Foods to avoid during pregnancy

Runny egg on toastThere are some foods you should avoid during pregnancy because they could harm your baby. A lot of it is common sense, but it's worth having a look through this list so you know exactly what's on and off the menu. 

Dairy products

  • Avoid soft cheeses with a white-mould rind such as brie, camembert and goat's cheese, or soft cheese with blue mould such as Roquefort, Danish blue, Gorgonzola. This is because of the risk of infection from listeria, which can cause miscarriage and stillbirth.
  • Hard cheeses are fine as they do not provide the right soft environment for listeria to grow. Other types of cheeses should be fine but check that they are made with pasteurised milk. Goat and sheep cheeses are often unpasteurised.
  • Don't drink unpasteurised milk.


Eggs

  • Don't eat raw or undercooked eggs - no runny yolks on your pizza and avoid scoffing raw cake mixture. Homemade mayonnaise often contains raw egg, so avoid that too. Raw eggs have the risk of giving you food poisoning from salmonella.


Meat

  • All meat needs to be cooked thoroughly. Avoid taking your steak - or any other type of meat - rare as it is uncertain whether it could carry a risk of toxoplasmosis infection, which could cause miscarriage or stillbirth.
  • Be really careful when cooking meat and wash your hands thoroughly after touching raw meat.
  • Avoid liver, liver pâté and liver sausage - it is really high in vitamin A and this can damage your baby.
  • Pâté in general should be avoided because it can contain listeria (even vegetable pâté).
  • Avoid cured meats like salami and Parma ham, again because of a higher risk of listeriosis and toxoplasmosis.


Fish and shellfish

Peanuts: change of health advice 

The latest research says there is no clear evidence that eating or avoiding peanuts during pregnancy affects whether your baby develops a peanut allergy. So now you can get in a bag of dry-roasted while you're nursing your lime and soda. Hooray!
  • Marlin, swordfish and shark are out because of high levels of mercury, which might affect your baby's developing nervous system.
  • Stick to white fish and keep oily fish intake (mackerel, salmon, tuna, sardines) to 2–3 portions a week.
  • Stay away from oyster bars unless you like your oysters cooked. All shellfish should be thoroughly cooked to avoid food poisoning.
  • Be careful with sushi and only eat it if the fish has been previously frozen. This can be difficult to know for certain, so opt for vegetarian or cooked sushi instead.
     

Soil

Unless you have a bad case of pica, it's doubtful you are going to be eating handfuls of earth, but make sure you wash fruit and veg thoroughly as soil can contain harmful bacteria.

Caffeine

You don't need to avoid caffeine completely. You can still have 200mg a day, which amounts to about one Americano and a small bar of chocolate.

Too much caffeine can cause your baby to have a low birth weight and may cause miscarriage. Remember the hidden caffeine in fizzy drinks - it's not just tea or coffee you need to have in moderation.

Alcohol

Current guidance is to should avoid alcohol altogether during pregnancy, particularly in the first three months, but if you must drink to limit yourself to only one or two units once or twice a week.

If you've always thought units were something to do with kitchens, use Drinkaware's unit calculator to see how they stack up.

Advice on drinking during pregnancy is one of those areas that seems to keep changing and experts don't seem to be able to agree on what level is safe - hence the advice to avoid alcohol completely.

But there's no doubt that drinking during pregnancy is potentially dangerous because alcohol crosses the placenta but your baby's developing liver can't process it as fast as your liver can.

Too much alcohol increases your risk of miscarriage and your baby's chance of having a low birthweight. It can also lead to foetal alcohol spectrum disorder, which causes serious health problems for your baby, such as heart defects and behavioural disorders. 

What Mumsnetters say about foods you should avoid during pregnancy

  • Someone in the 'powers that be' has researched and believes there are avoidable risks associated with these things. And if it is incorrect and false information... well I don't think avoiding a few food products and alcohol for nine measly months will do me any harm either. MsChanandlerBong 
  • My take on all of this is moan like mad if you want, as it is a pain in the bum missing out on so many of life's pleasures. But when you have finished moaning, do everything in your power to stay safe in the knowledge that it isn't forever (and chocolate is not on the list). StripyMouse
  • I was really unknowingly evil and ate about a million raw oysters when about five months pregnant with my boys and on holiday in France. I'd read the dos and don'ts religiously, but somehow missed the shellfish embargo. Good grief but they were tasty though! ScummyMummy
  • Apparently, a pregnant woman has a far higher chance of becoming ill from listeriosis than a non-pregnant person. Listeriosis can cause miscarriage, premature labour and stillbirth. But just because you eat ripened soft cheeses, it doesn't mean you WILL get listeriosis. Oakmaiden
  • First thing I did when I got home from hospital was get the brie, pâté and cava out. I'm not lying when I say it was better than sex, and I don't say that about chocolate. Trestired 
  • My view while I was pregnant was to eat and drink what I liked in moderation, as I figured that's what people have done since the beginning of time and before we had doctors who told us what we couldn't do. Meanmum

 

Image: Shutterstock

Last updated: 23-May-2013 at 3:58 PM