Sensible Caution or Fear Mongering?
June 6, 2009 2:39 PM   Subscribe

Did you (your wife) eat peanuts while pregnant? Did you child develop an allergy as a result?

As we consider the conception of our second child, my husband and I are having disagreements.

My husband put me off many foods when pregnant with our first. Peanuts, sea-food, even single glasses of ice tea. Our daughter was born healthy with no allergies. Husband says I couldn't live with myself if ate peanuts with this pregnancy and the child was damaged. (Neither of us have any food allergies).

I have come to believe there is a lot of fear-mongering when it comes to pregnancy and children, and I'm so sick of participating in it. I suspect most babies are tougher than the people who sell books and magazines would have me believe. Even my ob/gyn looked quizzical when I said I wasn't eating peanuts.

So I'm down to requesting anecdotal evidence. I want to know more about what DOES happen, not what we fear COULD happen. Peanuts, reasonable caffeine, sea food, mild alcohol...did you (she) imbibe in any of them and what were the effects on your child? (Especially peanuts!!)
posted by esereth to Health & Fitness (49 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Yes, I ate peanuts. No, no allergies. I had a very restricted diet during my third trimester (gestational diabetes) and none of the doctors or dietitians I worked with suggested I avoid peanuts, seafood (cooked), caffeine, or sugar substitutes. I was told to stay away from sushi, soft cheeses, and deli meat.
posted by Daily Alice at 2:49 PM on June 6, 2009

Anecdotal evdence means nothing, as I'm sure you know, but FWIW my mom ate peanut butter toast daily for nausea through all her pregnancies. None of us kids has any allergies beyond mild hay fever.
posted by Bardolph at 2:50 PM on June 6, 2009

I love how: Husband says I couldn't live with myself if ate peanuts with this pregnancy and the child was damaged.

is followed by...

I have come to believe there is a lot of fear-mongering when it comes to pregnancy and children

Ha! The call is coming from INSIDE THE HOUSE!!

Having allergies isn't a death sentence. I've had food allergies my entire life and am a pretty healthy guy, played (and still play) lots of sports, very active, traveled all over, go out to eat at fancy restaurants. Thankfully, my mom hasn't killed herself yet! And, fyi, my mother had the same diet for all three of her children, and I was the only one who developed allergies. Your husband needs to relax a little, and stop with the over-the-top guilt trip nonsense. Geesh!
posted by billysumday at 2:50 PM on June 6, 2009 [22 favorites]

I ate anything and everything I wanted while pregnant, including peanuts and other tree nuts, and my child has no allergies of any kind (she's now four and a half). I've never kept her away from eating tree nuts, either, because I had no reason to believe she'd be allergic. One thing I have been a little careful about, though, is to feed only "real" nut butters that are minimally processed. I wonder sometimes if the processing of foods these days is more to blame for the widespread food sensitivities we're hearing about.

I've always believed that a truly balanced diet (meaning a wide variety of foods, avoiding consuming huge quantities of any one thing) is the best route to overall health. It sounds as if you are of the same mind. Good luck!
posted by chihiro at 2:51 PM on June 6, 2009

We (the royal we) were told to stay away from sushi, soft serve ice cream and deli meat. Basically stuff that has a high risk of food poisoning. Or at least, thats what I deduced.

As far as the fear mongering goes, I have a boneheaded theory....

Some years ago, there were health professionals who looked at the statistics and said, wow, the correlation between Ingestible X and Bad Pregnancy Thing Y is very high, we should tell the people! All of the low-hanging danger fruit was quickly figured out.

Years later, there is still a group of professionals it is to study this stuff. Since the low hanging fruit is gone, they have to stretch it a bit and say stuff like....pregnant peoples should stay away from cinnamon flavored ice cream because of the increased risk of having devil babies.
posted by ian1977 at 2:55 PM on June 6, 2009 [4 favorites]

Sensible Caution or Fear Mongering?

Fear mongering, unless your husband can cite credible scientific evidence, or at the very least, a family history that might suggest reasonable caution.
posted by sageleaf at 2:55 PM on June 6, 2009

No one one here is going to be able to tell you that consuming A in their pregnancy caused B, unless the effect on the baby is something that could only be explained by A (I'm thinking alcohol and fetal alcohol syndrome). There are TONS of other variables in there to consider. People tend to hold on to the most obvious (to them) "cause" of whatever's going on with their child, because then they can feel some control over the situation- think about all of the parents who are SURE that vaccines caused their children to become autistic. I would stick with what your doctor tells you, and get a second opinion if you're concerned- anecdotes really won't tell you much about what causes problems in children.

