The food a woman eats while pregnant can directly affect the health of the child in the womb. This is because some foods and drinks may increase the risk of harm to the mother and her baby during pregnancy.Although there are lots of food to avoid, there are still a lot of foods a pregnant woman can eat. Some foods may need to be cooked or prepared a certain way and others are best avoided completely.
Below are nine foods a pregnant woman should avoid.
1. Undercooked/raw meat
A pregnant woman should undercooked meat, especially poultry, pork, sausages and burgers. While pregnant any meat you eat should be cooked thoroughly, it should not be pink or have any blood coming out of it. Be careful to cook sausages and minced meat thoroughly. This is because there is a risk of toxoplasmosis, a tiny parasite that can live in raw meat which can be harmful to you and your baby.
Avoid liver and liver products that have lots of vitamin A in them. This can be harmful to an unborn baby. It is not safe to take multivitamins containing vitamin A or fish liver oils, such as cod liver oil. It is fine to eat low levels of vitamin A found naturally in foods like carrots. But it is important to avoid any foods that have vitamin A added (they may say ‘fortified with vitamin A’).
3. Unpasteurised milk and dairy products
Pasteurised milk is treated to kill off harmful bacteria that can cause food poisoning from toxoplasmosis, listeriosis and Campylobacter.
Pregnant women should avoid unpasteurised (raw) milk and products made from it sold in some farm and health food shops. These products can include cream, yoghurt, goat’s and sheep’s milk, or dairy products.
4. Undercooked ready meals
It is important to follow the cooking instructions on the pack of any ready meals you eat. Also, check that the meal is steaming hot all the way through before you eat it. This is especially important for meals containing poultry like chicken or turkey.
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5. Unwashed, packaged salad
Check the ingredients in any packaged salads you buy to make sure they do not contain other foods you should avoid. If the salad has been left out at room temperature for a long time, it is best not to eat it as bacteria can grow quickly.
6. Raw eggs or undercooked eggs
Avoid raw eggs during pregnancy as it can cause food poisoning Using eggs in cooked recipes is safe, just avoid foods that have raw eggs in them, such as homemade mayonnaise.
7. Certain kinds of fish
Fish is a good source of many vitamins and minerals. If fish is part of your diet, you should aim to eat at least 2 portions of fish a week. You should also aim to eat one portion of oily fish a week, such as salmon, trout, mackerel or herring. Oily fish helps your baby’s nervous system to develop. However, you should not eat more than 2 portions of oily fish a week as they may contain pollutants that can harm your baby.
You should also limit how much tuna you eat because it has more mercury in it than other fish. If you eat too much mercury, it can be harmful to your unborn baby.
It is safest to avoid alcohol completely during pregnancy. Alcohol can harm you and your baby. Cooking with alcohol, such as red wine in bolognese sauce, is safe as the cooking process removes the alcohol.
Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can affect the way your baby develops and their long-term health. Drinking heavily during pregnancy can result in your baby developing a fetal alcohol syndrome condition (FAS).
It is best to limit your caffeine intake as much as possible during pregnancy, as high levels have been linked to pregnancy complications.
Caffeine is found in foods and drinks such as:
- tea and coffee
- cola and other energy drinks
It is recommended to reduce your caffeine intake as much as possible below 200mg a day while pregnant. You can work out how much caffeine you have each day with this caffeine calculator.
What if I have already eaten or drunk something risky?
If you have already eaten or drunk something that you are advised to avoid, try not to panic. If it did not make you ill at the time, it is unlikely to have affected you or your baby. Talk to your doctor or midwife if you are worried.
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