Food Safety in Pregnancy
Safe eating in pregnancy:
As soon as you find out your pregnant naturally you will start to consider more what foods and nutrients are going into your body to prepare you well for pregnancy and birth and to support your rapidly growing and developing baby. Feel free to ask me or your obstetrician about any concerns you might have.
First, lets start with food best avoided during pregnancy and why:
Meat, Poultry & Seafood:
- Processed meats (e.g salami, ham, chicken slices)
- Any raw meat
- Cold meats in a salad bar
- Raw seafood or ready-to-eat prawns
- Pate’s, meat spreads
- Sushi purchased from a shop
Dairy & Eggs:
- Soft and semi-soft cheese (brie, camembert, ricotta, feta, blue cheese) unless it has been cooked over 75 degrees and is eaten whilst hot
- Soft serve and fried ice-cream
- Any unpasteurised or raw dairy products (milk, cream, yoghurt)
- Raw eggs on their own or in uncooked food products such as mayonnaise, aioli, chocolate mousse, cake and pancake batters
All the above should be avoided as they could carry harmful bacteria such as salmonella or listeria, which could put your baby at risk during your pregnancy.
Safe to eat:
- Hot takeaway BBQ chickens, meats, etc. – provided they are freshly cooked and eaten whilst still hot. Only keep for one day, and reheat to over 60 degrees before consuming.
- Home cooked meats, providing they are cooked to over 70 degrees and eaten within a day – reheated to over 60 degrees.
- Cooked fish to over 60 degrees, and eaten hot. To be eaten within and day and re-heated to over 60 degrees
- Home-made sushi – providing its eaten straight away and doesn’t contain seafood or cold meats
- Processed cheese, cheese spreads, cottage cheese, cream cheese – eat within 2 days of opening the packet
- Hard cheeses – to be stored in fridge
- Normal ice cream – to be eaten whilst frozen
- Pasteurised milk, cream, yoghurt, custard
- Cooked eggs (scrambled/fried), quiches – cooked
Additional nutritional requirements during pregnancy:
During pregnancy, yourrequirements for vitamins and minerals increases. The developing foetus draws these nutrients iron from you to last it through the first five or six months after birth. You need to ensure you increase the following dietary requirements:
Iron: You need to eat iron-rich foods every day, such as meat, chicken, seafood, dried beans and lentils, and green leafy vegetables.Animal sources of iron are readily absorbed by the body. Iron from plant sources is not absorbed as easily, but absorption is helped when these foods are eaten together with foods that contain vitamin C (such as oranges). This is important for women who follow a vegetarian diet.
The recommended daily intake (RDI) of iron during pregnancy is 27 mg a day (9 mg a day more than for non-pregnant women). Iron deficiency during pregnancy is common in Australia, and iron supplements may be needed by some women. It is important to discuss your need for supplements with your Doctor, as iron can be toxic (poisonous) in large amounts.
Folate: (known as folic acid when added to foods) is a B-group vitamin found in a variety of foods. Folic acid helps protect against neural tube defects in the developing foetus, so it is important for you to make sure that they are receiving enough of this important vitamin.
Excellent food sources of folate include asparagus, bran flakes, broccoli, brussel sprouts, chick peas, dried beans, lentils and spinach.
For women who are planning a pregnancy, and during the first three months of pregnancy, a daily folic acid supplement that contains at least 400 micrograms of folic acid is recommended, as well as eating foods that are naturally rich in folate or are fortified with folic acid.
Iodine: Iodine is an important mineral needed for the production of thyroid hormone, which is important for growth and development. Inadequate iodine intake during pregnancy increases the risk of mental impairment and cretinism in the newborn baby.
Foods that are good sources of iodine include seafood and seaweed (including nori and kelp), eggs, meat and dairy products. Iodised salt also includes iodine.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women have increased iodine requirements. Iodine supplementation of 150 micrograms per day is recommended for women planning a pregnancy, throughout pregnancy and while breastfeeding.
Vitamin A: Although vitamin A requirements do increase during pregnancy, vitamin A supplements are rarely recommended for pregnant women. This is because an excessive intake of vitamin A may cause birth deformities.
The best way to make sure that you are getting enough vitamin A is through food sources like milk, fish, eggs and margarine.
Multivitamin supplements: Multivitamin supplements may be recommended for some groups of pregnant women, such as vegans and vegetarians, substance misusers (of drugs, tobacco and alcohol), pregnant women who are already very overweight and who are trying to prevent excessive weight gains.Always be advised by your doctor before taking vitamin or mineral supplements.
Healthy weight gain during pregnancy:
Steady weight gain during pregnancy is normal and important for your health and your developing baby. However, it is also important not to gain too much weight.
If you are pregnant, a good approach is to eat to satisfy your appetite and continue to monitor your weight. For women who are a healthy weight, it is recommended that you gain between 11.5 and 16 kg. Underweight women may need to gain more weight (between 12.5 and 18 kg).
If you are overweight, pregnancy is not the time to start dieting or trying to lose weight. However, it is recommended for women who are overweight to gain less weight during pregnancy (between 5 and 11.5 kg).
You need around an extra 300 calories per day during the 2nd and 3rd Trimesters, and it’s a myth that you must “eat for two”. Listen to your body and you will tend to crave the foods that you need and there is no need to force yourself to over eat.
Alcohol during pregnancy
There is no known safe level of alcohol consumption for women who are pregnant. Consuming alcohol during pregnancy increases the risk of miscarriage, low birth weight, congenital deformities and effects on the baby’s intelligence.
The Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol recommend that the safest option for pregnant women is not to drink alcohol at all.
If you find it difficult to decrease or stop drinking alcohol during pregnancy talk to your Doctor.
Drugs & Medications
There is no safe level of recreational drugs in pregnancy and you need to check any medications with your General Practitioner, Melbourne Obstetrician or Pharmacist to ensure they are safe during pregnancy.