Also, scientists don't know what causes peanut allergies, although there is some speculation that maternal consumption of peanuts could be related. If you're worried about it, don't eat peanuts.

People do everything completely fine and things go very wrong, while there are others who drink and smoke and eat peanuts and their kids couldn't be healthier. There are many worse things in the world than having a peanut allergy, and I hope you could live with yourself regardless of how healthy your child is.
posted by emilyd22222 at 2:58 PM on June 6, 2009

Yes, I ate nuts while pregnant. I ate seafood in moderation and enjoyed one caffeinated beverage a day. My son has no food allergies.

However, if he did have food allergies, I'm not sure that what I ate during pregnancy would be responsible. I'm not saying it wouldn't be .. just that a cause/effect relationship would be very difficult if not impossible to prove.

What do you mean that your husband "put you off certain foods"? He's in charge of what you're allowed and not allowed to eat???

You can take every precaution during pregnancy and still have a child with allergies, birth defects or genetic defects. All the prenatal testing available still does not guarantee a healthy baby. Your child may be born healthy and may become ill later. I hope this doesn't happen to you and I wish it didn't happen to anyone. But during pregnancy, all you can really do is practice moderation in everything, get good medical advice from your OB and try to tune out the fear mongering from your husband and any other well-meaning advisers.
posted by Kangaroo at 3:02 PM on June 6, 2009

I've seen more and more stories lately pointing to the reaction to peanut allergies in the West causing way more peanut allergies (that is, the children aren't exposed to the allergens, thus they develop allergies... yeah). So while I am not and have never been a pregnant woman, I'd chalk the evidence up to "inconclusive" and make the decision accordingly.

(The sushi and seafood issue has to do with heavy metals found in many fish, though if you google around a bit I think there are some fish that are at higher risk than others for this contamination, and you may be safe with some of them)

Purely anecdotally, my mom had at most a sip or two of wine while pregnant with me and later my brother, but to my knowledge ate peanut butter, most fish, and her usual caffeinated iced tea regularly. I have no allergies and my brother grew up allergic to cow milk (a sensitivity that's been passed down through my father's side) but he's grown out of that and has no allergies otherwise. I can count on one hand the number of people my age I know with peanut or other nut allergies. I hear way more complaining about lactose, gluten, and other food sensitivities that are totally unrelated.
posted by olinerd at 3:02 PM on June 6, 2009

Shocking as it may seem to modern parents, my mother was advised by her obstetrician to have a glass of red wine every night when she was pregnant with me. I turned out perfectly healthy and fine (for generous values of "healthy" and "fine"). Peanut butter was not even slightly considered off-limits.

I've got to say that I think what your husband may be dealing with is a thing that was pretty hard for me when my wife was pregnant -- lack of input. During the pregnancy there is little we Dads-to-be can do to affect the process, so being hyper-vigilant about our partner's health and nutrition is something to "keep us busy" so to speak. Maybe try to outline some other ways your husband can be an active participant in your pregnancy -- foot rubs, nursery painting, stroller shopping, etc -- to try and minimize his obsession with your intake.
posted by Rock Steady at 3:04 PM on June 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Purely anecdotal: my SiL ate copious amounts of peanut butter during her first pregnancy, and my nephew apparently has/had a severe peanut allergy. However the 'allergy' was only observed in an allergen test conducted on the young bub by a naturopath who later, after gaining many thousands of dollars over the years in consultation fees from my brother, determined that he had cured the allergy with his magic homeopathic ways. Did my nephew actually have a peanut allergy? He never ate any peanuts, so never got a reaction, so no one really knows.
posted by Kerasia at 3:12 PM on June 6, 2009 [3 favorites]

Fear mongering, although likely well-intentioned.

There is no evidence that a mother's consumption of peanuts causes peanut allergies. If anything, avoiding peanuts is correlated with an increase in peanut allergies amongst children.
The BBC has a concise article that summarises the findings of the Food Standards Agency (our food regulator over here).

