15 Foods You Didn't Know Causes Birth Defects During Pregnancy

Food! It's our favorite thing, especially while we're pregnant! And it's the one time that we have a really good excuse for it. Want all that beautiful, brown turkey skin at Thanksgiving? You're pregnant, it's all yours! Did you eat enough cream-filled donuts to feed a small army this morning? That's okay! You're eating for two, after all. Among all of the backaches and vomiting, all of the swollen feet and duck waddles, even when it gets to the point where you can't shave your own legs and you haven't seen your feet since you don't even know when; we pregnant women always have our food. It's our one respite, our one little advantage to being pregnant. We can call it a craving and eat whatever in the heck we want. But what if some of that food your craving or munching on isn't so safe for your baby?

While I'm a firm believer that all pregnant women should be able to eat just about whatever they want, there are a few things that you should avoid while your bun is baking in the oven. Certain foods pose serious risks or harbor harmful bacteria that could potentially affect your child for the rest of their life. So, before you grab for just any ole snack in the kitchen, take a look through this list to make sure that your midnight snack is safe for both you and your little bundle of joy. I can promise you, that craving isn't worth the rest of your baby's life.

15 Milk, Cheese And Fruit Juice Oh My

Pasteurization is a heat treatment used on things like milk, cheese, and fruit juice that kills off any harmful bacteria without affecting the products nutritional value. Without pasteurization, things like milk and cheese are a huge host of several harmful bacteria such as Listeria, E. Coli, and Salmonella. These bacteria can sometimes be naturally occurring in the product, or they could be a result of contamination during collection of the product. Either way, it poses a big risk to the health of mother and baby alike. It is recommended that pregnant women do not consume any milk, cheese, or fruit juice that is unpasteurized. Also, make sure to check any other foods that could contain unpasteurized products, such as dressings, dips and spreads. Sometimes companies can sneak those things in without it being obviously labeled. It’s always best to be safe rather than sorry and check all your labels thoroughly. It’s worth the extra few minutes.

14 Canned Food Like Ravioli

Canned food! Everyone loves it if for no other reason than their convenience. Especially when you're pregnant (and EXTRA especially if you have other little ones to care for) tossing a can of ravioli in the microwave for lunch is just so much easier than trying to prepare a big meal for the house. It’s okay! But during your pregnancy it’s important to be extra cautious about consuming canned foods yourself, for a few reasons. Most canned foods have an inner lining that contains BPA. While the effects of BPA on developing fetuses has not been studied in depth, there are a few preliminary reports that suggest the BPA could later lead to behavioral issues and obesity in children.

Also, canned foods come with a higher risk of food poisoning or botulism. While this is a risk that everyone takes when consuming canned foods, it’s extra risky for a woman during pregnancy. The severe nausea and vomiting can present an indirect, negative effect on your growing baby. If you’re unable to hold down any food or water, your fetus isn’t getting any nutrients to help them grow. This could potentially lead to pre-term labor, small birth weight, or nutritional issues later in life.

13 Sushi Is A Massive No-Go

Unfortunately, your sushi is a big, massive no-go while you’re pregnant. Raw or undercooked fish is absolutely teeming in various parasites and general ickies that can potentially make you and your unborn baby very, very sick. The CDC and the FDA recommend that pregnant women only consume fish that has been heated to at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit (or 63 degrees Celsius). This is the lowest temperature that will kill off any of the parasites or pathogens that could be lurking in your lunch. Generally smoked or seared fish is not cooked all the way throughout, so it’s best to avoid those as well. The immune system is significantly suppressed throughout pregnancy. So your body cannot fight off the parasites and pathogens the same way it could if you weren’t pregnant. Consuming raw or undercooked fish puts you at a significantly higher risk for foodborne illnesses such as listeriosis; which can be harmful or even fatal to both you and your unborn child. It’s also good to note that frozen, raw fish is not safe during pregnancy either. While freezing may kill off most of the parasites, it does not destroy the pathogens. So, either opt for fully cooked sushi or avoid it all together until your bundle of joy makes their debut.

12 Don't Ever Lick The Spoon

We can blame this one on that weakened pregnancy immune system as well, but truthfully; raw eggs aren’t overly safe for consumption for anyone. They carry a very high risk of Salmonella. But, again, that weakened immune system makes it an even bigger chance for someone that’s pregnant. While Salmonella itself doesn’t directly pose an inherent risk to your unborn child, the effects that the Salmonella has on your body does. Salmonella causes extremely severe nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and a high temperature. The nausea and vomiting can causes you to become dehydrated and severely lessen the amount of nutrients your baby is receiving. The high temperature can also pose a serious risk to the fetus. All of this in combination can put you at greater risk for developmental delays, pre-term birth, and small birth weight.

