Can you eat peanuts when pregnant?
For many years, pregnant women were advised to cut out peanuts during pregnancy. But the latest research says there is no clear evidence that eating or avoiding nuts in pregnancy affects whether your baby develops a nut allergy.
Does this mean you can get in a bag of dry-roasted while you're nursing your lime and soda? It probably does but we understand that some women still won't want to take any chances. And plenty of Mumsnetters say they're confused by the advice.
Why is there confusion about eating nuts during pregnancy?
The enormous responsibility of carrying a baby means that pregnant women are often more careful than usual about what they eat. And with good reason, as plenty of foods should be avoided, or at least be treated with caution, during pregnancy.
As for nuts, until fairly recently doctors advised women with a family history of certain allergies – including asthma, eczema and hayfever – to avoid nuts during pregnancy. There was evidence, according to some medical research, that eating nuts when pregnant increased the chances of these allergies being passed on to your baby.
But in 2008, a large survey conducted by American physicians indicated that there was no link between nuts and these allergies.
Today some experts even argue that eating peanuts during pregnancy reduces the chances of her developing a peanut allergy. Others claim that nut allergies don’t even develop until after birth and that exposing an infant’s skin to nut protein is what really causes nut allergies.
Should I talk to my doctor about eating nuts while pregnant?
I have hayfever, cat allergy and eczema. I ate nuts during pregnancy, as I'm a vegetarian and nuts are important for protein, but I didn't eat them by the handful. My daughter has no allergies.
It can be confusing to read the experts’ conflicting views, especially when advice that was once regarded as irrefutable is suddenly discarded and pregnant women are expected to adapt and alter their habits.
The Food Standards Agency admit as much in their official advice: “If you would like to eat peanuts or foods containing peanuts (such as peanut butter) when you’re pregnant, you can choose to do so, unless you’re allergic to them yourself.”
Eating nuts during pregnancy, as part of a balanced diet, shouldn’t cause any problems for you or your baby. But if you are concerned, and do have a family history of allergies, then by all means speak to your doctor or midwife. They will understand your concerns and be able to reassure you.
Mumsnetters' experience of eating nuts during pregnancy
“I have hayfever and, when I asked my midwife and doctor about eating nuts during pregnancy, they both said not to eat them. My hospital consultant said don't go overboard eating them but that there’s no need to go checking packets to see if something contains them.”
“I have hayfever and I ate peanuts in my first pregnancy. I am not actively avoiding them in my second pregnancy either. If there was conclusive evidence that eating them increased the risk of allergies I wouldn't eat them, in some countries they feel it is beneficial to eat peanuts as they believe the earlier the exposure the better.”
“Some of the information on eating nuts during pregnancy is conflicting. Personally, I'm in the camp that believes eating nuts while pregnant can help the baby avoid a nut allergy and I'm munching away, but I wouldn't if there was a history of allergies in my family.”
Can I eat peanut butter when pregnant?
Now we get to the truly pressing question. Nine months without peanut butter? Unthinkable. Fortunately, there is no need to lay off the smooth or crunchy spread while you’re pregnant. And it is possible that eating peanut butter, like eating nuts generally, could even help your child develop their immunity against nut allergies.
That said, some brands of peanut butter do contain high levels of salt and sugar, so you don’t want to be spreading it on everything. Check the ingredients and try one of the many healthy peanut butter options on the market if you're keen to get your nut fix.
Which nuts are safe to eat in pregnancy?
All nuts having been given the green light and they're a great healthy snack, so unless you're allergic, knock yourself out with walnuts, almonds, cashews and hazelnuts. They are a great source of protein, iron and vitamins too – all of which can help you and your baby's development over the next nine months.