Anecdotally, my Mum was advised to drink Guinness when she was pregnant with my brothers and I, for the iron. None of us are allergic to stout. There's certainly enough evidence that babies are harmed by heavy drinking that I'd probably go off the sauce if I was a pregnant woman, but other than that and avoiding obvious possible sources of food-poisoning, eat what you please.

We're highly evolved, durable animals...there's no need to seal yourself in a bubble to keep your incoming kid safe.
posted by Kreiger at 3:19 PM on June 6, 2009

My mother drank, occasionally smoked weed, ate fish, ate peanut butter, even (I am not making this up) played with mercury with her bare hands.
posted by dmd at 3:29 PM on June 6, 2009 [3 favorites]

Your question is the wrong question, and if people answer it (with their anecdotal evidence) you will still not have what you need to make a rational decision. What you want instead is scientific evidence such as this study about Household peanut consumption as a risk factor for the development of peanut allergy.

CONCLUSIONS: High levels of environmental exposure to peanut during infancy appear to promote sensitization, whereas low levels may be protective in atopic children. No effect of maternal peanut consumption during pregnancy or lactation is observed, supporting the hypothesis that peanut sensitization occurs as a result of environmental exposure.
The first of the related articles on the right is about early-infancy peanut introduction. That may interest you too, I think.
posted by fritley at 3:34 PM on June 6, 2009 [6 favorites]

Well, if you want anecdotal . . . I drank caffeine, ate peanut butter and deli meat almost every day (not together!), and drank the occasional glass of wine during my 3rd trimester. My son has no allergies and is just fine.
posted by peep at 3:34 PM on June 6, 2009

yes, and no. I did avoid caffeine and sushi, though.
posted by leahwrenn at 3:50 PM on June 6, 2009

If your husband is that nervous, having a bunch o' strangers on the Internet tell you what to do might not help. Could he come to one of your doctor's appointments to hear from someone with a medical degree that he needs to relax?
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:54 PM on June 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

See peep's answer. Your husband is succumbing to fear-mongering!

I am a big proponent of the hygiene hypothesis. If we're correct, avoiding peanuts and other allergens is exactly the wrong thing to do.
posted by Justinian at 4:08 PM on June 6, 2009

My wife did try to avoid any food during her pregnancies. Our two kids have no allergies ... except for an allergy to penicillin for one of them.
posted by aroberge at 4:09 PM on June 6, 2009

there is a lot of fear-mongering

Husband says I couldn't live with myself if ate peanuts with this pregnancy and the child was damaged.

you couldn't live with yourself if you ate peanuts?
Or: he couldn't live with himself if you ate peanuts?

Can you live with yourself with the "risk" of eating peanuts?
Can you live with yourself with (not) rejecting the fear-mongering of your husband?
Can he live with you not respecting his request?

It seems that this is about him, not you, and that the onus is on him to demonstrate something far beyond your groveling for irrelevant anecdotes for your self-control over your own body and opinion to be respected. Having an allergy is hardly 'damaged'.

If he needs to find an outlet for control and responsibility, tell him he can be responsible for all the food preparation for both of you to support a health pregnancy and parenting for your selves and your child.
posted by kch at 4:10 PM on June 6, 2009

I did avoid caffeine and sushi, though.

I'm not sure there is any reason to completely abstain from caffeine (although you don't want to be guzzling 6 cups of coffee or anything) but, yeah, some kinds of sushi and seafood should be avoided. You don't want to be eating much tuna, for example. Or any predatory fish. Some salmon is probably okay.
posted by Justinian at 4:10 PM on June 6, 2009

Is he giving up all these things as well? Because it has just as much effect (none) as you giving them up.
posted by mazienh at 4:12 PM on June 6, 2009

Someone noticed that children in Israel have a much lower rate of peanut sensitivity than in Europe and the US, and did a study on it. Conclusion:
Directly contradicting mainstream thinking on the development of peanut sensitivity, researchers here suggested that early goober consumption is protective.

