Foods to avoid in pregnancy

Now you're pregnant, there are some foods and drinks that are best avoided or limited because of small risks to the safety of your baby.

Soft blue cheese which should be avoided in pregnancy

Eating some foods and drinks during pregnancy may increase the risk of harm to you and your baby.

Raw or undercooked meat

Avoid undercooked meat, especially sausages or minced meat. Be careful to cook them thoroughly so there’s no trace of pink or blood. Although the risk is low, you may also prefer to avoid raw cured meat, such as Parma ham, chorizo, pepperoni and salami. It’s safest to eat well-cooked meat when you’re pregnant.

Why? There is a risk of toxoplasmosis, a tiny parasite that lives in raw meat, soil and cat poo and can harm the baby.

Unpasteurised milk and dairy products

All milk sold in shops, supermarkets and restaurants in the UK is pasteurised and fine to drink. If you are a farmer or use farmers’ markets, however, you might come across unpasteurised milk and products made from it. You should avoid these. This also applies to goat's milk and sheep's milk. If you only have access to unpasteurised milk, boil it before using.

Why? There is an increased risk of toxoplasmosis, listeriosis and Campylobacter.

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.

Download your free guide to a healthy diet in pregnancy

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 cheeses

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.

Why? There’s a risk that these cheeses could contain listeria.

Undercooked ready meals

It’s important to follow the cooking instructions on the pack of any ready meals you eat. Also, check that the meal is piping hot all the way through before you eat it. This is especially important for meals containing poultry, such as chicken or turkey.

Why? There’s a risk that these could contain listeria.

Raw eggs* or undercooked eggs

It’s important that any eggs you eat are cooked until the yolks and whites are solid all the way through. Using eggs in cooked recipes is safe but avoid foods that have raw egg in them, such as homemade mayonnaise or mousse.

Why? There’s a risk of salmonella, a common cause of food poisoning that can harm the baby and make you very unwell.

*Recent research suggests that there is “very low” risk of salmonella from UK eggs produced under the Red Lion code and that they are safe to eat in pregnancy. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is currently reviewing its advice to pregnant women. Find out more.

Certain kinds of 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.)

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.

Find out more about alcohol in pregnancy.

Caffeine

Drinking a lot of caffeine in pregnancy has been linked to miscarriage and low birth weight.

Caffeine is found in:

  • tea and coffee
  • cola and other soft drinks
  • chocolate

You should limit your caffeine intake to no more than 200mg a day during your pregnancy.

A can of cola has around 40mg of caffeine, a mug of tea has around 75mg, a bar of plain chocolate has around 50mg, a cup of instant coffee has around 100mg, a mug of filter coffee has around 140mg.

It can add up quickly - you will reach your limit with, for example:

  • one bar of plain chocolate and one mug of filter coffee
  • two mugs of tea and one can of cola

Work out how much caffeine you have each day with this counter.

Can I eat peanuts during my pregnancy?

Doctors used to say you shouldn’t eat peanuts or peanut butter if you or your baby’s dad have asthma, eczema or allergies. This was because it was thought that eating peanuts might make the baby more likely to be allergic to them. But the latest research has shown no clear evidence that eating peanuts during pregnancy affects the chances of your baby developing a peanut allergy.

What if I've already eaten something risky?

Don't panic. If it didn't make you ill at the time, it's unlikely to have affected you or your baby. Talk to your doctor or midwife if you're worried about something you've eaten.

Download your free guide to a healthy diet in pregnancy

Read more about foods to avoid in pregnancy

  • Swap sweet drinks for water.

    Food swaps for a healthy pregnancy

    In pregnancy it's important to eat well. If you are used to eating foods that are high in sugar, salt and fat, you can make a few changes that will be good for you and your baby.

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    Tips for an alcohol-free pregnancy

    Avoiding alcohol may be easy if, like lots of women, you go off the taste early in your pregnancy. But for some others, it can be a challenge.

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    Will my medication affect my baby?

