Lifestyle, Pregnancy, Pregnant
Comments 4

Pregnancy Culture Clashes: Sushi, Workouts & Wine

Well, I haven’t publicly announced it on my blog yet, but we’re expecting and I’m just over 5 months now! We found out we were pregnant in Thailand, and thus began the slightly conflicting advice from doctors compared to back in USA (and India during my sister’s pregnancies) and, of course, once we returned to Italy.

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To drink wine or not to drink? To eat sushi, or not to eat sushi? To work out, or not to work out? What things are actually harmful, and what aspects are just debunked myths or old wives tales? 

For starters …  

Thailand: When I was in Thailand the doctors told me to avoid unhealthy foods like pasta and pizza and to eat lots of vegetables and meat/protein, no bean sprouts.

India: Throughout my sister’s two pregnancies in India, she was advised to “limit her movements,” (i.e. no working out), try to stay at home in general, no alcohol, limit protein intake and in terms of caffeine, a chai or two a day is ok. The two Indian men that tried to give me pregnancy advice in Thailand also told me to avoid “unhealthy” pasta and pizza.

Italy: Everyone drinks coffee and wine; don’t try to remove it from the Italian diet! (Actually, I wasn’t even given a limit). Occasional drinks are ok. Sushi is ok. Pasta is definitely healthy and part of the staple daily diet. No working out. No Pilates, no yoga, no running, no weights. Swimming is good. No raw red meats or undercooked red meats. No unpasteurized milk or soft cheeses. Raw fruits & vegetables are very dangerous (this is a big one in France as well – and they are also allowed to drink wine). No raw eggs.

This is perfectly acceptable in Italy & France … 

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USA: Stay away from alcohol, including wine because we don’t know what limits are harmful or not (and it varies per person). Sushi is dangerous. Working out is fine and recommended for a healthy pregnancy. Weights are ok, just limit the intensity. Running is ok too (just don’t take up certain activities if they weren’t part of your previous lifestyle). No undercooked red meats, no cold deli meats, no unpasteurized milk or soft cheeses. Watch out for unwashed fruits and veggies. No raw eggs.

Whereas this is perfectly acceptable in USA …

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OK, so these are obliviously very simplified, non-inclusive lists (trust me, there are some really incredibly lengthy lists out there!), but you get the picture, right? Since I’ve been pregnant I’ve heard:

Avoid pasta… eat pasta.

Avoid alcohol… drink wine.

Avoid sushi… eat sushi.

Avoid working out… workout.

The interesting thing is that while the advice pertaining to raw eggs, washing raw fruits and veggies well, avoiding undercooked meats and unpasteurized cheeses is all pretty consistent across the board (I’m talking about in Thailand, India, USA,  Italy and a few other European countries I’m familiar with), when it comes to wine, working out, recommended protein intake, pasta and sushi, those types of things differed drastically.  

It seems that that they tend to be deemed a “no-no” based on what is culturally acceptable and considered part of a typical everyday diet and/or habit in each county. So, that’s actually quite refreshing, right? Because it makes you think… 

“It’s impossible to say that certain things must be absolutely, 100% avoided when women in other parts of the world have been doing them (or eating them) for years and years and have delivered healthy babies. Right?”

I mean, women in Japan eat sushi and raw fish throughout their pregnancy and the population of Japan is not in harm. Women in Italy eat pasta, drink wine, espresso but don’t workout … and everyone is fine. Women in USA workout, run, lift moderate weights and they produce healthy babies. People in France drink wine…

Let’s think about that. In Thailand and India, for example, pasta and pizza are not part of the daily diet, so they are told to avoid these “unhealthy” foods – but in Italy and other countries, pasta is considered “healthy” and a normal part of a person’s daily diet, along with espresso and wine.

In USA our wine culture isn’t as big as it is with our fellow European friends (Italy & France), so we are told to limit our wine intake or avoid it all together, however it’s perfectly acceptable and *normal* to drink wine throughout the pregnancy in both France and Italy (and I wasn’t even told a specific daily limit).

In Italy and India the advice is to limit movement – that is, no running, no weights, no gym, no Pilates, no yoga… it’s just not a big part of their culture (swimming in Italy is ok), but in USA and according to friends in Germany, working out is recommended and we even have prenatal yoga and gym classes.

In India the standard diet includes less  protein (they don’t eat pork or beef) than ours in USA or other countries, and so they are told to limit their protein intake – whereas in USA we are advised to increase our protein intake.

This is just touching on a few general “big” points… but there are many more! Consider the sushi dilemma:

Based on my research, I found that the benefits of seafood, such as Omega 3 fatty acids and many other essential nutrients and vitamins (which are great for brain functionality and language development) are found in fish/sushi – and those benefits outweigh the potential hazards of exposure to mercury. 

While there are some fish/sushi that should be avoided, others are perfectly fine. (Check out the list: http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/mercury-levels-in-sushi/).

So, what should we do? I think each mommy-to-be can be cautious about the typical “no-nos” that are consistent from country to country, but when it comes to the uncertain-bucket (with varying advice across cultures) we just have to do what feels right for our own bodies. And as the experts say, if you’ve never really been a workout person, runner or coffee/wine drinker, pregnancy is not the time to take up new things – but if it’s been something that’s part of your lifestyle, it’s generally safe to continue (just usually lower the intensity or intake).

Me, personally: I do what feels right according to my body, research and my conscious. That means, since I love sushi, I allow myself to eat it every now and then. Since I’ve always enjoyed staying active and fit, I continue to do my circuit training 4-5 times a week that’s a mix of cardio, light boxing, light weights, body weight exercises and stretches. I don’t drink wine or coffee only because I don’t have a desire to, but if the time comes when I am craving a cappuccino or a refreshing glass of Prosecco, I’ll have it – guilt free.

Note: Please keep in mind that this is just a surface-level blog post of my experience and research & not “scientific” in any way)

I’m curious to know about your culture’s “dos and don’ts” and what your general thoughts are on this topic. 🙂 

*Featured Image Photo Credit: Anna Galkina

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4 Comments

  1. Cristina says

    Hey Hanna! I’m doing a second surrogacy and just found out it’s twins (again)! I’m 8 1/2 weeks and am getting ready for my second ultrasound. I don’t get morning sickness, but I have noticed that I don’t feel like eating that many different types of foods. I am pretty much vegan, so I wouldn’t eat sushi or eggs or milk or cheeses anyway. I try to eat lots of fruit. My other favorites are beans and rice, avocados, nuts, broccoli, veggie deli sandwiches. I don’t drink when I’m pregnant and that because I haven’t really developed a taste for wine! I try to walk everyday, and rest as much as I can. Hope all is going well with your pregnancy! Miss you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Cristina, and wow, congratulations on your 2nd surrogacy! I can’t believe they’re twins again – how crazy and cool at the same time. I love fruit (especially sour, crispy stuff like green apples, green grapes and kiwi), veggies and avocado and Francesco and I eat lots of beans too. I’m planning to do a post soon on some food & fitness (like basic stuff I do) as this one was more about what people have said to avoid or not to avoid! Like you, I haven’t been into wine while pregnant, but at least we know it’s not the end of the world if we have some! Things are going well for me and I’m 5 months + 1 week as of now. Miss you too 🙂 Baci

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