Good nutrition is essential for good health at every age and every stage of life — even in the months before birth. While you need to watch what you eat during pregnancy, there’s a lot of misunderstanding about what’s okay to eat and what you must avoid.
At the Center for Women's Health in Newport News and Hampton, Virginia, Cheri Coyle, MD, and her team offer comprehensive obstetrics care, including dietary guidance to support healthy pregnancies. Here, learn some of the common food-related myths so that you can make informed decisions during your pregnancy.
Myth: It’s okay to eat for two
It’s true that your body is now supporting the nutritional needs of you and your growing baby. But that doesn’t mean you need to — or should — double up on calories. In fact, when you’re pregnant, you only need about 300 extra calories per day to support your baby. Most importantly, be sure all the calories you consume are nutrient-dense and chock full of vitamins and minerals instead of sugars, artificial or processed ingredients, and unhealthy fats.
Myth: You must avoid spicy foods
Some moms-to-be worry that eating spicy foods will bother their developing baby, but that’s just not true. However, spicy foods can cause heartburn, a problem that becomes a lot more common as your belly grows. Limiting spicy foods and avoiding spices during your evening meal can reduce your risk of heartburn that otherwise might interfere with your sleep.
Myth: Caffeine is forbidden
The effects of caffeine on unborn babies aren’t well understood. What we do know is that caffeine is a stimulant. To play it safe, limit caffeine consumption to 200 mg per day or less — about the amount in a 12-ounce cup of coffee.
Myth: You shouldn’t drink herbal tea
This one is half myth, half fact. Some herbal teas, like raspberry leaf tea and peppermint tea, are generally considered fine to drink during pregnancy. Other herbal teas may contain herbs that aren’t safe for developing babies. Check out the list of options on the American Pregnancy Association website, or make your own tea-like beverage from hot water, fruit, and a little touch of cinnamon.
Myth: Seafood is not allowed
During pregnancy, you should avoid raw seafood, including oysters, clams, and sushi, since these could contain parasites harmful to your baby. Cooked seafood is absolutely fine, including sushi made with cooked or smoked fish. The key here is moderation, especially for fish known to contain high levels of mercury, like swordfish, tuna, orange roughy, and king mackerel.
Myth: Deli meats are a no-no
Deli meats can be a source of listeria bacteria that can cause harmful consequences for your baby. However, if you crave a sandwich or wrap, you can still indulge on occasion as long as you heat the meat until it steams, destroying the listeria bacteria.
Myth: A little bit of alcohol is okay
The CDC notes that there is no known safe amount of alcohol consumption during pregnancy, which means you should not consume any alcohol at any stage of pregnancy. Alcohol passes to the baby via the umbilical cord, potentially resulting in miscarriage, developmental disorders, and physical disabilities, collectively known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). Do not drink alcohol during pregnancy.
Pregnancy care focused on your needs — and your baby’s
Although these brief guidelines can help you make wise food decisions during pregnancy, it’s still important to discuss these and other food “rules” with Dr. Coyle to ensure your choices are right for you and your baby. One of the benefits of regular prenatal care is having that ongoing guidance and support to help you make wise, healthy decisions from conception through labor and delivery.
For more pregnancy tips or to schedule a prenatal visit, request an appointment online or over the phone with the Center for Women’s Health team today.