Food & Drink
Q. How important is it REALLY to drink a lot of water when you're pregnant? I'm way too busy during the day and have not been drinking a lot. I catch up a little in the evenings and never really feel "thirsty."
-Cindy, North Carolina
A. It is recommended that you drink at least two quarts of fluids a day during pregnancy. It doesn't all have to be water. Juice, tea or milk can count towards your two quarts. Is it important to follow this guideline? I think so. Your baby requires plenty of fluids to develop; your uterus, breasts, and amniotic sac become engorged with fluids; and your body is working overtime to filter out toxins (baby's waste, etc.) from your system, making you urinate much more frequently. Of course, the more you drink, the more you urinate, but it's a trade-off that's well worth a healthier baby and mother.
I know it's hard to find the time in a hectic schedule to add yet one more daily task. You might try to force down two cups of water before work, then keep a bottle of water in your car, on your desk and by your side for most of the day so when you think of it, you can take a quick sip.
p.s. When you feel “thirsty,” your body is already dehydrated and that is not good for you or the baby.
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Q. I was wondering if I can have feta cheese while pregnant? I have been eating a lot of Greek salads lately and I am 13 weeks pregnant. And what about blue cheese dressing?
A. Supposedly, you should avoid all soft cheeses during pregnancy, including blue cheese, feta cheese, goat cheese and brie, because they may contain certain bacteria that could spoil and cause food poisoning. Ultimately, it's the food poisoning that is the most dangerous for a pregnant mother. If you've already had these cheeses and been fine, I wouldn't worry, but you may want to avoid them in the future- just in case. Personally, I still consumed these cheeses occasionally during pregnancy but would check to be sure they were fresh first.
Q. I became pregnant in October - the season of pumpkin pie, pumpkin pudding and yams. All of those foods are high in Vitamin A and I ate all of them in mass quantities. I did not learn of the Teratogenic effects of Vitamin A on pregnancy until I was about six weeks along. I have recently been reading about the possible birth defects caused by Vitamin A toxicity. Could you please let me know why this is not more widely publicized and what my chances are that my child will have these birth defects (cleft palate/lip, neural tube defect, neural crest defect or missing limb)? I am very scared. Thank you!
A. I'd never heard of the Teratogenic effects either, so I went online and did some research. Here is what I've unearthed: a few studies have shown links between ingesting large quantities of Vitamin A and birth defects - the Teratogenicity effect. These studies also show that there is significantly less correlation between birth defects and Vitamin A consumption from food alone, which would be your case. I have also found that Vitamin A and beta-carotene are significantly reduced in fruits and vegetables when cooked. I can't imagine your pumpkin pie, pudding and yams were made with raw vegetables.
I think these studies are not widely publicized because a typical diet usually does not include ingesting large quantities of Vitamin A. And, the same birth defects that may be linked to mass Vitamin A consumption are also known to appear from Vitamin A deficiency. Plus, most pregnant women have an aversion to raw vegetables in the first few months. They can make you so gassy.
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Q. I am six months pregnant. Once in a while, like at our New Year’s celebration, I drank about 3 oz. of watered-down Irish cream. Another time I sipped approximately 3 oz. of beer. Is that okay?
A. Although doctors usually won't condone any alcohol consumption during pregnancy, I think small, occasional doses are fine. It's alcoholic mothers or binge drinkers who have real problems with fetal birth defects due to alcohol poisoning. A doctor wouldn't want to say okay to one drink, because sometimes that's all it takes for an alcoholic to justify just one more, and one more, etc.
During the end of my second pregnancy I would occasionally have a glass of wine with dinner. If I went out to dinner or if I was feeling really uncomfortable, I felt I deserved it.
Q. To my shock, I just found out I'm seven weeks pregnant. My biggest fear is that for the past seven weeks I have been drinking coffee and eating chocolate on a regular daily basis. I have now quit cold turkey, but I am scared my caffeine fixes caused problems to my fetus.
Thank you for your advice.
-Anonymous, New York
A. Caffeine consumption during pregnancy is considered one of those "maybe" risks. There have been no substantial studies done on humans proving that caffeine use is harmful to the fetus. It is believed, though, that high does of caffeine may possibly cause a higher risk of miscarriage, withdrawal and increased risk of SIDS in newborns.
Try not to worry. I think these "maybe" risks are only associated with women who ingest large quantities of caffeine throughout their pregnancies. Since you are cold turkey now, you and your baby should be fine.
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Q. I'm five months pregnant and I have been craving bleach. I have a really strong urge to drink it. I never experienced this in my other two pregnancies. Can this be harmful to my baby? Have you ever heard of this?
A. First, please do not drink the bleach! It can be very harmful to you and your baby. You should report your craving to your doctor ASAP. You are probably deficient in iron or some other vitamin. Your body is instinctually seeking out what you are lacking through your seemingly-odd craving.
It is more common than you think during pregnancy to crave such potentially poisonous items as permanent markers, spray paint, gasoline, dirt and bleach. It's almost always an indicator of a dietary deficiency.