11 Leaving The Veggies Unwashed

Our mommas always told us to wash those vegetables. Well, she wasn’t kidding! They’re a terrible carrier of Toxoplasmosis. Toxoplasmosis is actually one of the most common infections in the world. Usually, pregnant women are warned the most against dealing with cleaning out the kitty litter, because cat feces is one of the main carriers of the disease. But many people don’t know that raw, unwashed fruits and vegetables are also a large host. Most of the time, even if you are infected with Toxoplasmosis, your baby will be okay. But around one in ten infected babies have very serious symptoms like; eye infections, enlarged liver and spleen, jaundice, or pneumonia. Sometimes the baby even dies within the first few days or develop mental impairments or hearing/vision loss or impairment. So along with avoiding the kitty litter box at all cost, make sure you’re washing your fruits and veggies, and any utensils that could be contaminated, thoroughly before consuming.

10 Say Yes To Raw Meat

This is another one of those instances where your weakened immune system due to pregnancy is working against you. A normal, healthy adult who wasn’t expecting can safely consume a rare steak and it most likely won’t affect them negatively. But given that the immune system of pregnant women isn’t quite up to par, all those bacteria, pathogens and parasites pose quite the risk to you and your unborn baby. Raw or undercooked meat can potentially be a host to several nasty illnesses such as E.Coli, Listeria, Toxoplasmosis and Salmonella; all of which will make you very, very sick and can put you at risk for dehydration, miscarriage, and pre-term delivery. Toxoplasmosis can even cause an infection in the fetus that can later cause blindness and mental disability. While protein in a very important part of a healthy pregnancy diet, it’s pertinent that you ensure all of your meats are cooked to an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit, to guarantee that all of the pathogens, parasites, and bacteria have been killed off.

9 Don't Pick Up The Bag Of Chips

Ah, junk food. Whether we like to admit it or not, for most people, it’s one of our biggest weaknesses. Especially when you’re pregnant, it could end up being exactly what you’re craving. And we all know how miserable it is trying to avoid those insanity-inducing pregnancy craving. But before you reach for that bag of Doritos, you may want to do a bit of research into the effects that processed junk food can have on your baby later in life. Recent studies have actually shown that children born from mother who consumed high amounts of processed junk food during pregnancy were at a higher risk for mental and behavioral disorders such as; depression, anxiety, conduct disorders, and ADHD. They also showed signs of increased aggression later in life. So while you may be dying for those potato chips or a sugary soda, try your best to search out a few healthier alternatives, and really limit your splurges on the processed junk.

8 Be Cautious With Shellfish

Shellfish is a tricky one. If thoroughly cooked, and obtained through a commercial vendor, it’s most likely safe to eat while pregnant. Commercial shellfish is required to be regulated and tested by law, to help avoid any kind of contamination. But, if you’re looking to eat oysters on the half shell, or if you’re one to catch your own crawfish, you may want to be extra cautious, as raw shellfish especially harbors a lot of nasty food poisoning risks. Again, most of these don’t pose a risk to the fetus directly, rather the symptoms of the illnesses do. Any time you’re severely dehydrated or vomiting, your baby isn’t getting proper nutrition and it can lead to health problems. The best way to avoid this issue is to either avoid shellfish in general during your pregnancy, or make sure that is comes from a reputable, regulated seller, and is cooked thoroughly and properly. Stay away from the shrimp cocktails.

7 Skip Out On The Lunch Meat

Deli meats are one of those things that have almost always been at the top of your OB’s “Do Not Eat” list. This is because they usually pose a pretty big risk for Listeria. Listeria is a fairly rare disease, only affecting around 2500 people per year, and the FDA has taken several steps in the last few years to lessen the risk of Listeria infection through deli meats even further. Deli meats are now even being sprayed with an additive that helps prevent Listeria. But, again, that immune system is a lot weaker when you’re pregnant. So, your risk of contracting Listeria becomes at least a bit higher than the average Joes. Are you guaranteed to end up with Listeria if you eat a deli meat sandwich? No. But if it is contracted in can potentially affect your growing baby’s nervous system. So it’s always better to be safe than sorry. To avoid the risk of Listeria while pregnant, just heat your deli meat up in the microwave until it’s steaming to kill off any of the bacteria.

6 A Cup Of Joe Can Be Bad For The Baby

This is probably one of the hardest things to avoid while pregnant. Caffeine is everywhere! It’s in everything from your morning cup of coffee to your afternoon glass of sweet tea with lunch. But excessive amounts of caffeine can be really bad for your unborn child. It has been linked to a higher risk of miscarriage and low birth weight. Not to mention, coffee does the same thing to a fetus as it does to us as grown adults; it significantly increases their heart rate. Because your baby's liver isn’t fully developed yet, their little bodies can’t process the caffeine as quickly as an adults can; meaning the caffeine stays in their bloodstream longer and at much higher levels. This can even causes a reduction in blood flow to the uterus. A few studies on caffeine during pregnancy in animals have even shown an increase in birth defects and malformations. Now, that’s not to say you have to completely cut out your morning cup of joe. But it’s recommended that you keep your intake somewhere around or under 200mg of caffeine per day.

