Food to avoid during pregnancy

Take Care with Some Foods

During pregnancy, it’s crucial to be mindful of certain foods that may pose risks to you and your baby. Make sure you know the important facts about which foods you should avoid or take precautions with when you’re pregnant.

Cheeses to Avoid:

  • Don’t eat mould-ripened soft cheese.
  • Avoid soft blue-veined cheeses, such as Danish blue, gorgonzola, and roquefort.
  • Soft cheeses are less acidic than hard cheeses and contain more moisture, creating an ideal environment for harmful bacteria like listeria.
  • Listeria infection can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, or severe illness in a newborn baby.
  • Cheeses that are safe to eat include:
  • Cheddar
  • Parmesan
  • Cottage cheese
  • Mozzarella
  • Feta
  • Cream cheese
  • Ricotta
  • Goats’ cheese
  • Processed cheeses such as cheese spreads

Raw or Partially Cooked Eggs:
Make sure eggs are thoroughly cooked until the whites and yolks are solid to prevent the risk of salmonella food poisoning, which, though unlikely to harm your baby, can cause severe bouts of diarrhoea and vomiting. Avoid foods that contain raw and undercooked eggs, such as homemade mayonnaise.

Raw or Undercooked Meat:
Cook all meat and poultry thoroughly so it is steaming hot and there is no trace of pink or blood. Take particular care with poultry, pork, sausages, and minced meat, including burgers. Toxoplasmosis, an infection caused by a parasite, can be found in meat, soil, cat faeces, and untreated water. If pregnant, the infection can damage your baby, but it’s essential to remember that toxoplasmosis in pregnancy is very rare.

Cold Cured Meats:
Cold cured meats include salami, parma ham, chorizo, and pepperoni. Some countries advise pregnant women to avoid eating cold cured meats or smoked fish as there is a small risk of these foods harbouring listeria or the toxoplasma parasite that causes toxoplasmosis.

Liver Products:
Don’t eat liver or liver products such as liver sausage, as they may contain a lot of vitamin A. Too much vitamin A can harm your baby.

Vitamin and Fish Oil Supplements:
Don’t take high-dose multivitamin supplements, fish liver oil supplements, or any supplements containing vitamin A.

Some Types of Fish:
Don’t eat shark, marlin, and swordfish, and limit the amount of tuna you eat. These types of fish contain high levels of mercury that can damage your baby’s developing nervous system. Don’t eat more than two portions of oily fish a week. Oily fish includes fresh tuna (but not canned tuna), salmon, mackerel, sardines, and trout.

Raw Shellfish:
Eat cooked, not raw, shellfish to avoid harmful bacteria and viruses. Cold pre-cooked prawns are fine.

It’s fine to eat raw or lightly cooked fish in dishes such as sushi when you’re pregnant, as long as any raw wild fish used to make it has been frozen first. This is because occasionally wild fish contains small parasitic worms that could make you ill. Freezing kills the worms and makes raw fish safe to eat. Cooking will also kill them. The safest way to enjoy sushi is to choose the fully cooked or vegetarian varieties.

Milk and Yogurt:
Stick to pasteurised or UHT milk; if only raw (unpasteurised) milk is available, boil it first. Don’t drink unpasteurised goats’ or sheep’s milk or eat foods made from them, such as soft goats’ cheese. All types of yogurt, including bio, live, low-fat, etc., are fine. Just check with homemade yogurt that it is made with pasteurised milk – and if not, avoid it.

Ice Cream:
Soft ice creams should be fine to eat when you’re pregnant, as they are processed products made with pasteurised milk and eggs, so any risk of salmonella food poisoning has been eliminated.

Foods with Soil on Them:
Wash fruit, vegetables, and salads to remove all traces of soil and visible dirt.

High levels of caffeine can result in babies having a low birth weight, which can increase the risk of health problems in later life. Too much caffeine can also cause miscarriage. Caffeine is naturally found in lots of foods, such as coffee, tea, and chocolate, and is added to some soft drinks and energy drinks. Some cold and flu remedies also contain caffeine. Talk to your midwife, doctor, or pharmacist before taking these remedies.

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