include a wide range of contaminates occurring both naturally and
introduced by man in food. Some contaminants have been shown to
adversely affect the development and growth of the fetus when consumed
in sufficient amounts. Special attention to food
safety is important to minimize consumption of microorganisms
and their toxins which can cause maternal disease and potential
problems for the fetus. Food contaminates suspected to affect fetal
development are described below.
Special Note About Food Beliefs and Cravings
of food toxins can especially be a risk when women practice pica.
Pica is the compulsion to eat substances unsuitable for humans,
or that have little or no nutritional value. The reasons for pica
are poorly understood. During pregnancy, the most common substances
consumed are dirt, clay, and starch (cornstarch, laundry starch)
but other items such as ice, tire inner tubes, paint chips, hair,
or mothballs have also been observed. Many of these substances can
contain potent toxins. Others (ice, cornstarch) cause harm by displacing
essential nutrients in the diet. Excessive cornstarch often leads
to excessive weight gain during pregnancy.
line: Don't eat anything that is not a suitable and safe food for
humans. Poor fetal development, serious illness, and even death
can occur as a result of pica. Both mother and child are at risk.
If you practice pica please stop, and inform your obstetrician of
the pattern you have had with it.
Contaminants Affecting Normal Fetal Development
metals including lead, mercury, cadmium, and possibly nickel
and selenium has been shown to cause birth defects including
malformation, cerebral palsy, and brain damage.
can be found in paint but also some types of dirt
is a rare contaminant of fish and some grain products
is derived form tobacco smoke, the electroplating industry,
and deterioration of rubber tires
evidence is limited at this time.
- Crop products
in the United States have established limits by the Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) that are thought to be safe
- Be wary of unmonitored
exposure causes dark pigmentation of the gums, nails, and groin
and results in intrauterine growth retardation, abnormal skull
calcification, and deformed nails.
- Used in plastics
and heat exchange fluids. Normal daily contact is not thought
to be a risk
should be discussed with your physician
may cause intrauterine growth retardation, neonatal jaundice,
and perinatal death, however, current evidence is limited.
is a toxin produced by mold in contaminated nuts. Avoid
eating nuts which are old and appear suspect.