Earlier and more frequent consumption of greater quantities of peanuts or peanut butter among Israeli infants was associated with a significantly reduced risk of peanut allergy compared with English children, George Du Toit, M.B.B.Ch., of King's College London, and colleagues reported in the November issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Children ages four to 18 in England -- where it is recommended that pregnant women and infants avoid peanuts -- were 5.8-fold (95% CI 2.87 to 11.8) more likely to have a peanut allergy than their Israeli counterparts.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 4:14 PM on June 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

I ate copious amounts of peanut butter while pregnant with both boys. Turns out one has a peanut allergy, diagnosed by a real live allergist after a reaction to a peanut butter cookie. One has no food allergies. Do I believe that my consumption of peanuts has anything to do with my son having a food allergy? I DO NOT. So-called advice varies from "Eat peanuts, get a kid with an allergy," to "Avoid peanuts, get a kid with an allergy." Notice that none of the advice ends with "... and get a guaranteed-allergy-free kid!" Also:

Husband says I couldn't live with myself if ate peanuts with this pregnancy and the child was damaged.

This is, forgive me, completely nuts. On the off chance that you do end up with a child with a food allergy, not only will you live with yourself, you will live with your NOT DAMAGED child. A food allergy is just a (presently) unavoidable reality to be dealt with, not a horn in the middle of his forehead. My kid lives a normal, healthy, nut-free life with relatively little interference from me, just like his allergy-free brother in very nearly every way.
posted by iscatter at 4:20 PM on June 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

My understanding is that the main issue with caffeine is the slight risk in miscarriage in the first trimester. And that's with greater than three (?) cups of coffee per day or the caffeine equivalent.

As for me, I didn't avoid anything that I normally eat. I even ate raw sushi. I never eat tuna sushi anyway because damn, if the mercury could be bad for the baby then it could be bad for me too! I never eat deli meats so that wasn't an issue. I ate unpasteurized cheese.

Yes the likelihood of listeriosis is increased during pregnancy if you eat something that's contaminated, but that still increases it from infinitesimal to slightly less so. I put my unborn baby's life in danger more every time I got into a cab in Manhattan.

I also drank alcohol, never more than one drink an evening. I don't think there is any different between one glass of wine an evening or one a week. The alcohol doesn't stick around - the evening before's glass will be metabolized before you drink one the next night. There's no documented cumulative effect.

Peanuts? Our pediatrician's specialty is allergies. She said the jury is completely out whether it's an issue. Her thinking is that, as said above, it's probably more the avoidance of tree and ground nuts that causes any problems. Also, allergies are way over-reported, and many kids are not actually allergic, but their parents (probably understandably) don't want to risk trying again after a questionable initial reaction.
posted by gaspode at 4:24 PM on June 6, 2009

My wife suggests that I follow up my earlier comment with a note that I don't have any allergies or brain damage (and in fact just defended my Ph.D. at Penn).
posted by dmd at 4:41 PM on June 6, 2009

Mr. WanKenobi has more food allergies and sensitivities than anyone I know, including, but (because I'm likely forgetting something) not limited to: peanuts, treenuts, eggs, milk, corn, soy, and certain types of fish. He also has celiac's disease. His brother has celiac's and is allergic to peanuts and soy. I have no idea what their mother ate during pregnancy, but I do know that his dad and his uncle are similarly allergy-ridden, to the point where his uncle is regularly covered in hives. That's not to say that all allergies are genetic, but how would your husband feel if the kid (or your daughter--allergies can pop up later in life) inherited some wicked awesome allergies from his side of the family? Who would he blame? Would he be able to "live with himself"?

It all seems pretty silly to me.

I also wanted to chime in and say that allergies do not make people damaged. Even with his fairly restrictive diet, Mr. WanKenobi lives a full, happy life. He has no problem not eating the things he's allergic to. Sure, it's inconvenient, but it's not the end of the world. He might be a little shorter than average because of the celiac's, but there's genetic precedence in his family for that, too. And being 5'5" is not that big of a deal.

(More annoying than the food allergies? The fact that he's allergic to dogs and cold. Allergens of the atmospheric sort are far more difficult to avoid.)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:05 PM on June 6, 2009

My son has anaphylactic allergies to peanuts, soy, tree nuts, eggs, chicken and turkey. His condition has nothing to do with what I ate, or didn't eat, during pregnancy. It's just one of those things that happens; it's where his marble landed on Mother Nature's Wheel O' Fate, so to speak.

My daughter has Type I diabetes, which also has nothing to do with anything I ate during pregnancy. It's the luck of the draw in the genetic deck of cards.

If I went through life beating my self up over some imagined thing I did wrong to cause both of my children to have health problems (other than my husband and I joking that our DNA didn't seem to play nice together), I'd be a mess.

