Surprising Things You Shouldn’t Ingest While Pregnant

There’s an alarming amount of stuff that pregnant women are told they should and shouldn’t be doing to keep their baby safe.

rewire pbs love pregnancy
Source: Centers for Disease Control

Unfortunately, scientists have just added another one to the “probably don’t do” list, and it’s a doozy. Researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai found more language delays in girls born to moms who took acetaminophen—the drug that’s in Tylenol—during pregnancy, adding to the medical evidence that the common over-the-counter pain reliever might not be safe for pregnant women.

Easy on the acetaminophen

Until recently, acetaminophen was one of the only pain medications doctors considered safe for pregnant women to use, according to WebMD, although other studies linked its use by pregnant women to decreased IQ and increased communication and behavioral problems in their children. Still, according to the Centers for Disease Control, about 65 percent of pregnant women in the U.S. use it for pain and fevers.

In the Mount Sinai study, 59 percent of the 754 Swedish women whose data was collected had used acetaminophen in early pregnancy. At 30 months, girls born to mothers who had taken acetaminophen more than six times in early pregnancy were nearly six times more likely to have language delays than girls born to moms who didn’t take the drug.

The researchers said the results are consistent with previous research that linked acetaminophen use in pregnant moms to decreased IQ and increased communication issues in their children. The Mount Sinai researchers will test the kids again when they’re 7 years old to see how their language skills have progressed.

The researchers conclude that pregnant women should limit their intake of acetaminophen. So should you stop taking Tylenol for aches and pains if you’re expecting? Maybe, maybe not—remember that correlation is not causation. Consult your doctor for personalized advice.

As Joshua Klein, chief medical officer and reproductive endocrinologist at New York’s Extend Fertility, said in an interview with Parents magazine:

“I think women should be aware that acetaminophen use in pregnancy might not be as ‘harmless’ as once thought, but I would not yet conclude that it is unsafe for pregnancy altogether.”

Here are some other everyday things considered risky for pregnant women:

1. Queso fresco

Did you know that some types of cheese are not good for pregnant people to eat? If the cheese isn’t pasteurized, don’t eat it while pregnant. That includes many cheeses commonly used in Latin cooking—queso fresco, queso blanco and queso cotija, for example. A lot of other favorite soft cheeses, like Brie, Camembert and feta, are commonly unpasteurized. Unpasteurized products are more likely to carry the bacteria listeria, which causes extreme food poisoning in pregnant and immune-suppressed people. Listeria can even lead to death.

If you want to eat soft cheese while pregnant, make sure it’s made with pasteurized milk—in that case, it’s perfectly safe. Read the label to confirm.

rewire pbs love pregnancy
Source: Centers for Disease Control

2. Cantaloupe

Same thing! Though the inside of the fruit is very nutritious, cantaloupes are prone to carrying listeria on the outside. In 2011, contaminated cantaloupes got almost 150 people in the U.S. sick, and killed 33 of them, according to WebMD. There were seven pregnancy-related infections in the outbreak, and one of the infected women miscarried because of the illness. Nearly everyone who is diagnosed with listeria is hospitalized, and one in five die, the WebMD report stated.

3. Caesar salad

If you have a hankering for Caesar salad while you’re pregnant, be careful about how it’s prepared. In its most traditional preparation, Caesar salad dressing contains raw eggs, which are known to carry salmonella. Because pregnant women are more susceptible to food-borne illnesses, ingesting raw eggs poses a health risk.

When ordering a Caesar at a restaurant, ask your server if the restaurant uses uncooked eggs in its recipe. If you want to whip one up at home, this pregnancy-friendly recipe for Caesar dressing calls for hard-boiled eggs rather than raw ones.

Are there other foods you shouldn’t eat while pregnant? A doula could tell you, and so could your doctor. If you want to read up on your own, here’s a list from

Katie Moritz

Katie Moritz is Rewire’s senior editor and a Pisces who enjoys thrift stores, rock concerts and pho. She covered politics for the daily newspaper in Juneau, Alaska, before driving down to Minnesota to help produce long-standing public affairs show “Almanac” at Twin Cities PBS. Now she edits and writes the articles that appear on Rewire, and works with its pool of freelance journalists. She has also written episodes of PBS Digital Studios series “Sound Field” and “America From Scratch.” She’s the host of the history webseries “30-Second Minnesota,” which was nominated for an Upper Midwest Regional Emmy Award. Reach her via email at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @katecmoritz.