11 Foods and Beverages to Avoid During Pregnancy

3. Undercooked, Raw and Processed Meat

Eating undercooked or raw meat increases the risk of infection from several bacteria or parasites.

These include Toxoplasma, E. coli, Listeria and Salmonella (10, 11, 12, 13).

Bacteria may threaten the health of the unborn baby, possibly leading to stillbirth or severe neurological illnesses, including mental retardation, blindness and epilepsy (14).

While most bacteria are found on the surface of whole pieces of meat, other bacteria may linger inside the muscle fibers.

Some whole cuts of meat — such as tenderloins, sirloins or ribeye from beef, lamb and veal — may be safe to consume when not cooked all the way through.

However, this is only as long as the piece of meat is whole or uncut, and completely cooked on the outside. Cut meat, including meat patties, burgers, minced meat, pork and poultry, should never be consumed raw or undercooked.

Hot dogs, lunch meat and deli meat are also of concern. These types of meat may become infected with various bacteria during processing or storage.

Pregnant women should not consume processed meat products unless they’ve been reheated until steaming hot.

Bottom Line: Raw or undercooked meat may contain harmful bacteria. As a general rule, meat should be cooked all the way through.

Raw Eggs

Two Eggs, Broken and Whole

Raw eggs can be contaminated with Salmonella.

Symptoms of Salmonella infections are usually experienced only by the mother.

They include fever, nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps and diarrhea (15, 16).

However, in rare cases, the infection may cause cramps in the uterus, leading to premature birth or stillbirth (17).

Foods that commonly contain raw eggs include:

  • Lightly scrambled eggs.
  • Poached eggs.
  • Hollandaise sauce.
  • Homemade mayonnaise.
  • Salad dressings.
  • Homemade ice cream.
  • Cake icings.

Most commercial products that contain raw eggs are made with pasteurized eggs, and are safe to consume. However, you should always read the label to make sure.

Pregnant women should always cook eggs thoroughly, or used pasteurized eggs.

Bottom Line: Raw eggs may be contaminated with Salmonella, which can lead to sickness and an increased risk of premature birth or stillbirth. Pasteurized eggs can be used instead.

Organ Meat

Plate With Cooked Liver

Organ meat is a great source of several nutrients.

These include iron, vitamin B12, vitamin A and copper, all of which are good for an expectant mother and her child.

However, eating too much animal-based vitamin A (preformed vitamin A) is not recommended during pregnancy.

It may cause vitamin A toxicity, as well as abnormally high copper levels, which can result in birth defects and liver toxicity (18, 19, 20).

Therefore, pregnant women should not eat organ meat more often than once a week.

Bottom Line: Organ meat is a great source of iron, vitamin B12, vitamin A and copper. To prevent vitamin A and copper toxicity, pregnant women are advised to limit their intake of organ meat.