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What is Safe to Eat During Pregnancy?


It seems like every year something new comes out about what you can and can’t eat or drink when you’re pregnant. By now everyone knows that cigarettes and alcohol are big no-nos, but what about coffee and cold cuts? Or cough medicine? We’ve tracked down the facts on 9 things you might be wondering if you can still consume.

This gallery is for informational purposes only–always check with your doctor or midwife with any questions or concerns and before you take any medicines.

1. Caffeine

For many people it’s impossible to feel awake without a cup of tea or coffee first thing in the morning. The bad news for moms-to-be is that caffeine crosses the placenta. If you drink or eat something with caffeine in it (we’re looking at you, chocolate), you’re giving your baby a dose of caffeine, too. While you don’t have to avoid it altogether, it is recommended that you do not exceed 200mg of caffeine (approximately 16 ounces of coffee) per day. Anything over that amount has not been proven to be safe.

2. Decongestants

If only allergies went away during pregnancy you wouldn’t have to worry. Sadly, allergies can actually get worse during pregnancy. If you find yourself needing some help to breathe, a decongestant with pseudoephedrine is a safe choice. If taken for extended periods or in high doses there can be risks, so consult with your doctor before taking any medication, and be certain you’re taking a straight decongestant and not a multi-symptom medication.

3. Cough Syrup

As if being pregnant wasn’t hard enough, a lowered immune system leaves you wide open for catching whatever bug is going around. A hacking cough is bad enough, but with an overactive pregnancy bladder it can be a real pain. Cough syrup containing dextromethorphan (as in Robitussin and Robitussin DM) is considered a “category C” drug, which means there’s little research and/or some links to birth defects are suspected. Meaning, it’s only to be used if absolutely necessary during pregnancy. If you use this, make sure it’s not multi-ingredient cold medicine, which could contain alcohol or other non-pregnancy-friendly ingredients.

4. Laxatives

Constipation can be a real problem during pregnancy. Your first step to relief should involve dietary changes like increasing your water intake and eating more fiber-rich foods. If diet alone isn’t enough to get things going, stool softeners like Colace are a safe choice. If you find you need a strong laxative, check with your obstetrician to determine a plan.

5. Sushi

There are so many delicious options when it comes to sushi it’s not a wonder that many pregnant women have the occasional craving for it. All sushi and sashimi are not created equally when it comes to safety, though. If you need a sushi fix, opt for cooked fish and check the mercury level. There are also many vegetarian options.

6. Hot Tubs

Spas, saunas, and hot tubs should be avoided in all stages of pregnancy–especially the first trimester. Unsafe body temperatures can be reached very quickly, and increased risk of miscarriage and birth defects have been shown.

7. Cold Cuts

Lunch meats are an easy mid-day meal, but care should be taken when eating them during pregnancy. A bacterium called Listeria can sometimes lurk in lunch meats. It is very rare for infections to occur, approximately 2500 cases are reported annually, but its effects can be fatal to unborn babies. Cooking lunch meats before eating them can help kill any bacteria.

8. Soft Serve Ice Cream

Do you crave your ice cream with or without pickles? Either way, discuss with your doctor whether or not you should avoid soft serve ice cream. The machines that process and serve ice cream can be another source of Listeria.  When in doubt, go with ice cream from a carton.

9. Hair Dye

The Mayo Clinic reports that a study done in 2005 suggested a connection between maternal use of hair dye with certain types of tumors; however, other studies have failed to show the same results. As long as your scalp is not irritated or scratched, you follow the instructions, and don’t leave the dye on for longer than recommended, most experts say you can feel free to keep your roots touched up to feel beautiful.

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