Knowing what to eat during pregnancy is very critical. A mother has to stay strong and healthy during those long 40 weeks to give the fetus the nutrients necessary to maximize development. Unfortunately, there are too many myths and misconceptions about how a pregnant woman should eat. For that, I’ve made you a list of seven pregnancy-eating rules you should follow based on scientific research.

Rule #1: You can’t eat everything you want

“If you gain an excessive amount of weight (like 50 pounds or more), you will probably experience more consequences than just a lot more to lose after you give birth,” writes Jillian Michaels the famous coach and bestselling author of Yeah Baby!: The Modern Mama’s Guide to Mastering Pregnancy.

Studies have found a link between maternal and adverse outcomes for both you and your baby. Some of these risks are gestational diabetes, hypertension, depression, not mentioning discomfort, exhaustion, heartburn, and backaches. Breastfeeding is highly recommended for having all the nutrients your baby needs to grow and stay healthy. 

Studies found that obese women have the higher risk of early breastfeeding cessation compared with healthier women. Worse, maternal obesity means you’re more likely to require a Cesarean birth. The heavier mom is at delivery, the larger the baby and the lower mom’s chances of having a healthy vaginal delivery.

Obesity will also make your child more susceptible to weight gain throughout life. A 14-year study conducted on more than 513,501 women found a link between pregnancy weight gain and birth weight. 

According to the study, infants of women who gained more than 24 kilograms (53 pounds) during pregnancy were 5.25 ounces heavier at birth than were infants of women who gained 8-10 kilograms (18-22 pounds). These infants, according to another study, are more than four times more likely to be overweight at age 3.5.

Rule #2: Easy on the alcohol

Women who plan to get pregnant should stay away from liquor. According to a recent study by Rutgers University, women who binge drink —even before pregnancy— are more likely to have children with high blood sugar, which increases their odds of developing diabetes as adults.

Another study by the University of California, Riverside found that prenatal ethanol exposure may cause growth deficiency and brain abnormalities to your infant that may result in growth deficiency, cardiac anomalies, mental delays and increased anxiety.

A 2017 study by Binghamton University in New York also found that even the smallest amount of alcohol exposure during pregnancy can cause extreme lasting effects on a child, which means you should stop drinking as soon as you plan to get pregnant because there’s no safe amount of alcohol during pregnancy.

Rule #3: Easy on the caffeine

In addition to affecting your heart and blood pressure, caffeine can pass back and forth across the placenta, which is why coffee is another beverage that raises cautions during pregnancy.

 According to studies, too much caffeine is often linked to low birth weight, cardiac problems, premature labor and higher body fat. Caffeine is also diuretic which can lead to dehydration or losing valuable minerals like Calcium, which is important to your fetus.

For that, health experts recommend that you either drop the caffeine completely or you limit your consumption to 200 mg or less per day. Drink organic coffee which, unlike conventional coffee, isn`t treated with pesticides or chemical fertilizers.

Rule #4: No Raw Fish

Studies also recommend that you avoid uncooked seafood like sushi and any meat cooked under 160°F to limit the risk of contamination with coliform bacteria, toxoplasmosis, listeria, and salmonella.

Giant fish like mackerel, bigeye and bluefin tunas, marlin, tilefish, and swordfish all contain high levels of mercury, which is terrible for your baby. According to a 2012 study by Boston University School of Public Health, even low-level mercury exposure can cause ADHD and other damages in your fetus’ nervous system.

But before thinking about ditching fish entirely, new studies suggest that moderate consumption of low-mercury fish like salmon, shrimp, pollock, anchovies, sardines, butterfish, shrimp, light canned tuna, tilapia, catfish, and cod have many benefits to your baby, which may balance the adverse effects of mercury exposure. 

Experts recommend that you eat no more than two 6-ounce servings of these low-mercury fish. Avoid oysters and other raw shellfish to prevent any algae-related infections.

Rule #5: Watch out for Listeria

Listeria is a certain type of gut bacteria found in soft cheese, deli meats, unpasteurized dairy products, melons and raw vegetables. According to studies, pregnant women are more susceptible to Listeria compared to non-pregnant ones —at a ratio 20:1.

What makes Listeria dangerous is its ability to invade your intestinal tissues, breach the placenta, and infect the blood supply feeding your fetus. Recent studies by the University of Wisconsin-Madison suggest that Listeria is one of the key causes of early miscarriage. 

Studies recommend that you completely avoid deli meat, unpasteurized milk and unpasteurized soft cheese like Brie, Camembert, Roquefort, and feta or at least reheat it until it is steaming to kill any chances of Listeriosis.

Rule #6: Get enough omega-3 fatty acids

Studies show that Omega-3 supplements are critical for the development of your infant. A recent study by the University of Waterloo found that Omega-3 can protect your baby from childhood asthma and improve his cognition.

Another study by Emory University found that Omega-3 supplements can make your baby experience fewer colds and shorter illnesses during the first few months of his life. A third study published in the Journal of Experimental Biology suggests that consuming enough Omega-3 during pregnancy have many protective benefits to you including lowering the risk of postpartum depression.

Rule #7: Get at least +25 grams of protein per day

Muscles and organs are formed mainly from protein so you can`t help but consume enough of it to make sure your baby is as healthy as you want him to be. Enough protein can also save you from losing muscle mass during pregnancy and keeps you from feeling weaker.

One study by the University of Illinois has found a link between insufficient protein consumption during pregnancy with the development of muscle problems in mothers and their male newborns. Protein also helps protect your baby against food allergy. A recent study by Harvard Medical School found that the breast milk of egg-consuming, pregnant mice protect their offspring against food allergy.

So how much protein should a pregnant woman consume?

Studies and experts believe you must increase your daily protein intake by 25 grams per baby, especially during the second half of pregnancy. Foods like lentils, eggs, meat, tofu, beans and low-mercury fish can give you what you want.

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