Your husband sounds like a control freak. What's he going to do (and, more scarily, who's he going to blame) if you do everything "right" and something still goes wrong? You need to sit him down and talk to him about his state of mind, and take control over your own pregnancy.
posted by amyms at 5:24 PM on June 6, 2009

Does your husband watch a lot of Oprah?

Exactly when and how your immune system does the whole mapping of self thing and decides what constitutes food and what constitutes and invade is still not completely nailed down, but a major school of thought suggests that if you want your kids to not have allergies, you should get them good and infected with hook worms as soon as they're out.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:41 PM on June 6, 2009

Another study -- some children who were given miniscule doses of peanut protein over a period of 2+ years overcame their allergy.

(Also, since you're looking for anecdotes...consumed all of the things on your list plus aspartame and acetaminophen during pregnancy. End result has slight seasonal allergies, almost certainly due to genetics.)
posted by gnomeloaf at 5:51 PM on June 6, 2009

With my first pregnancy 4 years ago I stayed away from alcohol, caffeine, deli meat, sushi -- the usual stuff. I lived on PBJ sandwiches. 2nd pregnancy (a miscarriage), the same. 3rd pregnancy: lived on PBJs, salsa and anything I could put it on, and a piece of chocolate cake daily from the deli around the corner. Drank an occasional glass of wine. Baby had some food sensitivities to eggs and milk, which seem to be clearing up (she's 16 mos).

4th pregnancy in 4 years is about to come to full term on Labor Day. I'm eating and drinking whatever I want. (Usually, I don't want what "they" tell you you shouldn't have, and most of my food is healthy, organic stuff.) My OB says "yeah, we're told to tell everyone to avoid alcohol but a couple of drinks a week are fine, if you eat well, etc."

The salient point here is not whether or not you should or should not be eating peanuts. It's why your husband feels the need to control your diet. Does this mean that if your baby has some problem, or food issue/allergy, that it will be *your fault*?? Warning bells are going off for me here.

And I'm going off that one to say that when you're laboring in that delivery room and he's making you count to ten with every contraction or following some other "rule" of labor and delivery? That's when you'll kick him in the head in pain and tell him to STFU. Because you and your body simply need what you need. And whether it's peanut butter or an epidural or a different nurse or no more counting, you'd better know in your heart that you deserve it.
posted by mdiskin at 5:59 PM on June 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

My mom didn't take any OTC medications when she was pregnant with me. Nor did she drink coffee or imbibe any other caffeinated beverages. No alcohol.

She did, however, eat whatever she wanted.

I turned out fine. No allergies. I also turned out to have epilepsy, so no matter how careful you are, random chance can screw things up. Relax, enjoy your peanuts.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:04 PM on June 6, 2009

Kid #1 has severe food allergies to shellfish, sesame, and tree nuts. To be cautious, I stayed away from highly allergenic foods during my second & third trimesters with #2 and #3, even though at the time the idea to abstain from certain foods was just bubbling up. Kids 2 and 3 have no allergies.

I don't believe that I prevented it in my second two...just as I don't think I caused it in my first. Just admitting to you that I did buy into it at the time.
posted by agentwills at 7:14 PM on June 6, 2009

I ate absolutely anything that I craved, which included peanuts/peanut butter and lots Chinese food. My daughter was born healthy and has absolutely no food allergies.
posted by sporaticgenius at 7:38 PM on June 6, 2009

I ate peanuts during my first pregnancy, and while I was nursing. My daughter has a peanut allergy. It would be foolish to suggest that the one has anything to do with the other; our family has atopic allergies -- even food allergies -- to begin with. She was also allergic to dairy (but has since outgrown that) and tests as sensitive to sesame (but has never reacted). I object strongly to the idea that one could isolate one single factor, my consumption of peanuts, and say that it caused her allergy. That may or may not have had anything to do with it. The fact is, the origins of an allergy are both imperfectly understood and complicated to unravel.

I ate a lesser amount of peanuts during my second pregnancy and while I was nursing (because we no longer kept them in the house). My second daughter is not, so far, allergic to peanuts. She also has a sensitivity to dairy, including persistent eczema.

Parenting isn't an easy journey in the first place. You're going to make yourself crazy if you internalize everything that happens to your child and make it your fault, or your credit, because a lot goes on that is simply how the cards fell, and would have done so no matter what choices you made.