    It depends on the type of medication. Some types of medication for mental health problems have risks for your baby if you take them when you are pregnant or when you are breastfeeding.

  • A variety of mugs containing tea and coffee

    Caffeine calculator

    Drinking a lot of caffeine in pregnancy has been linked to miscarriage and low birth weight so the current advice is to limit your caffeine intake to no more than 200mg a day during your pregnancy.

  • Woman washing vegetables.

    Tips for food safety

    Food hygiene is important for everyone but it’s particularly good to be careful how you prepare, handle and store food now you're pregnant.

Sources

  1. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (published 2008, updated 2017) ‘Antenatal Care for uncomplicated pregnancies’, NICE Clinical Guidelines 62: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg6
  2. FSA (2012), Advisory Committee on the Microbial Safety of Food, Ad hoc group on Vulnerable Groups, Risk profile in relation to toxoplasma in the food chain, Food Standards Agency, London, England
  3. Review of advice to consumers (including vulnerable groups) on eating raw or lightly cooked shell eggs and their products in the UK [accessed 21 June 2017] https://www.food.gov.uk/news-updates/help-shape-our-policies/review-of-a...
  4. Oken E et al. (2008). “Maternal fish intake during pregnancy blood mercury levels and child cognition at age 3 years in a US cohort.” Am J Epidemiol 2008;167:1171-1181
  5. NHS Choices [accessed 27/06/2017] Drinking alcohol while pregnant (Page last reviewed: 14/01/2017 Next review due: 14/01/2020) http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/alcohol-medicines-...
  6. CARE study group 2008. “Maternal Caffeine intake during pregnancy and risk of fetal growth restriction: a large prospective observational study.” BMJ 2008;337: doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.a2332
  7. NHS Choices [accessed 27/06/2017] Should I limit caffeine in pregnancy? Page (last reviewed: 30/03/2015 Next review due: 01/03/2018) http://www.nhs.uk/chq/Pages/limit-caffeine-during-pregnancy.aspx?Categor...
  8. NHS Choices [accessed 27/06/2017] Peanuts’ in ‘Why should I avoid some foods in pregnancy?, Page last reviewed: 01/04/2015. Next review due: 01/03/2018) http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/foods-to-avoid-pre...
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Last reviewed on June 27th, 2016. Next review date June 27th, 2020.

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Comments

  • By Anonymous (not verified) on 19 Aug 2017 - 17:17

    I've missed my period over a week ago I'm on clomid as I can't get pregnant naturally I'm very tired all the time and I'm peeing alotI feel very bloated and passing alot of wind.
    I'm currently on alot off medications and already taking folic acid when is the best time to do a pregnancy test this will be my first baby but second pregnancy I'm a bit scared

  • By Midwife @Tommys on 21 Aug 2017 - 16:32

    Hi, You can do a pregnancy test at any time from the day you are due to have your period. I assume that you have discussed a pregnancy with your doctor if you are on medication. If not please arrange to see them as soon as you can. Good luck.

  • By Anonymous (not verified) on 11 Jul 2017 - 18:39

    Hi. Thanks so much for your educative page.
    Thing is, a few days ago I discovered I could be 2-3 weeks pregnant when I missed my periods. I carried out a test yesterday and it confirmed I am indeed pregnant.
    My worry is, recently I had been feeling nauseous all the time since around the time I was supposed to receive my MP. Also I felt some crazy crumps and sharp pains irregularly. I though it was for menstruation, but it never came (It's one of the reasons I suspected I could be pregnant). But the problem is, nausea is all I felt throughout the day. No other pregnancy signs other women say feel. Like morning sickness, vomiting, tiredness etc. And then today it just stopped. The whole day since I woke up in the morning, I never felt nauseous or anything pregnant. Is there a reason for me to worry or is it normal.
    Or could it be that the radiography and ultrasound I went through a week ago in my ribs before I knew I was expectant affected my pregnancy?
    Kindly advice me, because right now I have a terrible headache worrying over this.
    Thanks

