Adequate nutritional intake during pregnancy is essential for the growth of developing fetus as well as the good health of expectant mothers. Nevertheless, it is important to note that food safety is of paramount importance since biological and/or chemical contaminants can pose health risks to both mother and baby. As such, it is advisable to avoid the following types of food during pregnancy.
- Soft cheeses made from unpasteurized milk can post health hazards to both mother and fetus.
- Only safe for consumption if they are thoroughly cooked to prevent food-borne bacteria such as Listeria.
- Hard cheeses such as parmesan, stilton and cheddar are generally safe for consumption.
Cold-cured meat and undercooked meat
- Pork, sausages, burgers as well as ready-to-eat meats such as salami, pepperoni and chorizo may be contaminated by helminths such as Taenia or other parasites including Toxoplasma.
- Thorough cooking is advisable if pregnant mother wishes to consume any of these.
- It is advisable to avoid all types of Pâté including vegetable Pâté since they may be contaminated by Listeria.
- Liver Pâté may contain high levels of vitamin A which can cause birth defects.
- Although eating fish is generally beneficial to health, you should avoid eating marlin, shark and swordfish while limiting tuna consumption to no more than two 140g tuna steaks or four 140g cans of tuna per week. These fish may contain high levels of mercury which can be detrimental to health.
- Avoid consuming more than two portions of oily fish per week, such as salmon, trout and mackerel since they can contain pollutants such as dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls.
- Steer clear of raw fish if possible.
Raw or partially cooked eggs
- Eggs should be thoroughly cooked to avoid contamination by salmonella.
- Avoid unwashed raw vegetables.
- Thoroughly wash all fruits and vegetables to remove traces of soil and other contaminants.
Herbs and herbal supplements
- Avoid consuming these since there is limited evidence to establish their safety during pregnancy.
- Raw herbs may also contain contaminants such as mycotoxins that can be harmful to health.
- Always consult your doctors or pharmacists before consuming.
- High levels of caffeine may cause low birth weight, restlessness in baby as well as risk of miscarriage.
- You don’t have to avoid caffeine completely although you should limit the consumption to no more than 200 mg per day.
- Since safe levels of alcohol consumption during pregnancy have not been established, it is often advisable for expectant mothers to avoid alcohol.
- Studies have shown that high alcohol consumption is associated with risk of miscarriage, premature birth, fetal alcohol syndrome such low birth weight, facial abnormalities and affected mental development. The risk is likely to increase the more you drink.
- Taylor, M., & Galanis, E. (2010). Food safety during pregnancy. Canadian Family Physician, 56(8), 750–751.
- Your pregnancy and baby guide.
- American Pregnancy Association. Listeria: Risks, treatment and prevention during pregnancy.