Confused about whether it’s OK to eat peanuts while you’re pregnant or breastfeeding? You might have heard different advice over the years and worry about eating the right things. And rightly so! According to research, peanut allergies in children have been on increase and no one seems to know the reason behind the soaring figures.
Peanut allergy is the most common type of food allergy present in children. The symptoms can vary from digestive problems, skin rash and hives to more serious reactions, like anaphylactic shock, which can be life-threatening. The symptoms are caused by the immune system over-reacting to certain proteins found in peanuts.
The exact process behind developing a peanut allergy is not clear. Early advice was that women with a family history of allergy should remove peanuts and peanut products from their diet for the duration of their pregnancy and while breastfeeding. There were some concerns that consumption of peanuts during those periods might contribute to the development of peanut allergy in children.
The advice changed in 2009 to reflect the latest findings, which showed that including peanuts in the diet of pregnant and breastfeeding mums does not trigger allergy response in their children. As a result, the current recommendations state that it is fine to eat peanuts while you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. The only exceptions are if you are allergic to peanuts or were advised by your doctor or midwife to avoid them, in which case you should eliminate peanuts and their products from your diet. The manufacturers of pre-packed foods are obliged by law to label any food products that might contain any traces of peanuts, making it easier to make the right food choices.
So don’t worry about giving up your favourite snacks of peanut butter on toast during pregnancy and while you’re breastfeeding. You can continue to enjoy it as part of a healthy, balanced diet to ensure the optimum health and development of your growing baby.
Food Standards Agency (2009) Peanuts during pregnancy, breastfeeding and early childhood (Accessed August 2013).