By Bunmi Sofola
Smoking. Why? It’s harmful to the developing baby. It can lead to premature birth and low birth weight, and it increases the risk of cot death.
Raw or undercooked meat. Why? To prevent infection with toxoplasmosis, a parasite that can be found in meat. In some countries, pregnant women are also advised to avoid cold cured meats such as salami, chori^a and pepperoni.
Some drugs, medicines and herbal remedies. Why? Certain medicines – including common pain killers – can harm your baby’s health. Check with your doctor, midwife or pharmacist before taking any medicine or herbal remedy.
Some fish. Why? Certain fish contain high levels of mercury, which can damage the baby’s developing nervous system. So avoid shark, marliri and sword fish altogether, and limit tuna to no more than two steaks or four medium-sized can a week.
Liver products. Why? Liver, liver pate and liver sausage may contain a lot of vitamin A, and too much of this can harm your baby. Also avoid fish liver oil supplements and other supplements containing vitamin A.
Too much caffeine. Why? High levels of caffeine can result in babies having a low birth weight, which may increase the risk of health problems in later life. Too much caffeine can also cause miscarriage. Caffeine is found in coffee, tea and chocolate, and some soft drinks and energy drinks. Certain cold and flu remedies also contain caffeine. The advice is to limit your intake to ?,00rng a day – that is approximately two mugs of instant coffee, or two cups of tea and a 50g bar of chocolate.
Alcohol. Why? Alcohol passes through the placenta and can affect a baby’s development. During the first three months, alcohol may increase the risk of miscarriage. If you drink heavily through pregnancy, your baby could be born with a group of problems known a foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). The more you drink, the greater the risks.
If you choose to drink alcohol, official advise is to limit your intake to one or two units a week. A unit is equal to half a pint of lager or cider, a single measure of spirits such as gin or vodka, and half a standard (175ml) glass of wine.
Raw or partially cooked eggs. Why? Uncooked eggs and foods made with raw eggs—such as home-made mayonnaise and chocolate mousse – may contain salmonella, which can cause food poisoning.