Commonly used things that are not safe for pregnant women

Commonly used things that are not safe for pregnant women
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Written by Dr. Shyam Sundar Gupta, PhD, Medically Reviewed by Dr. Ajay Kumar Tiwari, MD (Ay.)

Processed foods are the causes of overweight and obesity. Tap water having dangerous contaminants induces central nervous system defects, neural tube defects, and oral cleft defects, fetal death and small for gestational age births. Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, cocoa, energy drinks, and some soft drinks and causes the fetal malformation. Raw sprouts are not safe during pregnancy. Unpasteurized milk contains harmful bacteria that cause food poisoning, illness, and miscarriage. Drinking alcohol and smoking cause sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) in offspring.

1. Processed foods

Processed foods having high fat, starch or sugar, energy, and low micronutrients are the causes of overweight and obesity. These foods include potato products (chips and crisps), products made from white flour (bread, pasta, and pizza), cakes, pastries, biscuits, cookies, and confectionery (1). Overweight and obesity may induce the risk of various health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancers. Excess weight may cause short and long-term health troubles for pregnant women, and her child (2). Gestational weight gain during early pregnancy may increase the risk of gestational diabetes mellitus (3).

2. Tap water

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Drinking of tap water during pregnancy is not safe due to the presence of environmental toxins having risky effects in the developing offspring. Tap water has risky contaminants such as arsenic, dibromoacetic acid, and radium 226. These contaminants induce central nervous system defects, neural tube defects, and oral cleft defects, fetal death and small for gestational age births. Therefore, pregnant women should avoid tap water and accept only filtered or bottled water to drink (4).

3. Caffeine

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Caffeine is a xanthine alkaloid mainly used as a mind-altering substance in the world, and found in coffee, tea, cocoa, energy drinks and some soft drinks (5, 6). Caffeine is well-known to cross the placental and blood-brain barrier and causing the fetal malformation by disturbing the expression of genes very important in growth. The enzymes are not developed in the fetus for detoxification of these alkaloids (7). High caffeine intake during pregnancy causes a higher risk of low birth weight infants at delivery (8). Caffeine use below the recommended maximum (200 mg/day) was related to increased risk of small for gestational age (5).

4. Raw Sprouts

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Sprouts are produced by growing seeds in water. These are taken before the leaves develop. There are several types of sprouts such as mung bean, alfalfa, radish, and soy sprouts. Salmonella and E. coli are the bacteria that often induce food poisoning and illness from sprouts. The warm and moist environment necessary for growth of sprouting is ideal for the rapid growth of bacteria, and they’re not possible to wash off (9). Therefore, raw sprouts are not safe during pregnancy. Cooked sprouts are safe and can be consumed by pregnant women.

5. Raw or unpasteurized milk

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Unpasteurized milk contains harmful bacteria such as Salmonella, Campylobacter, E. coli, Listeria, and others that cause food poisoning and illness (10). Bacteria Listeria found in raw or unpasteurized milk, and its dairy products cause miscarriage or disease in pregnant women, and low birth weight, septicaemia, and meningitis in a newborn baby (11). Therefore, raw (unpasteurized) milk and dairy foodstuffs made from raw or unpasteurized milk should be avoided during pregnancy.

6. Alcohol

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Alcohol intake during pregnancy increases the risk of early stillbirth, miscarriage, preterm delivery, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) (12, 13). Therefore, pregnant women must avoid drinking alcohol.

7. Smoking

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Pregnant women should avoid smoking and keep away from smoker and place where people are smoking. Smoking can induce risk for stillbirth, low birth weight (LBW), small for gestational age (SGA), placenta previa, and placental abruption during pregnancy. In addition, smoking also increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), neurocognitive disorders, tobacco addiction, and obesity, and reduces lung function in offspring (14).

8. Fish oil supplements

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Vitamin A takes part an important role during fetal growth, but its higher doses induce teratogenic effects. The dose of vitamin A lower than 10,000 IU per day is harmless and doesn’t cause birth defects during pregnancy, but the dose of vitamin A higher than 10,000 IU per day is dangerous for pregnant women (15). According to the Department of Health (DH) women should not take any fish oil or cod liver oil supplements during pregnancy owing to the presence of high quantities of vitamin A. Taking supplements containing fish or cod liver oil should be avoided during pregnancy due to containing high levels of vitamin A. Therefore, women must avoid the intake of cod liver oil supplements (16).

Note: Please consult your family doctor before applying any health tips of Amrit Health Tips website (