  • By Midwife @Tommys on 13 Jul 2017 - 11:43

    Hi, thank you for your comment.
    Please let me reassure you that ultrasound scans are used in pregnancy to monitor fetal development throughout pregnancy. Having an X-ray does not increase you risk of miscarriage but X-rays can expose the fetus to a small level of radiation so this is why they are only done if it is absolutely necessary.
    It can be very normal for nausea to come and go, like all pregnancy symptoms. These are different for any woman, some may have it at different times and at different severities.
    Mild cramping is again normal in early pregnancy, this is the uterus and ligaments stretching as the pregnancy grows. If you have any severe abdominal pain or bleeding then it is advisable for you seek medical advice. Now that you know you are pregnancy you should contact your GP who will refer you to the midwife and then your antenatal care can start. Hope this helps, Tommy's Midwives x

  • By Anonymous (not verified) on 4 Jul 2017 - 03:43

    am in my first tirmster of pregnancy but i dont understand why my tumm isnt been big yet but do feel pains whenever my baby beats faster than my herat cant even control sometimes i feel like the sack thu can support my baby by breathing has tear so my stomach is flat if anyone can help me or tell me what i can do to repair the sack for my unborn child will thank u

  • By Midwife @Tommys on 5 Jul 2017 - 11:33

    Thank you for your comment and congratulations on your pregnancy.
    You will not notice your tummy getting bigger until you are in your 2nd trimester when the baby and womb grow big enough to come out of the pelvis-at that stage your tummy will start to look bigger. This usually starts to happen from 15-18 weeks of pregnancy, although it is different for each person.
    If you are experiencing any regular or severe pains it is important that you contact your local early pregnancy unit or A&E. for advice
    I hope by now you have a date for your 1st scan and midwife appointment
    The scan will check if the sac is broken and the amount of water around the baby-if there is not enough, you will be advised what care you will need. There is no treatment to repair a tear in the sac at this stage of pregnancy.
    I have attached 2 links that you may find helpful

    https://www.tommys.org/pregnancy-information/im-pregnant/early-days-pregnancy

    https://www.tommys.org/pregnancy-information/pregnancy-complications/waters-breaking-early-pprom
    I hope this helps. Please do not hesitate to contact us again or call our PregnancyLine 0800 0147 800
    Take care
    Tommy's Midwife

  • By Anonymous (not verified) on 24 May 2017 - 07:57

    Oh!i love this page is educative

  • By Midwife @Tommys on 25 May 2017 - 10:45

    Hi we are please that you find the page helpful, Thank you for your feedback. Take Care Tommy's Midwives x

  • By Anonymous (not verified) on 8 May 2017 - 10:45

    I learned so much on this page and thanks for sharing the knowledge. .God bless you all!

  • By Midwife @Tommys on 9 May 2017 - 15:46

    Hi Abigail,
    your feedback means a lot to us! Thank you
    Anna-Tommy's Midwife

  • By Anonymous (not verified) on 27 Mar 2017 - 09:14

    thank tommy i really learnt alot

  • By Midwife @Tommys on 27 Mar 2017 - 10:15

    Thanks Zally, we appreciate your feedback!

  • By Midwife @Tommys on 8 Feb 2017 - 09:15

    Thank you for your feedback. We really appreciate it!
    Tommy's Midwives

  • By Anonymous (not verified) on 7 Feb 2017 - 17:09

    ...very educative and informative.Thanks a lot!

  • By Anonymous (not verified) on 10 Jan 2017 - 09:26

    Thanks for educating us especially about alcohol/caffein with pregnancy

  • By Anonymous (not verified) on 9 Jan 2017 - 04:26

    I learnt something from this page.thanks

  • By Anonymous (not verified) on 5 Aug 2016 - 15:23

    Thanks for helping us develop a healthy baby

  • By Anonymous (not verified) on 7 Jul 2016 - 01:57

    I really love this page,it's helpful. Thanks.

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