Unravelling Pregnancy Diet & Exercise Myths

During pregnancy women often receive an abundance of advice on what they should or should not eat from a variety of people. Unfortunately, not all of this information is accurate and there are a number of myths surrounding pregnancy foods that are still circulating new mothers. While every pregnancy is different and you should always contact your health care provider about specific foods related to you, we have also explored some common myths about pregnancy foods to separate fact from fiction.

Myth 1: Eating for Two

One of the most prevalent misconceptions is the notion that pregnant women should consume double the usual amount of food to cater to the growing fetus. While it is true that pregnant women require additional calories and nutrients, the idea of "eating for two" is misleading. The truth is that only a modest increase in calorie intake is necessary – approximately 300-500 extra calories per day, depending on the woman's pre-pregnancy weight and activity level. A balanced and nutritious diet is far more important than overindulging.

Myth 2: Avoid All Seafood

Seafood is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids and essential nutrients like iodine and selenium. However, many pregnant women are advised to steer clear of seafood due to fears of mercury contamination, which can be harmful to the developing baby's nervous system. While certain types of fish, such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel and raw shellfish are indeed high in mercury and should be avoided, other options like cooked fish and seafood, thoroughly cooked sushi and cooked shellfish are safe to consume in moderation. Moreover, choosing fish known for low mercury levels and high omega-3 content can offer immense health benefits to both mother and baby.

Myth 3: No Caffeine Allowed

Caffeine is a stimulant found in coffee, tea, soda, and some medications. There is a myth that caffeine intake must be completely eliminated during pregnancy to avoid potential risks to the baby. In reality, moderate caffeine consumption (up to 200 mg per day which is around 1-2 cups of coffee) is considered safe for most pregnant women. High caffeine intake, on the other hand, has been associated with an increased risk of miscarriage and preterm birth. To be on the safe side, it is best for expectant mothers to limit their caffeine intake and opt for healthier alternatives like herbal teas  (you will still need to check these for caffeine levels) or decaffeinated beverages.

Myth 4: Pineapple Causes Miscarriage

Pineapple has been wrongly linked to miscarriages due to the presence of bromelain, an enzyme that can soften the cervix. However, the amount of bromelain in pineapple is minimal and would require an unrealistic quantity to have any adverse effects. In reality, pineapple can be safely consumed during pregnancy, as it is a good source of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C and manganese. Like any food, moderation is key, but there is no need for pregnant women to avoid pineapples altogether. 

Myth 5: Say No to Exercise

The misconception that pregnant women should refrain from exercising to protect the baby is outdated and inaccurate. In fact, regular and moderate exercise during pregnancy is highly beneficial for both the mother and the baby. Physical activity can help manage weight gain, reduce the risk of gestational diabetes, improve mood, and promote better sleep. Of course, it's essential to consult with doctor or midwife to determine a suitable exercise routine based on individual health and pregnancy status. 

Navigating the abundance of information surrounding pregnancy foods can be overwhelming for expectant mothers. By dispelling common myths and focusing on evidence-based facts, women can make informed decisions about their diets during this special time. Remember, maintaining a balanced and nutritious diet, staying active, and seeking guidance from healthcare professionals are crucial steps toward a healthy and happy pregnancy. 

Every pregnancy is unique therefore everyone's intake of particular foods may be tailored depending on the person. For information related to foods you should avoid or reduce during pregnancy, please refer to the NHS website or consult your healthcare adviser directly.