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Foods to avoid during pregnancy

There are some foods that you should avoid during pregnancy, as they might make you ill or harm your baby. Make sure you know about which foods you should avoid or take precautions with when you’re pregnant.

Cheese to avoid in pregnancy

Soft blue cheese:

You should avoid soft blue-veined cheeses such as gorgonzola, danish blue, and Roquefort. Soft blue cheeses are only safe to eat in pregnancy if they’ve been cooked.

Soft cheese with white rinds:

Don’t eat mold-ripened soft cheese (cheeses with a white rind) such as brie and camembert. This includes mold-ripened soft goats’ cheese, such as chèvre. These cheeses are only safe to eat in pregnancy if they’ve been cooked.

Why should pregnant women avoid soft cheeses? 

Soft cheeses are less acidic compared to hard cheeses and contain more moisture. More moisture in cheese means that it is the perfect environment for harmful bacteria, such as listeria, to grow in.

Although infection with listeria (listeriosis) is rare, it’s important to take special precautions in pregnancy – even a mild form of the illness in a pregnant woman can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth or severe illness in a newborn baby.

Find out about the symptoms of listeria. If you’re pregnant and showing signs of listeria infection, seek medical help straight away.

Raw or undercooked meat

Do not eat raw or under cooked meat, including meat joints and steaks cooked rare, because of the potential risk of toxoplasmosis.

Cook all meat and poultry thoroughly so it’s steaming hot and there’s no trace of pink or blood – especially with poultry, pork, sausages and minced meat, including burgers. 

Wash all surfaces and utensils thoroughly after preparing raw meat to avoid the spread of harmful bugs. Wash and dry your hands after touching or handling raw meat.

Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by a parasite found in raw and undercooked meat, unpasteurized goats’ milk, soil, cat poo, and untreated water.

If you’re pregnant, the infection can damage your baby, but it’s important to remember toxoplasmosis in pregnancy is very rare.

Toxoplasmosis often has no symptoms, but if you feel you may have been at risk, discuss it with your doctor If you’re infected while you’re pregnant, treatment for toxoplasmosis is available.

Pâté

Avoid all types of pâté, including vegetable pâté.

Why? They may contain listeria. These are bacteria that can cause an infection called listeriosis. Listeriosis can harm a baby during pregnancy or cause severe illness in a newborn. Liver pate can also have high levels of vitamin A, which is harmful to the baby.

CERTAIN Fish

Fish is good for you and you should aim to eat at least two portions a week, including one portion of oily fish, such as fresh tuna, mackerel or sardines. However, there are some types of fish you should avoid and some you should limit:

Avoid shark, swordfish and marlin as they have high levels of mercury, which could affect your baby’s nervous system.

Limit tuna to no more than two fresh steaks or four medium cans of tinned tuna a week because it also has high levels of mercury.

Limit oily fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines, trout, herring, pilchards) to no more than two portions a week as they contain pollutants.

Avoid eating raw shellfish, such as oysters, as they may give you food poisoning. (Cooked shellfish are fine – these include cold pre-cooked prawns.)

RAW EGGS

Raw eggs can be contaminated with Salmonella.

Symptoms of Salmonella infections are usually experienced only by the mother and include fever, nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps and diarrhea.

However, in rare cases, the infection may cause cramps in the uterus, leading to premature birth or stillbirth (17).

Foods that commonly contain raw eggs include; Lightly scrambled eggs, Poached eggs, Hollandaise sauce, Homemade mayonnaise and Cake icing to name a few.

Most commercial products that contain raw eggs are made with pasteurized eggs and are safe to consume. However, you should always read the label to make sure.

Pregnant women should always cook eggs thoroughly or use pasteurized eggs.

Liver and other foods containing vitamin A

Avoid liver and liver products, such as liver pâté and liver sausage. It’s not safe to take multivitamins containing vitamin A or fish liver oils, such as cod liver oil. Also, steer clear of any foods that have vitamin A added (they may say ‘fortified with vitamin A’).

Why? Liver has high levels of vitamin A, and too much of this can harm your baby.

Alcohol

It’s safest to avoid alcohol completely during pregnancy, especially in the first three months. If you do choose to drink after that, keep it to a maximum of one or two units, no more than once or twice a week.

Why? Alcohol can harm you and your baby, and experts cannot be sure that any amount of alcohol is safe.

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The Bottom Line

Proper food hygiene and preparation is always recommended, especially during pregnancy.

However, this is not always easy to do, since some foods may already be contaminated when you purchase them.

For this reason, it’s best to avoid the foods on this list as much as possible. Your health and that of your unborn child should come first.

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