In the peanut allergy parenting community, we talk a lot about comfort zones, and I think it applies to parenting in general. What I'm comfortable doing and what you are, even with the same exact information, might be completely different. It sounds like what you're comfortable with and what your husband is aren't the same. So the question here really isn't about data, it's about figuring out how to navigate what you're comfortable with when your husband is comfortable with something completely different. There isn't enough information in the world that will make your comfort zones identical.

This is another ongoing tension of parenting, because I don't think any two parents have ever perfectly agreed on what was safe/healthy/beneficial/dangerous for their child, ever, in the history of time. That's OK, it's just part of the journey. You're going to have to navigate that however it is you navigate any disagreement within your marriage.

Oh, and I also object to calling a child with a food allergy "damaged." My girl is strong, smart, brave, and very kind. I'm a lucky mom. You'd be delighted with a child just like her, I assure you.
posted by Andrhia at 8:36 PM on June 6, 2009

I am the worst mother in the world*. I was pregnant almost 18 years ago, when a lot of this hysteria was new. I didn't know I was pregnant for a while, due to job stress, and I drank too much for a while, although I quit early in my pregnancy. I also smoked through my pregnancy because I couldn't quit without wanting to kill myself, patches and nicotine gum weren't available over the counter, and my doctor wouldn't prescribe anything. He just said "quit." I drank at least 3 cups of coffee a day, ate peanuts, seafood, hot dogs and cheese. What, I shouldn't have?

You are not a vessel, you are a person. Also, kids are who they are. They are not blank slates that we create. I think your husband is expecting something that just isn't reasonable.

*I'm mostly an excellent mom and my kid is awesome, super smart and just a really sweet kid. He has no allergies except dust, like me, and no other health issues.
posted by zinfandel at 10:10 PM on June 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

DD#1 is allergic to pork, olives and melon and is lactose intolerant. I drink a quart of milk a day and have since I can remember. I seldom eat olives, never ate pork before or during pregnancy, and love melon. I have no food allergies. Her father is lactose intolerant, doesn't eat pork and has no food allergies, although no one will ever know if he is allergic to pork. No one else in the family has food allergies. I ate peanuts and other nuts while pregnant. So, let the alarmists figure that one out. And, btw, the allergist told me the best way to become allergic to a food is to not eat it during early childhood and start eating it at about age 5+. I have no idea whether this is true.
posted by x46 at 11:47 PM on June 6, 2009

Not that I have much new to add at this point in the thread but I ate lots of PB when I was pregnant. My little guy has a handful of non-serious food allergies and he hasn't tried peanuts yet. If it turns out that he's allergic, I'm not going to sweat it or blame myself. Why? I myself have several food allergies as do member of my immediate family. Allergies happen! For me, it was way more important to eat a healthy diet while pregnant. If a PB&J is what you can choke down--eat it!
posted by wallaby at 3:12 AM on June 7, 2009

Eating peanut butter increases the risk a child will develop peanut allergies from extreemly unlikely to very, very unlikely.
posted by delmoi at 3:16 AM on June 7, 2009

(or not, I read somewhere that there was an elevated risk, but reading through the thread it sounds like there might not be. Either way, the chances of having a kid with peanut allergies is very low. You really don't need to worry that much)
posted by delmoi at 3:23 AM on June 7, 2009

: I have come to believe there is a lot of fear-mongering when it comes to pregnancy and children, and I'm so sick of participating in it.…I want to know more about what DOES happen, not what we fear COULD happen. Peanuts, reasonable caffeine, sea food, mild alcohol...did you (she) imbibe in any of them and what were the effects on your child? (Especially peanuts!!)

This is a great goal—I can't stress that enough. Good for you for bucking the trend and trying to find out the truth rather than giving in to what everybody's afraid of!

I want to caution you, however: you're asking for anecdotal evidence, and anecdotal evidence—evidence that comes from somebody else's person experience, rather than a careful, scientific observation of the general phenomenon—will always be somewhat problematic. Look, for example, at the whole ‘MMR vaccines cause autism!’ scare; people get freaked out because of course many parents of children who, for some reason or another, develop autism often are the same parents who vaccinated their children. So, when you ask something like, ‘are there any parents out there who vaccinated their children and then their children got autism?’ you'll get a chorus of people who cry: yes! But that doesn't mean that vaccination causes autism; there could very well be thousands more who vaccinated but their children didn't become autistic.