5 Stay Clear Of Swordfish And Mackerel

Certain types of fish can be healthy and beneficial during pregnancy. As a matter of fact, the FDA now recommends that women who are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or breastfeeding, consume 8-12 ounces of low-mercury fish every week. That’s actually 2-3 servings of fish per week that should be replacing your ordinary protein! But varieties of fish that contain high levels of mercury are still a big no-no for pregnant women. Mercury turns into methylmercury, which is a neurotoxin that can severely damage the nervous system. This can, in turn, damage your growing babies developing brain and nervous system, leading to birth defect, retardation, or even death. So, while it’s definitely very healthy to get your weekly does of Omega-3’s from fish every week, definitely be diligent in making sure that the fish is safe to consume during your pregnancy. Steer clear of tilefish, swordfish, shark and mackerel, and if you consume fish caught locally from rivers or lakes, be sure to check your states mercury advisories.

4 No Amount Of Alcohol Has Been Proven Safe

This one here is a given, and probably the worst one on the list. Alcohol during pregnancy is bad, bad, bad. While you’re likely to find a mix of opinions here, or know that one friend who had a few beers throughout her pregnancy and her baby turned out just fine; the fact of the matter is, no amount of alcohol during pregnancy has been proven safe. There is also no specific trimester of pregnancy where alcohol consumption may be safer than other. The bottom line is; you definitely should not be drinking while you’re pregnant. Not even a little. Alcohol passes straight from the mother to the fetus through the umbilical cord. Consuming alcohol at any point during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, and an array of physical, mental and behavioral defects. Known as FASDs (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders) these include but are not limited to; abnormal facial features, small head size, hyperactivity, problems with kidneys, heart and bones, low body weight, problems with sleeping and sucking as an infant and trouble in school.

3 Raw Sprouts Might Be A Super Food But...

Raw sprouts are a big thing in the recent health food movements, and they can make a great snack, but not for someone with a bun in the oven. Here we are, back to our old friend; the weakened immune system. Raw sprouts are a big carrier of an array of harmful bacteria, pathogens, and parasites. While they’re considered a “super food” among health nuts, they pose a huge risk to a pregnant woman. The most pertinent of which is E. Coli. This is a severe bacterial infection that causes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and high fever. If the E. Coli ends up being passed to the fetus, your baby could suffer from severe diarrhea, fever, and even meningitis after birth. Keep in mind that rinsing your sprouts does not get rid of the bacteria or reduce the risk to you and your baby! The only safe way to consume sprouts during pregnancy is fully cooked.

2 Always Choose Bottled Water Instead

Now this one can be a tricky one. I mean, it’s water! We all HAVE to have water. There’s just no way on Earth around that. But during pregnancy, it’s advisable to be a little bit extra picky about where your water is coming from. The majority of tap water is disinfected with chlorine. Usually, this doesn’t present too big of a problem. They’re just making our tap water safer to drink, right? But recent studies have shown that may not actually be the case after all. While chlorine is a common and widespread disinfectant for water, scientist and environmentalist have discovered that if the chlorinated water mixes with organic matter like runoff from farms, it forms a compound called trihalomethanes. THM’s have been linked to a much higher risk of cancer, birth defects and miscarriage. So, while your tap water is far more convenient, cheaper, and readily available, it’s recommended that you choose bottled/distilled water instead, at least for the duration of your pregnancy.

1 Organ Meat Can Be Risky

I’d venture to say that not too many people get overly excited about the thought of organ meat. If you’re pregnant, I’d even go so far as to say that the thought of it probably turns your stomach. But if you happen to be one of those that really enjoys the perfectly prepared liver, you may want to take a moment to consider your options before you consume it while pregnant. Now, in general, organ meat can be a healthy, and even potentially beneficial, part of a pregnancy diet. It’s chock full of Omega 3 Fatty Acids and Vitamins B6 And B12. But, when consumed in excess, organ meat can pose a serious risk for Vitamin A toxicity as well as high copper levels. This can result in birth defects and liver toxicity in the fetus. So the bottom line is; organ meats such as liver can be a great addition to a healthy pregnancy diet and can provide you with a lot of Iron, Copper, and Vitamin B – but try to keep your intake at or under one serving a week.

Sources: healthline.com, safebirthproject.com, americanpregnancy.org, webmd.com, ewg.org, babycenter.com, parenting.com, cdc.gov, livestrong.com, thebump.com, babymed.com, medicalnewstoday.com, nhs.uk

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