I was at a Japanese restaurant with my family, and I was excited to eat. Four months pregnant and my appetite was finally coming back. During the first trimester, my diet consisted mainly of saltine crackers, apples, and bland soup. But like most women, things looked up once my second trimester started and now, I was going to celebrate by eating a nice and fresh —
“You can’t eat that!” my sister said.
I looked at my sushi.
Oh, right. I wasn’t supposed to eat raw seafood. I had been so excited to feast on my favourite food that I didn’t even realize it could be a source of parasitic infection that could affect my unborn baby. Of everything on the Forbidden Foods list, sushi was the one thing I wished I could override.
“Um, but don’t the Japanese regularly eat sushi during pregnancy?” I said. “And my French friend said she had a bit of wine when she was pregnant, and her baby turned out totally healthy.”
That only earned a raised eyebrow from my sister, followed by a lecture about being safe rather than sorry.
“You don’t want to do anything that could jeopardize your baby’s health. Don’t be the reason something bad happens,” my mother added.
Well, let’s just say I was a lot less enthusiastic about the meal after that!
It wasn’t until I got home that I grasped how true their warnings were. And I couldn’t believe I actually tried to justify consuming something the doctor clearly said was off-limits. As bad as I felt about my moment of weakness, I was even more worried about any future slip-ups.
What if I unintentionally scarfed down a salad with unpasteurized cheese, then contracted listeria as a result? I recalled with escalating panic that I didn’t realize I was pregnant until I was three weeks along. During that initial phase, I had continued drinking my usual 2-3 cups of coffee per day and the occasional glass of wine. What if that ended up contributing to premature labor later? What other things had I accidentally consumed that could add up to harm my baby?
The worries kept flooding in. If I was already making mistakes when my baby was still unborn, who knows what dire errors I’d make after he/she was born? Pretty soon, I was questioning whether or not I was even ready to be a parent. The pregnancy hormones (hello, crazy emotions) didn’t help.
As expecting mummies, especially with our first babies, we’re terrified of doing the wrong things. It’s an entirely new experience, and one of the most important journeys we undertake. No wonder we go through moments of doubt and panic along the way.
It’s common to worry about eating and drinking the wrong things when we’re pregnant. But don’t be too anxious. Remember that pregnancy is a miraculous experience (you’re actually growing a baby in there!) and we should savor as much of it as we can, instead of being too fearful and stressed out.
Here are some tips to lessen any worries about consuming potentially harmful foods:
1. During your first pre-natal visit, ask your doctor for a list of what you’re allowed/not allowed to eat and drink. If your doctor says you should limit the intake of something, ask him exactly how much is safe.
Keep this list handy. Tuck it in your wallet or save it on your phone so you can check it on-the-go. Put the list on your fridge. Give a copy to your husband so he can also be on the lookout.
2. It’s natural to crave and miss something on the forbidden list. Just remember that you’re sticking to the rules for the sake of your baby. And once the 9 months are up, you’re free to eat all the sushi you want! But until then, scrutinize what’s on your plate and don’t be afraid to ask the waiter about the ingredients in a dish. Some pastas and desserts have raw eggs in them.
3. Relax! If you accidentally eat some cold cuts or raw vegetable sprouts like alfalfa sprouts, don’t freak out. The associated risks are there, but they’re very small. The guidelines and rules are there because it’s best to be extra cautious. But chances are, an unintentional bite or two isn’t going to have detrimental effects. Your mother and grandmother probably didn’t do all the “right things,” but didn’t you turn out just fine?
By Jenny Tai