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What Foods Should I Avoid During Pregnancy?

Last updated Sept. 26, 2018

It is common knowledge that there are certain foods that should not be consumed during pregnancy. Developing an understanding about what foods should be avoided during pregnancy helps an individual in making the healthiest choices for both the pregnant woman and the unborn child.


A mother-to-be requires good nutritional support for her baby and herself. This is the reason why sliced fruit is added to fortified breakfast cereal, salad is topped with chickpeas, and almonds are used as snacks. But, it is common knowledge that there are certain foods that should not be consumed during pregnancy. Developing an understanding about what foods should be avoided during pregnancy helps an individual in making the healthiest choices for both the pregnant woman and the unborn child.

The foods that should be avoided during pregnancy include:

Shellfish and other fish:

Seafood is a good source of protein. The omega-3 fatty acids present in fish can aid in the development of a baby`s brain and eye. However, there are certain kinds of fish and shellfish that contain potentially unsafe levels of mercury. Too much mercury can harm the developing nervous system of the fetus. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) encourage pregnant ladies to avoid swordfish, shark, king mackerel and tilefish.

Energy drinks:

Energy drinks are not recommended for pregnant women, as the artificial sweeteners and caffeine contained in them are harmful for both mother and baby, along with other ingredients that are present in them. 

Avoid alcohol:

Pregnant women must avoid alcohol as the intake of alcohol has proved to be harmful to the developing child, as it grows in the womb. Consuming excess alcohol during pregnancy may also result in life-long health issues and birth defects in the newborns. 

Consumption of caffeine:

Pregnant women should limit their caffeine intake, though it does not necessarily mean that drinking coffee has to be abandoned. In 2008, a study was conducted on the effects of caffeine on miscarriage. The study released by the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that women who consumed 200 mg or more of caffeine per day, were more prone to miscarriage, as compared to those who did not consume any caffeine. The March of Dimes states that a pregnant woman should limit her intake of caffeine to less than 200 mg a day. This amount is equivalent to consuming one 12 oz cup of coffee each day.

Liver and liver products:

Consumption of liver or liver products, like liver pate or liver sausage, as these products contains high vitamin A levels, which should be avoided. Too much vitamin A is not good for the fetus and may cause harm.

Some types of cheese and sausages:

The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that development of food-borne illness like listeria during pregnancy can cause miscarriage, premature delivery, and even fetal death. Chances of falling prey to listeria can be decreased by taking precautionary measures while consuming hot dogs, luncheon meats, fermented or dry sausages, such that these food items are heated to an internal temperature of 165 degree F or steamed, just before serving. Avoid consuming soft cheese unless it has a label that says “made with pasteurized milk”.

Stay clean and avoid food poisoning:

Always wash your hands after you have handled raw meat, and do not forget to keep segregated the raw foods from ready-to-eat foods in the kitchen. This can help prevent food poisoning germs, such as campylobacter, salmonella, and E. coli 0157, from coming into contact with the prepared foods.

It is always not just about eating right while you are pregnant, but practicing certain good habits is also equally important. Keeping your body weight in control is essential as gaining too much weight can affect your health and increase blood pressure. This can put both you and your developing child at risk.

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Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: Sept. 26, 2018
Last updated: Sept. 26, 2018