What should pregnant women abstain from while carrying their children? If you’re like most people, answers like “tobacco, drugs, and alcohol” will be first on your mind. However, there are many other toxic foods and beverages that have been shown to have potentially detrimental effects on fetuses in utero, and many women are still consuming them.
A recent study from the University of California at Riverside indicates that pregnant women are consuming potentially harmful substances in canned foods, fish, tap water, and caffeinated beverages. It could be that these women don’t know they are putting their babies at risk, though some of the evidence suggests much of the consumption is born of socio-economic necessity. No matter the reason, it’s important to take a look at diet as a whole both while pregnant, and after pregnancy (since breastfeeding accounts for much of any baby’s immunity).
The study was specific to Hispanic women, though there is a distinct possibility the results would be similar across racial lines.
For the study, researchers surveyed 200 pregnant and recently pregnant women between the ages of 18 and 40, with Hispanic women making up 87% of the study group. As MedicalNewsToday reports, most had high school diplomas, one-fourth had a college degree, and more than two-thirds had an annual income below $50,000.
- 1. About three-fourths ate fish including canned tuna, salmon and tilapia. Tuna in particular contains methylmercury, of which prenatal exposure has been linked with attention issues, verbal learning, motor function, and delayed performance. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) found in “staggering” levels within salmon have been linked to low birth weights, abnormal reflexes, mental impairment, and more.
- 2. About 12% of survey respondents drank tap water on a regular basis. Typically, tap water is home to numerous pollutants, linked with such things as cleft defects, neural tube defects, low birth weights, and central nervous system defects. Read here for more dangers of tap water.
- 3. 80% of the women drank caffeinated beverages. Caffeine is associated with fetal death, birth defects, and low birth weight when consumed during pregnancy (consume in low-moderation, if any).
- 4. Three-fourths ate canned foods. Canned foods are contaminated with bisphenol-A (BPA) used to line the inside of cans. BPA has been associated with numerous health concerns including reproductive problems, aggression, and hyperactivity.
“We do not know whether this is something unique to Hispanic women, or ubiquitous among women of multiple ethnicities,” the researchers wrote. “The implications of this research are twofold: Women of childbearing age hoping to conceive should be advised to eliminate all alcohol consumption, as effects of maternal drinking have dire consequences in the first trimester when the mother may not know she is pregnant. … It is also clear that prenatal medical professionals should discourage the consumption of dangerous foods, beverages and medications that women commonly report consuming during pregnancy.”