Does Avoiding Certain Foods Help Prevent Miscarriage?

When a pregnancy ends on its own within the first 20 weeks of gestation, it’s called a miscarriage.

According to the American Pregnancy Association, anywhere from 10 to 25 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage -- most commonly within the first 13 weeks, which is the first trimester. Although a woman might blame herself for the miscarriage as part of the grieving process, there’s nothing she could have done to prevent it. Avoiding certain foods deemed unsafe for pregnancy, however, might reduce the risk of a miscarriage.

Why Miscarriages Occur

The most common cause of miscarriage wasn’t something the mother did or did not eat, but rather a chromosomal abnormality. This could be caused by a damaged egg or sperm cell, states the APA. In some cases, the cause of a miscarriage can’t be identified. Other potential causes of miscarriage include maternal health problems, age or trauma, lifestyle choices such as smoking, drug use or medical issues, such as improper implantation of the egg into the uterine lining. An infection from food can also increase the risk of a miscarriage.

Dietary Risk Factors

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Foods to Avoid in the First Trimester of Pregnancy

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Although your regular dietary habits aren’t likely to cause a miscarriage, a bacterial or parasitic infection you acquire from food – can cause a miscarriage, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Certain foods appear on the list of foods that pregnant woman should not eat, and this list contains items such as soft cheese made from unpasteurized milk -- because it may contain E. coli or Listeria; raw cookie dough or cake batter -- which can have salmonella; and raw or undercooked fish or shellfish, such as sushi -- which can contain bacteria or parasites. Additionally, the Food and Drug Administration recommends that pregnant women avoid high-mercury fish such as shark, swordfish and king mackerel. Pregnant women should also be cautious with processed meats, such as hot dogs or cold cuts, which can be contaminated with Listeria, undercooked meat and smoked seafood.

Importance of Folic Acid

Folic acid, also known as vitamin B-9, is necessary for pregnant women. It’s vital for the development of the fetus’ neural tube, which eventually turns into the brain and spine. Low levels of folic acid can increase the risk of miscarriage, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Pregnant women need 600 micrograms of folic acid a day, which you can find in leafy green vegetables, beans, citrus fruits and in a prenatal vitamin.

Preventing Miscarriages

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Signs of a First Trimester Miscarriage

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In most cases, you can't prevent a miscarriage. However, a pregnant woman can take care to live a healthy lifestyle that supports the growth of the fetus.

This includes exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet to avoid high-risk foods, managing your stress and maintaining a healthy weight. Avoid alcohol, cigarettes and drugs, and reduce or eliminate caffeine.