By: Kerry Bazany
As mentioned in part one of foods to avoid while pregnant, the holiday season is no exception to the rule and certainly not a time for a little “innocent” tasting. The holidays are a succulent invitation to indulge in a veritable plethora of absolutely delicious culinary treats, and the temptation, for pregnant women, is to indulge their whims and their ever-increasing appetites. After all, you’re eating for two, right? Yes, and it is for that very reason pregnant women should be especially vigilant.
So, What’s the Problem?
Being pregnant is the single best excuse to nosh unashamedly at the Thanksgiving dinner table and boldly take a second or third helping of mashed potatoes. (I know I did)! However, there are foods that warrant exclusion to a pregnant woman’s palette, and they are:
- Stuffing: While cooking, salmonella can seep into the stuffing from the turkey juices. To kill the salmonella bacteria, the stuffing would have to reach a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit, which means overcooking the turkey. However, stuffing cooked apart from the turkey is fine.
- Smoked salmon: Smoked salmon can contain the listeria bacteria, and for pregnant women, the unborn baby can become infected, leading to spontaneous abortion, stillbirth, or even sepsis.
- Hollandaise sauce: The egg yolks in the sauce aren’t fully cooked; the potential for salmonella rises substantially.
- Soft cheeses: Brie, Camembert, Mexican queso, and feta are often unpasteurized and can harbor listeria. Listeria is especially hazardous to pregnant women because it can mean miscarriage or pre-term labor.
- Raw fruits or vegetables: Unless you know that they have been properly washed, raw fruits and vegetables can harbor cyclospora and E.coli.
- Raw cookie dough: Again, there is a risk of contracting salmonella due to all those raw eggs in the batter.
- Cider: Always drink pasteurized cider drinks. Unfortunately, cases of E.coli have recently been linked to ingesting cider drinks.
- Turkey: Oh no, really?? Don’t panic: we’re talking here about consuming turkey that is not properly cooked to the proper internal temperature of 165 F. This temperature is absolutely essential in order to kill bacteria and parasites like E. coli, trichinella, and toxoplasma. (As an anecdote, there was this one time when I was newly married and invited the whole family for Thanksgiving dinner. Out of the oven I hoisted this gorgeous looking beast of a turkey, only to find out that it was undercooked, even though absolutely everything else was ready. Lesson learned. Always, always use a meat thermometer, and preferably a digital one as they give quick and accurate temperature readings.
Pregnancy: Your Delicate Immune System and Your Baby’s
When you are pregnant, your immune system becomes suppressed: otherwise your body would reject the baby. This translates into your body’s decreased ability to fight off infections and illnesses, especially foodborne pathogens. As a population, pregnant women are more likely to suffer the debilitating effects of foodborne illnesses. Your unborn baby’s immune system is just beginning to develop, so you can imagine the one-two punch a foodborne illness can deliver.
An infection caused by campylobacter can result in severe diarrhea and dehydration in early pregnancy. Listeriosis, caused by the bacteria listeria may cause miscarriages, premature labor, or even infant death. The infection can pass to the unborn baby, and pregnant women are ten times more likely than the general population to get a listeria infection. Salmonella can be especially problematic during pregnancy. Infection can lead to health complications such as dehydration and bacteria in the blood. Additionally, salmonella can be transmitted to the baby during pregnancy. Babies born with a salmonella infection can develop complications such as meningitis.
It Goes Without Saying…..
There’s a reason why many pregnant women have a “glow” about them. It signals the presence of health. To that end, I thought I would include some other measures that are important enough to implement other than being cautious about what you eat during the holiday season.
- Take care of YOU: Pace yourself, and don’t think you have to have everything accomplished and please accept help when it’s offered! This is truly the time when you can bask in the “can I do anything for you” scenario, and emphatically say “yes!” Take breaks and let others help…really.
- Sleep, sleep, and sleep: Sleep is nature’s marvelous healer. Sleep as much as you can!
- Your baby is your priority: It’s okay to say no to shopping ventures. At this time next year, you will have someone who is completely depending on you, and they will be your main focus. So spend time with your hubby and do the things that you want to do.