Getting pregnant is an emotional roller coaster. While mothers-to-be typically tend to be filled with overwhelming joy, there is always that underlying feeling of anxiety. Not only are they worried about the health of their child, they are worried about keeping themselves healthy enough to carry said baby to full term without any setbacks. Unfortunately, what also comes with pregnancy is an overwhelming amount of "information" that can be tough to navigate — especially when it comes to food.
It seems like the list of things you can’t eat grows by the millisecond, and the things that you "should" eat all have some sort of old wives' tale lore that will bring your baby happiness and harmony. All of this is pretty tough to handle, especially when balancing a diet and negotiating cravings.
To help you have a happier, healthier (and maybe even more satisfying) pregnancy, we consulted with Dr. Peter Weiss, an obstetrician-gynecologist at Los Angeles’ Cedars-Sinai Hospital, to chat about the facts and myths concerning food and pregnancy.
"Some women will develop a peculiar craving during pregnancy, even to the point of eating dirt. This however is very rare," Dr. Weiss says. "Most unusual cravings arise from some old tale told by someone's grandmother, such as [the tale that] eating sardines will ensure dark hair color. There are always the diets which someone will swear by, that if you follow you will get your figure back immediately after delivery. These range from salad-only to grapefruit diets."
Sardine-eating isn’t the only bizarre thing pregnant women are told during pregnancy. Consider the common excuse that you are allowed to eat more because you are eating for two. That's false. But, says Dr. Weiss, "The basic mistake is that some women still think it is OK 'NOT' to gain weight. Unless you’re morbidly obese, you must gain weight to help ensure a healthy baby," he explains. "The numbers may vary, but pregnancy is not the time to lose weight... There is another human being who relies on you to eat well and stay healthy, not overeat."
"Having a good, sound immune system is important," says Dr. Weiss of the key to having a sound and safe pregnancy. "Pregnancy in and of itself is an immunocompromised state. Therefore the healthier your body is when you get pregnant the healthier the pregnancy."
Of course that doesn’t mean you can go all willy-nilly and enjoy anything you are craving.
"Avoid food high in mercury, such as shark, swordfish, tilefish, or king mackerel," Dr. Weiss warns. "Limit fish intake to about two servings a weeks to be on the safe side. Avoid sushi, not because of the sushi itself but because there is a higher risk of contamination in raw foods. These can be E. coli, salmonella, etc. This also goes for raw meat (steak tartare) or undercooked meat. Avoid unwashed vegetables and fruit."
To help ease your mind, we talked to Dr. Weiss about 10 common food-related pregnancy myths and debunked them so you can eat with ease. Check out what is totally bogus in our slideshow.