Skip to main content

Expecting mamas have a lot on their plate. After all, there is no shortage of things to do and deal with before baby’s arrival. Doctor visits, nursery decorating, aches and pains—the list goes on. With so many to-dos, it’s all too easy to let nutrition fall to the wayside. But if anything, pregnant people should be even more aware of what ends up on their plates. Doing so can help ensure that they have a healthy pregnancy.

Safe Eating, Not Just Healthy Eating

Studies have shown that certain foods come with a greater risk of illnesses for them and their babies. This is because pregnancy causes a person’s immune system to change. On top of that, unborn babies don’t have a fully developed immune system. Since the immune system is made up of cells and proteins that defend the body from infection, this means that mothers and babies are not as protected.

For those reasons, knowing which foods to stay away from can help keep mother and baby nourished and healthy. Examples of foods to avoid include raw seafood, eggs that aren’t fully cooked, and raw sprouts. A full list—as well as ideas for what to eat instead—is available online to download. In addition, it also offers tips on how to prepare food safely.

Proper Food Prep Can Help Prevent Illness

Following this guidance can help prevent illnesses that come from eating foods that aren’t prepared the right way. They include:

  • Listeria (luh-stee-ree-uh): Pregnant women are ten times more likely to get listeria. It can cause a mother to go into labor early, or even result in the loss of a child. Infected infants may have a low birth weight.
  • Toxoplasmosis (taak-suh-plaz-mow-suhs): It can cause blindness, loss of hearing, and brain damage in babies.
  • E. coli (ee-kow-lai): In children under five, it can lead to a syndrome that causes kidney failure and death.
  • Salmonella (sal-muh-neh-luh)

Some More Food for Thought

Even if a pregnant person doesn’t get any symptoms, their baby can still get sick. That’s why, for mothers and little ones alike, being aware of the risks and signs of food-borne illnesses can make all the difference in their prenatal health.

A person’s background can play a part in their risk for some of the infections noted above. Researchers showed that listeria, for example, occurs more among Hispanic populations. They found that a number of listeria outbreaks are tied to queso fresco, or fresh Mexican cheese. This is because it is used a lot in Hispanic dishes. But queso fresco, like brie, feta, and other soft cheeses made with raw milk, is often not pasteurized. Pasteurization is a process that uses heat to kill germs in foods, making them safer to eat.

Outbreaks may also happen more in low income or minority communities. This is due to the access to fast food and takeout restaurants, which tends to be higher in those spots. One study stated that 68% of outbreaks tied to one place of food preparation were connected to a restaurant or deli. In comparison, 9% were associated with food prepared in a private home.

These outbreaks can affect anyone, no matter how much money they make or their ethnic background. But where they occur, and to whom, makes it clearer where there are disparities in maternal health. More research will help reveal what needs to be done to support mothers from all walks of life, so that every mom can have a healthy pregnancy.

Your Baby’s Health Begins with Your Own

Compared to even a few years ago, pregnant people have much more information within reach these days. There is much more to learn, though, and relevant data is still lacking.

Much of this valuable knowledge starts with research. That’s where you can help: by signing up for the free, home-based PowerMom study. From there, you’ll be able to share your pregnancy experience with a team of researchers. If you are approved to join, you may get a free Fitbit.

As a partner, you’ll be able to share data from your fitness devices (like sleep, activity, and heart rate). You’ll also be able to take 5-minute surveys about your pregnancy journey. What you provide may lead to learnings that benefit health outcomes for all moms. Your input could lend itself to articles like this one, and the answers they may offer for other mamas.

The power of a healthy pregnancy is in your hands. Learn more and get started on the PowerMom website today.

Elysia Cook

Elysia Cook McDermott is a copywriter and editor at Scripps Research Digital Trials Center.