Nutrition, Special Populations

Special Populations: Pregnancy


This section primarily focuses on which types of nutrition pregnant women should consider avoiding. A pregnant woman should receive specific nutritional consultation from her doctor.


Seafood is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids and iron, in addition to being a good source of protein. However, fish and shellfish may contain potentially dangerous levels of mercury. Excessive mercury consumption may damage a baby’s developing nervous system. Mercury from fish that gets into the bloodstream of a fetus can also lead to learning disabilities, developmental delays, and other serious health problems. In March 2004, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) advised women who may become pregnant, women who are pregnant, women who are nursing, and young children to avoid eating types of fish known to have higher levels of mercury, such as swordfish, shark and king mackerel.

Red Meat and Poultry

To prevent food-borne illness, all meat should be fully cooked. Avoid rare steaks and hamburgers. Hot dogs and deli meats should be consumed with caution because these foods are sources of a rare, but potentially serious, food-borne illness known as listeriosis.

Dairy Products

Avoid all dairy products that contain unpasteurized milk. Common unpasteurized products are brie, feta, camembert and blue cheese. Avoid Mexican-style cheeses, such as queso blanco, queso fresco, queso de hoja, queso de crema and queso asadero.


Caffeine can affect a baby’s heart rate and breathing. A study published in the March 2008 issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, showed that pregnant women who consumed 200 mg or more of caffeine a day had double the risk of miscarriage compared to those who had no caffeine. A recent Denmark study discovered that the risk of stillbirth more than doubled in women who drank eight cups or more of coffee, compared with non-coffee drinkers.

Herbal tea

The concern with consuming non-caffeinated herbal teas during pregnancy is due to the lack of data available on most herbs and their effects on a developing fetus. It is believed that some teas can cause contractions.

Ginger root (Likely Safe) -Helps relieve nausea and vomiting.

Lemon Balm (Likely Safe) – Helps relieve irritability, insomnia, and anxiety.

Peppermint Leaf (Likely Safe) – Helps relieve nausea/morning sickness and flatulence.

Red Raspberry Leaf (Likely Safe) – Known to help decrease nausea and ease labor pains. 


Avoid drinking alcohol.

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