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Jenna McCarthy

Is Peanut Butter Safe During Pregnancy?

Here's the sticky truth.

Even the pros are iffy on this one. That’s because different studies have found different results: One study (published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology) of babies who had previously been diagnosed with egg or milk allergies found that those whose moms had eaten peanuts frequently during pregnancy (two or more times a week) were more likely to develop sensitivity to peanuts than babies of moms who avoided peanuts were. The more often the moms munched the legumes, the higher their babies’ chance of developing the sensitivity. But note that the babies in this study already had tested positive for other food allergies, so it’s not entirely clear whether mom’s cravings can be blamed. Another study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found no statistically significant relationship between mom’s pregnancy peanut consumption and allergies in her child.

If you’re not allergic to peanuts, yes, you can enjoy an occasional PB&J, says Hilda Hutcherson, MD, clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University Medical Center. But you may not want to overindulge — and it’s not because of potential allergies. “Peanuts are a good source of protein, but they also have a lot of calories,” Hutcherson adds. In other words, if you don’t want to put on more pregnancy weight than recommended, you may not want to be putting away cans and cans of peanuts. But in moderation, good, natural peanut butter (look for the kind made of nothing but nuts and maybe a dash of salt — no sugar) can be a healthy part of your gestational diet.

If you are allergic to peanuts or any other food, you’re already avoiding it (or should be). Still, there’s no sense freaking out about passing your allergy along. According to the Cleveland Clinic, babies inherit a tendency to be allergic; they don’t necessarily inherit specific allergies. Talk to your doctor about how your specific food allergies could impact your pregnancy and whether or not you should be extra cautious about what you’re eating.

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