Tommy's PregnancyHub

Food poisoning and pregnancy

Some groups of bacteria found in raw food can cause food poisoning. It is important to be careful when preparing raw meat to avoid infection.

What causes food poisoning? 

Food poisoning can happen if you eat something that has been contaminated with germs. Food poising is caused by the following infections: 

  • campylobacter bacteria 
  • salmonella bacteria 
  • E. coli bacteria
  • norovirus.

Campylobacter are a group of bacteria that are commonly found in raw meat, like poultry, including chicken and turkey. They are the most common cause of food poisoning. Food poisoning can happen when food is not cooked properly. It can also happen where cooked and raw foods have not been properly separated. 

Is it safe for pregnant women to eat chicken and other poultry? 

It is safe for people who are pregnant to eat chicken, but the following things will help reduce any risk:

  • Cook it thoroughly – follow the instructions on the packaging.
  • Do not wash it before cooking – it is not necessary and could splash germs further.
  • Wash all the kitchen utensils and surfaces that touch the raw chicken.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water after touching raw chicken.
  • Cover raw chicken and store it at the bottom of the fridge where it will not drip onto other foods.
  • Use leftovers within 2 days - cool them as quickly as possible (within 90 minutes) and store in the fridge until you’re ready to eat them. 
  • Don't eat food that is past its use-by date, even if it looks and smells okay. 

Find out more about what foods to avoid during pregnancy and any foods you need to take care when preparing. 

What are the symptoms of food poisoning? 

If you get food poisoning, you are likely to have the following symptoms:

  • feeling sick or being sick
  • diarrhoea
  • stomach cramps
  • a high temperature of 38 degrees Celsius or above
  • feeling generally unwell – including tiredness, aches and chills.

Any symptoms usually start within a few days of eating the food and pass within a week. 

Will my baby be affected by food poisoning?

It is unlikely food poisoning will affect your baby, but you should take special care when handling and preparing chicken. Don't hesitate to call your midwife or GP if you are concerned about your symptoms. 

What should I do if I get food poisoning?

It is important to rest and drink plenty of fluid (water, fruit juice and soups).

Wait until you feel hungry to eat solid food. You may find smaller meals better and it is best to avoid fatty, spicy food until you feel fully well.

Wash your hands, clothes and bed clothes thoroughly to avoid spreading the infection. 

Talk to your GP or midwife if:

  • you do not start feeling better within 48 hours.
  • your symptoms are getting worse
  • you have ongoing, severe vomiting
  • you are very dehydrated, you may have sunken eyes and be passing small quantities of dark, strong-smelling urine. 

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (2019), Scenario: Adult gastroenteritis: https://cks.nice.org.uk/topics/gastroenteritis/management/adult/#rehydration-dietary-advice

NHS Choices (accessed 28/10/20) 10 ways to prevent food poisoning: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/10-ways-to-prevent-food-poisoning/

NHS Inform (accessed 28/10/20) Food poisoning: https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/infections-and-poisoning/food-poisoning#about-food-poisonin

Review dates
Last reviewed: 05 March 2024
Next review: 05 March 2021