Food and drinks to avoid during pregnancy

Nutrition during pregnancy food to avoid and why

Eating a healthy, well balanced diet during pregnancy helps to provide you and your baby with some of the nutrients that you both need to stay well during your pregnancy. Taking essential supplements of vitamins also helps. Being active regularly helps to maintain wellness overall.

However, there are some foods and drinks that are recommended you avoid because they have an increased risk of causing harm to you and your baby.

It’s advisable that you maintain good hygiene habits by washing your hands before, during and after preparing and cooking food. In this blog we take a look at the foods and drinks to avoid during pregnancy…

Washing hands when pregnant

Eating meat during pregnancy…

Make sure that any meat you eat during pregnancy is cooked thoroughly and not pink or slightly raw. Cured meats like salami and parma ham are also not cooked so it’s advisable to avoid these when pregnant.

Why do you need to cook meat thoroughly during pregnancy?

Eating uncooked or slightly cooked meats can increase your risk of being exposed to tiny parasites that can cause an infection called Toxoplasmosis.

Toxoplasmosis is a common infection and is usually harmless. If contracted during pregnancy it can cause potential complications. If you are concerned that you may have come into contact with toxoplasmosis, speak to your Midwife or GP.

Preparing fruit and vegetables when pregnant

When preparing your fruit and vegetables, always ensure that they are washed thoroughly and in a good condition.

If you are planning to eat any fruit or vegetables that have been home grown, you can’t ever be certain that a cat or other animal hasn’t soiled nearby. Cats are also known to carry the toxoplasmosis parasite in their faeces. If you do have a cat and they use a litter tray, now that you’re pregnant avoid cleaning this from now on.

The link between Liver, Pate and Vitamin A

Liver and any products that contain liver such as pate, are known to have high amounts of Vitamin A. Also supplements fish liver oil and cod liver oil. It’s advisable to avoid all of these due to increased levels of Vitamin A.

Consuming too much Vitamin A during pregnancy is not recommended

Whilst vitamins are important during pregnancy consuming a lot of Vitamin A has been associated with causing harm to unborn babies.

It’s advisable to avoid pates because of the risk of the bacteria listeria. This can cause an infection, listeriosis, and often the symptoms are like a mild flu. However, listeriosis can be more harmful to your unborn baby or baby once they are born.

Listeria can also be found in soil, some processed foods and raw meat. So it’s advisable that you wash all fruit and vegetables thoroughly and make sure all processed meals and meats are cooked following recommendations.

Unpasteurized products during pregnancy

These are products that have not been pasteurised. When any food product is pasteurised they have been exposed to high temperatures to destroy harmful bacterias that if you eat or drink, can cause infections.

Unpasteurized milk and products made from this for example ice creams and yoghurts. Now that you’re pregnant, it’s advisable that you avoid any food that hasn’t been pasteurised.

What cheeses should you avoid when pregnant?

You should avoid blue vein cheeses like Gorgonzola, Rochfort or Danish Blue.

Why should you avoid these cheeses?

Blue cheeses are made using unpasteurized goat’s milk so carry the increased risk of containing the bacteria listeria. 

Foods to avoid when pregnant - blue cheese

Can you eat raw eggs when pregnant?

Any food products or recipes that contain the use of raw eggs should be avoided. For example fresh mayonnaise or coleslaw that contains fresh mayonnaise (particularly from deli counters). 

There is a risk that raw eggs could contain Salmonella, another type of food poisoning that can make you unwell if you contract this during pregnancy. There is also a risk that the bacteria can pass to your unborn baby and cause complications.

What about fish, seafood and sushi if you’re pregnant?

As part of a well balanced diet, fish can be a good source of vitamins and minerals. Eating fish twice a week during pregnancy is beneficial, however certain types of fish, particularly oily fish like salmon, it’s recommended that you only eat once a week. Oily fish has a risk of being contaminated with pollutants which means if you eat a lot of it in your diet, they could potentially be harmful to your baby.

Surprisingly to most people, seafood/shellfish is safe as long as it has been cooked thoroughly. There is a risk of food poisoning with seafood so it’s recommended that you are safer to avoid whilst pregnant.

Sushi is often made with raw fish and should not be eaten during pregnancy. However, if the sushi has been frozen first and then thoroughly defrosted then it should be safe. Just bear in mind that you can’t trust this process has been carried out safely and correctly. As again, there is a risk of food poisoning and during pregnancy this can have risks for your baby.

Alcohol and pregnancy

It is recommended that now you’re pregnant, you avoid drinking any alcohol.

It is too uncertain what level of alcohol is safe to consume during pregnancy. However, the effects that alcohol consumption can have on your unborn baby are known. It can affect your baby’s development and cause long term health issues. There is a condition, fetal alcohol syndrome a baby can develop as a result of their mum drinking heavily during the pregnancy.

If you drink alcohol during your pregnancy, the alcohol enters your bloodstream and via the placenta enters your baby’s bloodstream too. This can have an effect on your baby’s mental and physical development.

If you’re concerned about your drinking now that you’re pregnant, speak to your GP or midwife for help and support.

If you have consumed alcohol when you didn’t know that you were pregnant, it’s likely to have had a low risk of harm to your baby. The most important thing is that once you know you’re pregnant, you stop consuming alcohol.

Caffeine and pregnancy

High amounts of caffeine can cause complications with fertility, pregnancy and birth. Increasing the risk of pregnancy complications such as your baby being small, miscarriage or stillbirth.

The current NHS recommendation is that pregnant women should have no more than 200mg of caffeine per day. One mug of instant coffee contains approximately 100mg of caffeine.

Other drinks like tea, cola, fizzy drinks and even chocolate, contain caffeine.
Also bear in mind that decaffeinated coffee, tea and other drinks can still contain small amounts of caffeine.

Research has shown that risks to your pregnancy and baby increases with the more caffeine you have. So trying to reduce your caffeine intake would be preferable.

Pregnancy is a good time to be thinking about healthier choices regarding what you eat and drink as it will not only improve your overall wellbeing but you are giving your baby the best start in life.

You deserve to enjoy your labour, birth, and parenthood journey.

Know what to expect, feel in control, and be heard with our online, midwife-led hypnobirthing course.

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