Although it's important to eat a wide variety of foods to get the nutrients you and your baby need during pregnancy, there are some foods that you should avoid or limit. In pregnancy your immunity is lower so you and your unborn baby are more susceptible than usual to food-borne illnesses that affect everyone.
Bacteria such as listeria, salmonella and campylobacter and pathogens such as toxoplasma can cause food-borne illness. When you are pregnant, this can cause infection in you and your baby. In extreme cases, this can cause complications such as miscarriage, stillbirth or premature birth.
Foods to avoid during pregnancy for this reason include:
- chilled ready-to-eat foods such as those bought from a supermarket deli or restaurant buffet unless they are heated until piping hot
- prepared ready-to-eat foods such as store-bought sandwiches where you can’t be certain of product age, storage conditions or the preparer’s food-handling practices
- soft and semi-soft pasteurised cheese, eg, brie, camembert, feta, blue, mozzarella and ricotta
- raw milk (unpasteurised), raw milk cheeses and raw milk yoghurts
- cold cooked or smoked chicken
- processed meats such as ham, pâté, salami and luncheon
- prepared salads including rice or pasta salad, coleslaw, roasted vegetable and green salads
- raw or smoked seafood including sushi, smoked salmon, marinated mussels or oysters
- raw eggs, eg, in smoothies, mayonnaise or desserts like mousse
- soft serve ice cream
- cream or custard especially in pre-made cakes or pastries (unless newly opened or homemade and fresh)
- hummus and other dips containing tahini (which has been linked to both salmonella and listeria infection)
- any food prepared and stored in the fridge for more than 12 hours.
You should avoid alcohol while you are hapu/pregnant. There is no known safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Read more about pregnancy and alcohol.
Other than avoiding the foods above, you should practice the following when you are pregnant:
- wash your hands with soap and water after being around animals
- avoid handling cat litter, particularly if the cat is pregnant – if you need to handle cat litter, wear gloves
- wear gloves while gardening.
Drinks to avoid or limit include:
- drinks that contain caffeine (eg, energy drinks, cola, coffee)
- herbal teas
- fermented drinks
- sugary drinks, such as juice, flavoured fruit drinks and soft drinks.
You should limit your caffeine intake to below 200mg per day when you are pregnant. Energy drinks and energy shots have high caffeine content, so it's best if you don't drink these while pregnant.
The diagram below shows the approximate caffeine content in each drink.
Image credit: Eating and activity guidelines for New Zealand adults(external link) Ministry of Health, NZ
Some herbal teas may be harmful in pregnancy, such as aloe, buckthorn bark, chamomile, coltsfoot, comfrey, juniper berries, Labrodor tea, lobelia, pennyroyal, sassafras and senna leaves (alpine tea). You should avoid these teas if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Some fermented drinks such as kombucha, kefir or kvass can contain low levels of alcohol. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, it is best to avoid alcohol and any alcohol-containing drinks. Read more about alcohol and pregnancy.
You also need to avoid sugary drinks, because when you are pregnant high amount of hormones such as oestrogen and progesterone can make bacteria grow in your mouth, causing gum inflammation (pregnancy gingivitis). Therefore, good oral health such as brushing and flossing your teeth twice a day is also important.