In other words, the question you should be asking is this: “did you eat peanuts without your children developing allergies?” That's because no parent knows what effect food they eat during pregnancy has on their children. They can't possibly know. They can say, “I ate lots of canolis, and he turned out to have a gigantic penis!” and that can be absolutely true, but it says nothing about causation between canolis and gigantic penises.

You'd be best off doing a little internet research into certain scientifically-reliable sites; Wikipedia often has some good sources.
posted by koeselitz at 3:41 AM on June 7, 2009

And, well, if you really like canolis, there's nothing stopping you.
posted by koeselitz at 3:43 AM on June 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

Honestly I think you should raise your kids in a moderately messy but not dirty house with a moderate amount of dust and a variety of foods. Worked for me.
posted by sully75 at 6:22 AM on June 7, 2009 [4 favorites]

Does the peanut protein even cross the placental barrier?
posted by gjc at 7:06 AM on June 7, 2009

Up front: I believe that we are entitled to make any choices we like about our own bodies and health. Sky-dive, drink excessively, buy a motorcycle and ride long distance, shoot up with drugs.. all good if it's your choice.

Up front, too: I believe that playing field shifts dramatically when we are pregnant - whether by choice or by 'accident' - providing we choose to continue the pregnancy and intend to deliver a child.

Children do not require fancy clothes and wealthy parents. They do not need electronics or diaper-wipe warmers or the latest doo-dads. They do require a mother who, while gestating that child, does everything within her power to ensure that her child emerges with the best, healthiest, strongest possible body and mind.

And that may mean that she forgoes some of her favourite comforts for 9 months to make sure her child doesn't face a lifetime of suffering.

There's a difference between a known, established fact and a suspicion when it comes to what a pregnant woman should, or shouldn't, do.

In the case of facts, it's sheer stupidity and recklessness to not follow those 'rules'. The flip side is true, too, that doing things that are known to be problematic is sheer recklessness.

And then there's the middle ground. In the case of those actions that fall into 'suspicions', brought up by reputable, trusted sources (i.e., not some hippie message board on the internet) I'd suggest looking at whether you are comfortable with the worst-case scenario - which is what any good risk-taker does.

Don't look at the "eh, it might not happen" side of things. Your child may or may not have that worst-case problem, of course, but look at the "could happen" column and ask if you can live with it and handle it. The worst case scenarios DO happen and it's not just to 'other people'.

If eating peanuts has been shown to cause a peanut allergy in X% of the infant population, and I don't know whether that's true or not, ask yourself whether you're okay with your child having that allergy. Ditto for sea-food and whatever else is on your list.

I am an adoptive parent to a son who has fetal alcohol effect. His biological mother drank while pregnant with his older siblings, and his younger, and he is the only one who has serious problems related to cognitive function. Why him? Why not the others? Does that make the odds better -or worse- if she chooses to have another child and drink? Why did it happen with her pregnancy and not someone else's?

Her drinking caused my son - currently 9 years old - significant cognitive impairment. He's a very smart kid who will suffer greatly for the rest of his life from a series of organic, incurable brain issues. He is a sensitive, kind, sweet child whose mother couldn't put aside her own desires during the nine months she carried him. He didn't ask for this, take his own risks, or make this choice for himself as an adult.

But there are still plenty of people who say that it's safe to drink alcohol while you're pregnant and that you're "not a vessel" and that you don't have to be cautious or worry about things.

Someone needs to come and tell my son that his mom was "fine" to take that chance with him because when he comes home from school crying that he's "stupid" compared to the other kids, because he's 9 and can't spell or read or remember anything for more than 10 minute stretches, well, I'm having a hard time having any sympathy for his biological mother.

A woman is a vessel, so to speak, when she chooses to become one and carry a child.

So yes, do the things you know you should.

Yes, avoid the things you know you should.

And take only the risks that you are comfortable living with in the long run, while reminding yourself that you have 9 months to make that child as healthy as possible to give him or her every advantage they deserve. Someday that child may ask you why you took the risk and why he's living with the results.
posted by VioletU at 3:52 PM on June 7, 2009

She's talking about drinking a glass of iced tea, not a fifth of vodka.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:31 PM on June 7, 2009 [2 favorites]

If eating peanuts has been shown to cause a peanut allergy in X% of the infant population, and I don't know whether that's true or not,

The point is that no one knows. People disagree over whether or not eating peanuts impacts the likelihood of having an allergy, and even disagree over whether it can cause or prevent an allergy. The poster is asking for anecdotal evidence in hopes that this will sway the balance for her, but it's simply unknown.

