Toxoplasmosis, Listeriosis and Alcohol During Pregnancy
When you are pregnant, any type of infection or harmful substance you are exposed to can pass through the placenta to your baby. Teratogens are substances in your environment that can disrupt your baby's development and even cause birth defects. It's important for you to educate yourself on the dangers that can expose your baby to unnecessary health risks.
Raw meat and animal feces can contain an organism that causes toxoplasmosis. When you are pregnant, wash your hands thoroughly after preparing meats for cooking. Be sure your meat has an internal temperature of at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit or 54 degrees Celsius, with juices running clear. Have someone else in the household clean up after the dog and change the cat boxes. If your neighbor keeps cats, use gloves when gardening to prevent potential exposure to cat feces.
Be sure your cow's or goat's milk has been pasteurized, ultra-heat-treated or sterilized. If you live on a farm, never come in contact with baby lambs, lactating ewes or ewes that have recently given birth.
Botulism, a severe form of food poisoning, can be a great threat to you and your baby. Always eat foods that you know are fresh. Once meat is thawed, do not refreeze it. Do not eat foods that have been at room temperature for extended periods of time. Try to avoid fast food restaurants when you are pregnant, and never eat food from cans that appear dented or expanded.
Listeria is a bacterium that will cause flu-like symptoms in you but can cause stillbirth or birth defects in your baby. Avoid pates and soft cheeses such as brie, blue cheese and camembert while you are pregnant. All of these contain significant amounts of listeria. Reheat leftovers until they are steaming hot to kill active listeria.
One of the most common causes of food poisoning is salmonella. It can cause vomiting and diarrhea, risking both infection in your baby and dehydration in you. Raw eggs are possible carriers of salmonella. No more raw cookie dough for you -- as good as it tastes, it can be dangerous for you and your little one. Cook your eggs until they are well done, and avoid bearnaise sauces in restaurants. Scrub your hands after handling raw chicken, and be sure your chicken is cooked until it is well done. Your poultry should be completely defrosted before you cook it. Never eat rare beef, as it may contain salmonella as well.
Unpasteurized Milk and Juices
Do not drink fresh milk or juices that have not been heat treated. Always check your labels to be sure these liquids are pasteurized, sterilized or ultra-heat-treated.
Raw seafood can contain bacteria that is harmful to both you and your baby. If you plan to eat sushi while pregnant, choose ingredients such as cooked shrimp or well-cleaned vegetables. Never eat raw seafood or shellfish while pregnant.
X rays during pregnancy are a threat to the safety of your growing baby. If you are asked to get an X-ray, be sure your doctor knows you are pregnant or that there may be a chance you are expecting. Let your dentist know you cannot have X-rays until after your delivery.
Smoking during your pregnancy can damage your fetus and cause miscarriages, but secondhand smoke is just as dangerous. If you have family members or friends who smoke, be sure they leave your house before lighting up. Additionally, if your job exposes you to secondhand smoke, ask if there is another area you can work in until you have delivered your baby. Find out more about smoking and pregnancy.
Even the smallest amount of alcohol will go through the placenta to your baby, potentiall causing birth defects or Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (now called Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder). Some women feel it is safe to have a drink "now and then" when they are pregnant. However, OB/GYN's are unable to pinpoint the level of alcohol that will become a danger to your fetus. So, for your baby as well as for yourself, avoid all alcohol during your pregnancy.
What? Stop drinking coffee? Well, yes and no. Caffeine can be harmful to your baby, so limit your caffeine intake to no more than two caffeinated drinks per day. This includes coffee, tea, hot chocolate and sodas. If you can cut it out altogether, even better.