Around the world, December and into January is a time when many people celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah or other holidays that include gift giving, celebrations with food, alcohol, fireworks, and other displays of joy and merriment. If you are pregnant, you may feel the need to exclude yourself from certain activities because of warnings you’ve heard about avoiding certain foods, etc., but there is no need! We’ve prepared a list of ideas to help you create an environment that is stress free, with no post-holiday regret!
First of all, when traveling by car, regardless of how rushed you feel or where you are going, always wear your seat belt and slow down. Every year, there are over 150,000 auto accidents in the United States and pregnant women, in every trimester, are involved in many of them. If you add the fact that many folks are distracted by the holiday, and drinking and driving, it makes it vital that pregnant women drive defensively, be aware of other drivers, and wear their seat belt. According to a 2009 New York Times article, up to 1,000 pregnancies are ended every year due to car accidents. The article also gives great instructions on the appropriate way for pregnant women to wear their seat belts.
Eggnog is the delicious, sweet and rich holiday beverage, also known as ponche roma or rompope in Mexico, Central America, and South America. In Puerto Rico, coconut milk and or coconut cream is substituted for the milk, making it even more decadent! Generally, eggnog is a combination of eggs, milk or crème, sugar and some alcohol, usually brandy, rum, or whiskey. When purchased at the grocery store, eggnog has pasteurized milk and eggs, which remove the risk for bacteria or other pathogens that could ruin your holiday, or worse, affect your pregnancy. It is also alcohol free, making it ideal for pregnant women.
Hanukkah celebration foods are pregnant women friendly because many of the dishes are fried, limiting the potential for any pathogen to harbor on the food and cause infection. Hanukkah foods typically include cheeses, fried potato pancakes, brisket, and chicken. Keep in mind that the cheeses and other dairy products should be pasteurized. As for meats — cook to temperature and enjoy! Here’s a quick go-to guide for the internal cooking temperature of meats:
- Finfish should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145° F
- Cook beef, veal, and lamb roasts and steaks to at least 145° F
- Cook ground beef, veal, lamb, and pork to at least 160° F
- Cook ground poultry to 165° F
- Cook pork to an internal temperature of 145° F
Fish is used in many holiday celebrations and pregnant women can certainly enjoy and be included. Typically fish that is cooked for the holidays is not raw or undercooked, as you see in the summer and spring (unless you live in tropical areas). Popular holiday fish include salmon, tuna, and cod, which are healthy choices for pregnant women, when eaten in recommended proportions. Figgy pudding is not a pudding at all — at least not in the American sense. Figgy pudding, a dessert that hails from England, was eaten as far back as the 15th century. It is made with figs or dates and traditional cake mix. Figs are very healthy, containing calcium and potassium and an excellent source of fiber.
Alcohol is part of just about every celebration, particularly at the holidays; however, for the developing embryo and fetus, there is no holiday break, and no time that the brain is immune to the damaging effects of alcohol. Give your unborn baby the best gift of all, and choose the alcohol-free alternatives.
Finally, take time during the holiday season to celebrate your pregnancy and enjoy the quiet moments (and kicks and rolls) with your growing baby!
Sonia Alvarado is a bilingual (Spanish/English) Teratogen Information Specialist with the California Teratogen Information Service (CTIS) Pregnancy Health Information Line, a statewide service that aims to educate women about exposures during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Along with answering women’s and health professionals’ questions regarding exposures during pregnancy/lactation via CTIS’ toll-free hotline and email service, she’s provided educational talks regarding pregnancy health in community clinics and high schools over the past decade. In addition, Sonia contributes to the service’s website, develops training materials for new CTIS staff, and is the supervising Teratogen Information Specialist trainer. Sonia attended San Diego State University and has worked in Tuberculosis Control for San Diego County’s Public Health Department. Sonia’s work has also been published through several tuberculosis studies. In her spare time, she loves to volunteer with the March of Dimes as an expert speaker on themes related to pregnancy.
CTIS Pregnancy Health Information Line is part of the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists (OTIS), a non-profit with affiliates across North America. California women with questions or concerns about pregnancy exposures can be directed to (800) 532-3749 or by visiting CTISPregnancy.org. Outside of California, please call OTIS counselors at (866) 626-OTIS (6847).