Why should I avoid some foods during pregnancy?

There are some foods you should avoid eating during pregnancy because they could:

Cheese

Avoid:

  • mould-ripened soft cheeses, such as brie, camembert and others with a similar rind, including goats' cheese
  • soft blue-veined cheeses, such as Danish blue, gorgonzola and roquefort

Cheeses like this are made with mould and can contain listeria bacteria that cause listeriosis. Although an infection with listeria is rare, even a mild form of this infection in a pregnant woman can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth or severe illness in a newborn baby.

See also:

Eggs

Avoid raw or undercooked eggs and any foods that contain them, such as homemade mayonnaise.

Make sure that eggs are thoroughly cooked until the whites and yolks are solid. This prevents the risk of salmonella food poisoning.

Milk

Do not drink raw (unpasteurised) milk, including unpasteurised goats’ or sheep’s milk, or any food that is made of them, such as soft goats’ cheese.

If only raw or green-top milk is available, boil it first.

Pâté

Avoid all types of pâté, including vegetable pâtés, as they can contain listeria.

Meat

Do not eat raw or undercooked meat.

Cook all meat and poultry thoroughly so there’s no trace of pink or blood. Be particularly careful with sausages and minced meat.

The latest advice from the Food Standards Agency is that pregnant women should take care when eating cold cured meats such as salami, chorizo, pepperoni and Parma ham because these meats are not cooked but cured and fermented so they may contain toxoplasmosis-causing parasites.

It's best to check the instructions on the pack to see whether the product is ready-to-eat or needs cooking first.

For ready-to-eat meats, you can reduce any risk from parasites by freezing cured/fermented meats for four days at home before you eat them. Freezing kills most parasites and so makes the meat safer to eat.

Liver

Avoid liver or liver products, such as liver pâté or liver sausage, as they may contain a lot of vitamin A. Too much vitamin A can harm your baby.

Vitamin A

Don’t take:

  • high-dose multivitamin supplements
  • fish liver oil supplements 
  • any supplements containing vitamin A

Fish

There are some types of fish you should limit, such as tuna and oily fish, and some types of fish you should avoid completely, such as shark. Also, don’t eat raw shellfish, as it can cause food poisoning.

Alcohol

You should avoid drinking alcohol if you're pregnant or trying to get pregnant. Too much exposure to alcohol can seriously affect your baby's development. 

Caffeine

You should limit caffeine during pregnancy – avoid having more than 200mg of caffeine a day. High levels of caffeine can cause babies to have a low birth weight. Too much caffeine can also cause a miscarriage. Caffeine is found naturally in some foods and is added to some soft drinks.

Reducing the risk of toxoplasmosis

Wash fruit, vegetables and salads to remove all traces of soil, which may contain toxoplasma, a parasite that can cause toxoplasmosis. For more information, see:

Read the answers to more questions about pregnancy.

Further information:

 

Media last reviewed:

Next review due:

Page last reviewed: 06/04/2013

Next review due: 05/04/2015