So when I realized this time I wouldn’t be touching my beloved ahi tower from my very favorite sushi restaurant that I frequent EVERY SINGLE WEEKEND, I am not kidding, I shed a tear. You may think that’s crazy, but that’s because you’ve never eaten at Densetsu.
The minute the second pink line showed up on the stick, I mentally switched over to PREGNANCY RESTRICTION MODE. I dumped my cup of coffee down the drain, I shed those tears over sushi, I kissed my bottle of red wine goodbye, all for the next nine months. Wait… 9 months plus breastfeeding a year so the next ALMOST 2 YEARS OMG WHAT HAVE I DONE.
At first I soldiered along, and told myself it was all for the baby. But this didn’t sit with me, now, even though it was easy to do in my twenties. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I’ve grown into the kind of mom who is able to balance my own wants and needs with my childrens’, and this just felt like martyrdom and was making me miserable. Aside from that, some of the “rules” of pregnancy weren’t jiving with my common sense…so many of the rules contradicted themselves. And then, the same “nutritionists” and “dieticians” giving advice on these rules were also saying that a can or two of diet soda a day were just fine, which makes me absolutely cringe. Americans can be so strange, with their fears and phobias of things like fresh sushi but no second thought to the chemicals, also found in flame-retardants, used in fast food and sodas. It’s so backwards, and now that I’m older, I’m making my own decisions based on my instincts, common sense, and tireless research.
THE RULES OF PREGNANCY
1. NO RAW SUSHI. At first, I followed this rule. I then got creative and ordered baked sushi, and I hated it. The American Pregnancy Association recommends avoiding sushi during pregnancy because of the chance of parasite in the raw meat, and also because of mercury content in certain types of fish. OK, I get it…but then my common sense asked, don’t women in Japan eat sushi all the time during pregnancy? And with some research I discovered that yes, they do, and they think Americans are crazy.
As a matter of fact, in the course of my research I found some interesting new studies that found that the type of food-borne illnesses to worry about during pregnancy (toxoplasma, listeria, and salmonella) are not considered to even be a risk with raw sushi ,  as long as the food is handled properly and from a reputable location.
I have been eating at my sushi restaurant (an expensive, local place) almost weekly for years now, and have never been sick. I live inland, so the fish I am eating has been flash frozen before it arrived here. The chance of me getting food poisoning is so low, but even if I did, according to research, the chance of the food poisoning actually passing through the placenta and affecting my baby are even smaller. I totally get that this is enough to scare some women into not touching it for 9 months, and I respect that. As for the mercury, I did decide to avoid tuna and other large game fish that can have higher levels (swordfish, tilefish, mackerel and shark). Although my instincts tell me that once every now and then, tuna is probably fine.
MY PRACTICAL SOLUTION: So once I had all of this information, I weighed the pros and cons…a tiny, tiny chance of food poisoning vs. AWESOME health benefits of fresh salmon (no mercury exposure), avocado, crab, cucumber for both myself and my baby? For me, it’s an easy choice. So every two weeks, I allow myself an all-salmon raw sushi dish from my favorite restaurant, and I unapologetically make sexual noises while consuming it.
2. NO WINE OR ALCOHOL. Again, my common sense asked, don’t European women drink wine while pregnant? And don’t some doctors and midwives even recommend a glass of red wine to pregnant women with pre-term labor?
It turns out that yes, European women do drink wine while pregnant, because their doctors advise them that a drink or two of wine a day (what they apparently consider moderate consumption) is fine. And a recent study found no difference in development between 5 year olds whose mothers abstained from alcohol during pregnancy, and mothers who drank moderately.
American recommendations state that there is still no evidence of what a safe level of alcohol is during pregnancy, therefore it is best to avoid it. Again, respect to those who decide the risk is just not worth it. But again, I’m much more scared of the neuro-toxin MSG in a fast food sandwich than I am of a glass of red wine and all of it’s antioxidants.
MY PRACTICAL SOLUTION: I have one small glass of red wine every two weeks with my sushi. It’s a heavenly evening that leaves me relaxed, my aching muscles relieved, and happy in my soul. I also don’t have to wistfully sniff everyone else’s red wine around me because I don’t feel deprived.
3. NO CAFFEINE. Caffeine is one of the rules that actually has some research and studies to back up the recommendation to limit it. 200mg a day of caffeine has been shown to be just fine, while higher amounts do lead to a higher risk of miscarriage and other complications.
MY PRACTICAL SOLUTION: I order a half-caf at Starbucks, and I make my own coffee in the morning with 1/4 regular coffee grinds and the rest decaf.
4. NO HEAVY LIFTING OR INTENSE EXERCISE. I hate any rule that paints pregnant women as helpless, dainty, and sick with a “condition”. Of course I’m not going to be running around lifting couches off the ground or something, but I strength train, and I’m not stopping. I trust my body and I listen to it. It will tell me if I am doing something that I shouldn’t be.
The recommendation from the medical field for prenatal exercise is to keep it slow and steady, not letting your heartbeat or your body temperature get too high. But again, common sense tells me, if this type of exercise is so great for me, why wouldn’t it be beneficial to my baby?
MY PRACTICAL SOLUTION: I am continuing with the exercise I love, including weight lifting, kick boxing with a bag, and high intensity exercise until my body tells me I shouldn’t. I drink plenty of water, I rest more than I used to, and I pay careful attention to how I feel.
RULES THAT SHOULD BE ADDED
- NO HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, TRANS FATS, ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS, OR ANY OTHER CHEMICAL, PRESERVATIVE NOT FOUND IN NATURE. The research I have done on the man-made chemicals found in processed and fast foods these days is enough to scare me into not touching them, ever, but ESPECIALLY during pregnancy. Study after study have found that these substances are harmful in grown adults, with links to cancer, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, obesity, and heart disease just to name a few. Just a few weeks ago I ate a popsicle without reading the ingredients. 10 minutes after finishing it, my heart began to race and I felt horrible. After a label check, the second ingredient listed was high fructose corn syrup. I still worry about how that affected my tiny baby if it had such an instant negative effect on me. I won’t be making that mistake again.
- NO FAST OR PROCESSED FOOD. As I mentioned earlier, the chemicals and preservatives added to these foods is downright scary. Common sense tells me that one day, science will find a link between regular consumption of these foods during pregnancy and a higher risk of defects or complications. MSG is a neuro-toxin, meaning it excites brain cells to death everytime I consume it. Do I want to risk killing off my child’s brain cells too?
- NO SODA. For all of the reasons listed above, and also this article that I wrote and researched for Coach Calorie.
Please understand, I am not recommending any of these above rules for anyone but myself, but instead encouraging EVERY pregnant woman to do her own research and make her own informed decisions.