Foods to avoid in pregnancy - NHS - NHS

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Foods to avoid in pregnancy - Your pregnancy and baby guide

Most foods and drinks are safe to have during pregnancy. But there are some things you should be careful with or avoid.

Cheese, milk and other dairy

What you can eat

  • all hard cheeses such as Cheddar, Stilton and parmesan
  • soft pasteurised cheeses such as cottage cheese, mozzarella, feta, cream cheese, paneer, ricotta, halloumi, goats' cheese without a white coating on the outside (rind) and processed cheese spreads
  • thoroughly cooked soft unpasteurised cheeses, until steaming hot
  • thoroughly cooked soft cheeses with a white coating on the outside, until steaming hot
  • thoroughly cooked soft blue cheeses, until steaming hot
  • pasteurised milk, yoghurt, cream and ice cream

What to avoid

  • mould-ripened soft cheeses with a white coating on the outside, such as brie, Camembert and chevre (unless cooked until steaming hot)
  • soft blue cheeses such as Danish blue, Gorgonzola and Roquefort (unless cooked until steaming hot)
  • any unpasteurised cow's milk, goats' milk or sheep's milk
  • any foods made from unpasteurised milk, such as soft goats' cheese

Why

Unpasteurised dairy products may contain listeria. This bacteria can causes an infection called listeriosis.

There's a small chance listeriosis can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, or make your newborn baby very unwell.

Soft cheeses with a white coating on the outside have more moisture. This can make it easier for bacteria to grow.

Meat and poultry

What you can eat

  • meats such as chicken, pork and beef, as long as they're well-cooked with no trace of pink or blood; be especially careful with poultry, pork, sausages and burgers
  • cold, pre-packed meats such as ham and corned beef

What to be careful with

  • cold cured meats, such as salami, pepperoni, chorizo and prosciutto (unless cooked thoroughly)

What to avoid

  • raw or undercooked meat
  • liver and liver products
  • all types of pâté, including vegetarian pâté
  • game meats such as goose, partridge or pheasant

Why

There's a small risk of getting toxoplasmosis if you eat raw and undercooked meat, which can cause miscarriage.

Cured meats are not cooked, so they may parasites in them that cause toxoplasmosis.

Liver and liver products have lots of vitamin A in them. This can be harmful to an unborn baby.

Game meats may contain lead shot.

Eggs

What you can eat

  • raw, partially cooked and fully cooked British Lion eggs (eggs with a lion stamp on them)
  • foods with raw egg in them, such as mousse and mayonnaise, if they're from British Lion eggs
  • eggs that are not British Lion, as long as the whites and yolks are cooked thoroughly until solid

What to avoid

  • raw or partially cooked eggs that are not British Lion
  • duck, goose or quail eggs, unless cooked thoroughly until the whites and yolks are solid

Why

Try to eat British Lion eggs (eggs with a lion stamp on them) because they are less likely to have salmonella in them.

Salmonella is unlikely to harm your unborn baby, but you could get food poisoning.

If you eat eggs that are not British Lion, or not from hens, make sure the whites and yolks are cooked thoroughly.

Fish

What you can eat

  • cooked fish and seafood
  • smoked fish such as smoked salmon and trout
  • raw or lightly cooked fish in sushi, if the fish has been frozen first
  • cooked shellfish, such as mussels, lobster, crab, prawns, scallops and clams
  • cold pre-cooked prawns

What to limit

  • you should eat no more than 2 portions of oily fish a week, such as salmon, trout, mackerel or herring
  • you should eat no more than 2 tuna steaks (about 140g cooked or 170g raw) or 4 medium-size cans of tuna (about 140g when drained) per week

Tuna does not count as an oily fish

You can have 2 tuna steaks, or 4 medium-size cans of fish, as well as 2 portions of oily fish.

What to avoid

  • swordfish
  • marlin
  • shark
  • raw shellfish

Why

You should limit tuna because it has more mercury in it than other fish. If you eat too much mercury, it can be harmful to your unborn baby.

You should limit oily fish because they can have pollutants such as dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls in them. If you eat too much of these, they can be harmful to your unborn baby.

You should avoid raw shellfish because they can have harmful bacteria, viruses or toxins in them. These can make you unwell and give you food poisoning.

Other foods and drinks

Caffeine

You can have caffeine, but no more than 200mg per day.

There is:

  • 100mg in a mug of instant coffee
  • 140mg in a mug of filter coffee
  • 75mg in a mug of tea (green tea can have the same amount of caffeine as regular tea)
  • 40mg in a can of cola
  • 80mg in a 250ml can of energy drink
  • less than 25mg in a 50g bar of plain dark chocolate
  • less than 10mg in a 50g bar of plain milk chocolate

Alcohol

Drinking alcohol in pregnancy can lead to long-term harm to your baby.

If you're pregnant or planning to get pregnant, the safest approach is to not drink alcohol at all.

This keeps risks to your baby to a minimum.

Herbal teas

You should drink no more than 4 cups of herbal tea a day.

Liquorice

Liquorice is safe to eat. But you should avoid liquorice root.

Fruits, vegetables and salads

Be careful with fruits, vegetables and salads as they can have soil on them, which can make you unwell.

Make sure to thoroughly wash all fruits, vegetables and salad ingredients.

Peanuts

You do not need to avoid eating peanuts when you're pregnant.

Only avoid eating peanuts if you're advised to by a healthcare professional or if you have a nut allergy.

Vitamins

Do not take high-dose multivitamin supplements, or any supplements with vitamin A in them.

Urgent advice: Call 111 if:

Try not to worry if you've eaten one of the foods to avoid.

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Page last reviewed: 16 April 2020
Next review due: 16 April 2023