Her drinking caused my son - currently 9 years old - significant cognitive impairment...
But there are still plenty of people who say that it's safe to drink alcohol while you're pregnant and that you're "not a vessel"

The numbers on this show that heavy drinking can cause impairment, but there isn't evidence that a small amount of alcohol has a negative effect, and certain drinks (like red wine, and guinness, as mentioned above) have often been recommended for other benefits (iron). The level of alcohol intake that is definitively bad for a fetus is bad for a mother, too.

Overall, of course a woman takes on a major responsibility when she decides to bear a child, but to claim that she has then "become a vessel" and must give up anything that could potentially have any negative effect on the child, even if it's very unlikely, and even if it would be very difficult for her to do without, seems like the wrong attitude. The mother is already making sacrifices, and if we're talking about a healthy mom who wants the child, then she wants the best for the kid as well. But it's unfair to insist that all moms suffer unquestioningly just because it's not impossible the kid might be less perfect. If a mom is seriously craving peanut butter and no one's sure how allergies work, on top of which an allergy is hardly the end of the world, it seems like mom should be able to be a person with her own needs as well as that "vessel"...
posted by mdn at 4:35 PM on June 7, 2009 [2 favorites]

My wife couldn't stand the smell of cooking meat when she was pregnant. She just about lived on peanut butter during those nine months (and in the months afterwards). The doctors didn't care.

When my daughter was two years old, she swiped a peanut butter cracker sandwich off our counter and, to the horror of my wife, gobbled it straight up. Nothing horrible happened to her.

Neither of our families has a history of food allergies.
posted by dw at 5:45 PM on June 7, 2009

VioletU: If eating peanuts has been shown to cause a peanut allergy in X% of the infant population, and I don't know whether that's true or not, ask yourself whether you're okay with your child having that allergy. Ditto for sea-food and whatever else is on your list.

No. You are making a tremendous mistake about how science works. It is highly unlikely that doing anything during pregnancy could be shown to cause anything in a certain percentage of the population. The only way that could be shown would be through some other condition that directly causes the effect.

Think about it for a moment, and you'll see how irrational you're being in saying this: say, for example, they do a study, and 10% of mothers who eat peanuts during pregnancy end up having children with a peanut allergy. That most definitively doesn't mean that eating peanuts during pregnancy causes peanut allergy in 10% of cases. If, for instance, 10% of the population already tends to get an allergy to peanuts, then the peanut-eaters-during-pregnancy are just getting peanut allergies at the same rate as everybody else; the peanut-eating has nothing to do with it.

Parents tend to focus to an extraordinary degree on the effect they have on their children; this focus leads to a certain blindness to the situations where they don't have an effect, and a propensity to overestimate their own knowledge of the effect they have on their children. I've met parents who will swear up and down that their child ended up with difficult condition Y specifically because they did specific thing X when the child was in the womb or when the child was in infancy; the trouble is, while they may know their children, they don't necessarily know the deeper physiology that goes along with the health of all children.

I guess all I'm saying is that the poster should feel free to ignore the hordes of parents that will line up and scream, “I ate peanuts, and now my child is allergic!” as though that proved that peanut-eating causes the allergy. “There's a tiny chance that it could…” is the wrong path to go down for two reasons. It's easy to say to yourself, “well, Susie said that she had peanuts and that caused her son's allergies…so there must be a tiny chance that eating peanuts will be bad.” But what Susie says doesn't mean a damned thing—there could be a 0% chance or a 100% chance. She doesn't know; she hasn't studied it and correlated it, she hasn't done the research and the consideration of human biology.

The other reason is the more important one, however. I've never been a parent myself, but my parents were sometimes silly and paranoid, as some parents are; so I can tell you from some experience that parents who approach the job with the attitude that they have to minimize every possibility that their child will be hurt by counting everyone's anecdotal evidence as proof that there's a chance of harm are parents who become hovering, smothering goons—and, ironically, that's pretty damned bad for the health of children.
posted by koeselitz at 10:08 PM on June 7, 2009 [4 favorites]

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