I’m expecting my third child. I’m still cutting out alcohol and caffeine, and I don’t smoke, but do I really need to avoid unripened cheese or sushi? Are they really that risky to eat?
Congratulations, this is such a wonderful time in your life! As you are already doing, it’s important to avoid substances that may put baby at risk. Alcohol, nicotine, and high doses of caffeine have all been well studied to this effect.
Newer research looks at other risks such as unripened cheese which can contain listeria. During pregnancy, a listeria infection may cause only mild signs and symptoms in the mother but the consequences for the baby may be devastating through a life-threatening infection before, or within the first few days of birth.
Bacteria found in raw fish in sushi can be an issue, pregnant or not, but given that your immune system is altered during pregnancy you’re more likely to get sick, so it’s good idea to avoid raw fish during this time. Because your immune system is altered, getting the flu
vaccine is also especially important.
I also advise my patients to start taking the recommended 0.4 mg of folic acid daily as soon as they stop using contraception. Taking a prenatal vitamin that includes folic acid prevents neural tube defects such as spina bifida, which occurs very early on in pregnancy, even before you’ve missed a period.
If you haven’t started taking a prenatal vitamin, it’s not too late. Even after you’ve discovered that you’re pregnant and all the way through to the first six weeks post-partum, or as long as you are breastfeeding, a prenatal vitamin provides the higher levels of iron, as well as other nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D, which are important for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers.
Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, February 2014.