Counselors at the California Teratogen Information Service (CTIS) Pregnancy Health Information Line, a non-profit based at the University of California, San Diego that aims to educate women about exposures during pregnancy and breastfeeding, have compiled a list of the most common holiday foods to avoid during pregnancy.
"It's crucial we spread the word during this time of year, especially about avoiding alcohol in pregnancy," said Dr. Christina Chambers, professor of pediatrics at UCSD and program director of CTIS Pregnancy Health Information Line. "In fact, it's during this time of year when we receive the most number of calls from women who overindulged, found themselves pregnant and are now concerned about the amount of alcohol they consumed during the first few weeks of their unplanned pregnancies," she added.
In addition, counselors, who provide California women answers to questions about exposures during pregnancy and lactation through a toll-free hotline (800) 532-3749, said many drinks and foods commonly served as appetizers or main courses during the holidays can lead to pregnancy problems, including:
1. Spiced Cider
Many spiced ciders will contain alcohol. Spiced wine is also a commonly served drink around the holidays. If you're not sure if there is alcohol in what's being served to you, just ask. Also, avoid those drinks that might contain wine, beer or liquor. "Drinking alcohol during pregnancy is a leading cause of mental retardation," explained Laurel Prince, a CTIS teratogen information specialist.
2. Eggnog Eggnog lattes are coming soon to a coffee shop near you, but so are punchbowls full of eggnog and brandy. It's okay to enjoy the first (as long as it's decaf), but make sure to avoid the second! Pasteurized eggnog can be a delicious treat, but alcohol should be avoided.
3. Rum balls Delicious? Yes. A good idea during pregnancy? No. Unfortunately rum balls actually do contain some alcohol. If craving chocolate, reach for something that doesn't contain alcohol. "It's great to indulge a little bit when it comes to chocolate," explained Prince. "Just also be aware that chocolate contains caffeine and pregnant women shouldn't consume more than 300mg of caffeine per day," she added.
4. Soft Cheeses (Panela, Cotija, Queso Fresco, Blue-Veined Cheeses, Brie, Feta, Camembert) Unless it's labeled as "made with pasteurized milk," it should be avoided. Unpasteurized milk can contain the bacteria listeria monocytogenes. This bacteria can cause listeriosis, an infection that can harm a developing baby and increase the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, uterine infection, premature labor, and death in the newborn. To avoid this problem, make sure to look for the "made with pasteurized milk" label.
5. Hot dogs and luncheon meats are also places listeria monocytogenes bacteria like to hang out. Make sure to reheat them until they are steaming hot. Otherwise, choose another delicious deli treat.
6. Pate Refrigerated pates or meat spread can also cause listeriosis, so it's best to avoid them during pregnancy. If you're craving the spreading sensation, try peanut butter, almond butter or pasteurized cream cheese.
7. Imported Candies Lead has been found in some consumer candies imported from Mexico. Lead has also been found in the wrappers of some imported candies. To be safe, stick to non-imported candies this holiday season. High levels of lead during pregnancy can cause low birth weight, premature delivery, miscarriage, and even stillbirth.
8. Undercooked Turkey & Ham Food poisoning can affect everyone, including pregnant woman. Be sure that meat is cooked at the correct temperature for the correct amount of time. Using those meat thermometers will help do the trick! If you aren't cooking the meat yourself, make sure you check with the chef to ensure it's cooked all the way through.
9. Tuna For all of you tuna tar-tar lovers, just remember the recommendation for fish consumption during pregnancy is no more than 12 oz. of large predator fish (tuna, shark, tilefish, king mackerel) per week since it contains methylmercury. In addition, large predator fish are more likely to contain higher amounts of methylmercury. High levels of methylmercury can lead to birth defects such as cerebral palsy, mental retardation, and blindness.
10. Smoked Seafood
Remember that pesky bacteria listeria monocytogenes that makes those delicious soft cheeses off-limits? It turns out it can live in smoked seafood too. Don't eat refrigerated smoked meats unless they are ingredients in a dish that has been cooked, such as a casserole. Examples of refrigerated smoked seafood include salmon, trout, whitefish, cod, tuna, and mackerel, which are most often labeled as "nova-style," "lox," "kippered," "smoked," or "jerky."
More information on the exposures mentioned can be found on www.CTISPregnancy.org. Questions or concerns from women in California can also be directed to the CTIS Pregnancy Health Information Line, at (800) 532-3749. Outside of California, please call the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists at (866) 626-OTIS (6847).
CTIS Pregnancy Health Information Line is the California affiliate of OTIS, a North American non-profit dedicated to providing accurate evidence-based, clinical information to patients and health care professionals about exposures during pregnancy and lactation through its toll-free hotline and website, www.OTISPregnancy.org. Nearly 100,000 women seek information about birth defect prevention from OTIS and its affiliates every year.
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