What Can't I Eat When Pregnant?


The moment you see those two lines on the pregnancy test, your mind whirls with a million questions. As the news sinks in you start to process what you can't and can't do, how best to nurture and support this precious little life you're carrying.

The topic of what you can – or more importantly can't – eat during pregnancy is an ever changing one and the minefield of information can be really confusing. Even from your first pregnancy to your second one the guidance can change, so it's really important to do your research for each pregnancy so that you know you're up to date.

Based on current guidance (November '16), we've compiled a list of the food that you should avoid when pregnant and why.

Eggs

Pregnant women have historically been advised to avoid runny, undercooked and raw eggs due to a risk of salmonella poisoning. However in January 2016 the UK Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food reviewed this guidance and found that due to improved hygiene regulations of British Lion stamped eggs, the risk is vastly reduced. They now say that pregnant women are safe to eat runny, uncooked or raw (such as in mayonnaise) as long as the eggs are British Lion stamped eggs, and you follow proper storage and 'best before' guidelines.

Cheese

This is another slightly complicated one because there are some that you would think you'd have to avoid but can eat and some that you'd think are safe but should be avoided.

According to NHS guidelines, you should avoid soft blue-veined cheeses such as gorgonzola and roquefort because “The advice to avoid some soft cheeses is because they are less acidic than hard cheeses and contain more moisture, which means they can be an ideal environment for harmful bacteria, such as listeria, to grow in.” (http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/foods-to-avoid-pregnant.aspx)

Listeria, although rare, if contracted during pregnancy could cause serious illness for your baby and even miscarriage.

You should also avoid mould-ripened soft cheeses such as brie and camembert unless they are cooked. All hard cheeses are safe to eat because they contain less water so are less likely to allow for bacteria growth, this includes Stilton and hard cheese made from unpasteurised milk.

Pate and Liver

Pate and liver should be avoided completely because of high levels of vitamin A, which can harm your baby.

Raw, Undercooked or Cold Cured Meats

Raw or undercooked meat, including steaks, or cold cured meats such as salami, Parma ham and chorizo can parasites that cause toxoplasmosis. Toxoplasmosis can cause harm to your unborn baby so if you want to eat a steak or cured meat, then ensure that it is fully cooked through.

Caffeine

Too much caffeine could result in low birth weight or other complications, so the medically advised limit is 200mg of caffeine per day which is good news if the thought of going without your morning cuppa fills you with dread!

According to Baby Centre UK's medical advisory board, “Drinking two mugs of tea, two mugs of instant coffee or one mug of filter coffee a day will keep you within the recommended daily limit of 200mg.” (http://www.babycentre.co.uk/a3955/caffeine-and-pregnancy-whats-safe#ixzz4QMorEpc4) and it's also important to remember that chocolate and many soft drinks contain caffeine too, so need to be taken into account.

Alcohol

With uncertainty about how much – if any – alcohol may be considered safe during pregnancy, the advice is to avoid it altogether. Alcohol passes to your baby's liver via your blood travelling through the placenta and as their liver is one of the last organs to develop your baby cannot process it. The results of drinking alcohol in pregnant could be miscarriage, low birth weight, premature birth and a higher risk of your baby having developmental and learning difficulties.

It can seem daunting to have this on top of all the other information you are trying to take on board throughout your pregnancy, so if you're in any doubt at all then you should always consult with your midwife to get the most up to date medical advice.

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