Q. Is manicotti safe to eat during pregnancy? It has ricotta, which is a soft cheese.
A. Certain soft cheeses can become contaminated with bacteria called Listeria. If a mother contracts Listeria, it can become life-threatening to the unborn baby. Processed cheeses such as Ricotta and cottage cheese do not contain Listeria and are therefore safe for pregnant women.
Here's a listing of what cheeses you can indulge in and what you should avoid while pregnant:
Indulge in these:
Hard cheeses: Austrian Smoked, Babybel, Caerphilly, Cheddar, Cheshire, Derby, Double Gloucester, Edam, Emmental, English goat's cheddar, Feta (if bought in the UK), Gouda, Gruyere, Halloumi, Havarti, Jarlsberg, Lancashire, Mozzarella, Orkney, Paneer, Parmesan, Pecorino, Provolone, Red Leicester.
Soft and processed cheeses: Boursin, cottage cheese, cheese spread, cream cheese, Mascarpone, Philadelphia, Quark, Ricotta. Yogurts, fromage frais, soured cream and creme fraiche.
Blue-veined cheeses: Bavarian Blue, Bergader, Bleu d'Avergne, Blue Shropshire, Cabrales, Danish Blue, Dolcelatte, Doppelrhamstuge, Eldel pilz, Gorgonzola, Manchego, Romano, Roncal, Roquefort, Stilton, Tommes, Wensleydale.
Mold-ripened soft cheeses: Brie, Blue Brie, Cambozola, Camembert, Chaumes, Lymeswold, Pont L'Eveque, Prince Jean, Tallegio. Vacherin-Fribourgeois, Weichkaese.
Soft, unpasteurized goat and sheep cheeses: Chabichou, Pyramide, Torta del Cesar.
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Q. I am six weeks pregnant and have been eating spicy food throughout. Is this harmful to the baby's development?
-Anonymous, New York
A. If you enjoy spicy foods, go ahead and eat them while you still can. The baby will be fine. Later in pregnancy, most women have real problems with heartburn, diarrhea, gas and bloating that can be aggravated by eating spicy foods. I can remember actually having dreams about eating spicy Indian food during my second pregnancy. I craved it so badly, but couldn't have a bite without experiencing extremely painful gas and diarrhea which would, in turn, flare up my hemorrhoids.
If you plan on breastfeeding after pregnancy, you should abstain from eating gas-causing and spicy foods then. The flavors and gasses from foods can be passed on through the breast milk and newborns have extremely sensitive digestive systems.
Q. My wife is 15.5 weeks and she heard that eating ice is harmful to the baby is that true?
A. Eating ice during pregnancy is not harmful to the fetus but it might be classified as a “pica” craving. A pica craving is a craving for a non-food substance. The most common substances craved during pregnancy are dirt, clay and laundry starch. Other pica cravings include burnt matches, stones, charcoal, mothballs, cornstarch, toothpaste, soap, sand, plaster, coffee grounds, baking soda, cigarette ashes and ice.
The reason that some women develop pica cravings during pregnancy is not known for sure. But, according to the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, there may be a connection to iron deficiency. Pica cravings may be the body's attempt to obtain vitamins or minerals that are missing.
If your wife is craving any of the other non-food substances listed above, she should report it to her OB/GYN and refrain from eating any non-food item, with the exception of ice.
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Q. I am entering my seventh month and just ate some dry fruits containing sulfites. I am feeling sick. Can this harm the baby?
-Véronique, New York
A. Preservatives such as sulfites and nitrates taken in large quantities during pregnancy may contribute to birth defects. For example, if you ate these preserved fruits on a daily basis, you might put your baby at risk. Snacking on them every now and then should be okay.
You may be feeling sick from the extra gasses caused by the sulfites or it could simply be your body telling you that this food is not what you or your baby need.
Q. I am approximately 21 weeks pregnant. On two occasions during my first trimester I went to a Japanese restaurant and had a few cups of green tea. I heard that this may be bad for the fetus. Is this something I should be concerned about? I am a little worried.
-Anonymous, New York
A. Drinking green tea has many health benefits, such as lowering cholesterol and improving lipid metabolism, which are beneficial to a healthy heart and can lower your risk of cancer. I haven't heard of any studies suggesting that drinking green tea is harmful at all during pregnancy. The only way it may be detrimental is if it's consumed in large quantities, as it does contain some caffeine. Large amounts of caffeine are not recommended during pregnancy. If you have the habit of consuming more than six cups of green tea a day, I think you should consider cutting back. Otherwise, the green tea is fine. I found it to be the only semi-suitable substitute to my usual hot sake when I went out for Japanese food during pregnancy.
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Q. I ate one of those individual fried pies with cherry fruit filling and looked down to realize that there was mold in some parts of the pie. I don't know how much of the bad parts I ate, but I know I had at least a bite. Is this going to hurt the baby? Should I call my doctor?
A. Spoiled or moldy food may put you at risk for food poisoning, which could cause dehydration in you or your baby. Unless you've have extreme diarrhea and vomiting within 48 hours of eating the pie, I don't think you have anything to worry about. Believe me, from one who's had it, if you had food poisoning you'd know it by now. It's simply wretched!