometimes lead to death of the baby. "Some European countries don't pasteurize milk or cheese so be wary when traveling in European countries, " Curtis says.

Aside from the dos and don'ts recently in the news, there are also some tried and true guidelines pregnant women can follow.

First and foremost, "women should continue to have a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy just as they did before pregnancy," says Gideon Koren, MD, director of the Motherisk program, a Canadian organization designed to provide information to pregnant women and their doctors on environmental agents and drugs during pregnancy.

"Do not self-prescribe even things that you used to take yourself; go to the physician and ask before you take any medication even an over-the-counter one," says Koren, also a professor of pediatrics and pharmacology at the University of Toronto in Ontario, Canada.

Also, take folic acid before and during at least the first weeks of pregnancy to prevent neural tube defects. "This is a time that many women do not even know yet that they have conceived," he adds. Folic acid is added to many foods in the U.S. and Canada, but women who don't eat bread or enough vegetables (which also contain folic acid, a B-vitamin) may not be getting enough and should start supplementing as soon as they begin to try to conceive, he advises.

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