Guest blogger Ronda Kaysen: The list of things pregnant women should avoid may be about to get longer. Yes, peanuts may soon make a reappearance on the no-no list. A new study suggests that pregnant women might need to back off eating the nuts if food allergies run in their families.
The study looked at babies aged 3 to 15 months and tested them for sensitivities to eggs, dairy and nuts. The more peanuts a new mom ate during her third trimester, the greater likelihood her baby would develop a sensitivity to one of the above. Since the study looked at kids in 2008, it's too soon to tell if those babies will develop a true allergy or not.
"Our study looked at sensitization, not peanut allergy," researcher Scott H. Sicherer, MD, of New York's Mount Sinai School of Medicine, told WebMD. "It is going to be a few years before we know whether these children really do develop true peanut allergies."
This isn't entirely new information. Researchers have long linked moms eating peanuts during pregnancy to kids having food allergies, but the research has always been weak. For a while, the American Academy of Pediatrics told moms to abstain from peanuts during the third trimester, but they backed off that suggestion in 2008 because the research was so thin.
Despite the recent findings, however, researchers aren't ready to definitively return nuts to the list of dangerous pregnancy food. "We simply don't have enough information to tell women they should or should not eat peanuts during pregnancy," said Sicherer.
In fact, some studies have pointed to just the opposite: that early exposure to allergens reduces the rate of allergies in kids. This tidbit of information brings to light a very important point: It's not always clear what we should do to protect our babies before they're born.
As a very pregnant mama, I find all this contradictory news distressing. Obviously I don't want to give my kids food allergies or cause them any other suffering because of my eating habits. But at the same time, I find the endless list of things to avoid overwhelming, frequently impractical and often contradictory. I know I shouldn't drink like a fish or smoke or take out the kitty litter. OK. Those seem like avoidable toxins. But then you start adding on the other ones .... "Fish is good for you, but not too much of the big fish. Avoid raw cheeses and deli meats and undercooked anything." And now nuts, too?
Nuts are tasty, nutritious and filling when you're very hungry and very pregnant. But as a person who grew up in a house with kids and grownups with food allergies, I know what a burden food allergies can be. Allergies are restrictive, exhausting and stressful. The last thing I'd want would be to bestow them on my kids.
Steering clear of peanuts for a few months seems like a reasonable thing to do. Unless, of course, early exposure is the way to go, and I should be doing just the opposite!