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Pregnancy health centre

What to avoid when pregnant

Which foods and activities should you avoid when you're pregnant?
WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

You're pregnant and you want to do everything in your power to protect your unborn child, but it's pretty confusing.

We're bombarded with new messages all the time and there seems to be conflicting advice about potential dangers.

We've spoken to the experts about the real toxins to avoid when you're having a baby.

Avoiding smoking when pregnant

Most of us by now know that quitting smoking during pregnancy - or ideally before becoming pregnant - is a no-brainer, but it can be hard to stop.

Cigarettes and secondhand smoke restrict the oxygen supply to your baby, so their heart has to beat harder every time you smoke.

The NHS says if you give up you are more likely to have a healthier baby and your baby is less likely to be born premature and underweight.

Dr Virginia Beckett, a consultant in obstetrics and gynaecology says: "We know from good evidence that smoking is associated with poor outcomes and there's a lot of support to encourage you to stop smoking. It is safe to use nicotine patches under the guidance of your doctor."

"Everybody is aware of the anti-smoking message but if you'd don't want to hear it, you don't," according to Gail Johnson midwife teacher and spokesperson for the Royal College of Midwives.

Avoiding alcohol when pregnant

The UK's chief medical officers say there is no safe amount of alcohol that women can drink during pregnancy.

Drinking during pregnancy has been associated with miscarriage, low birth weight, heart defects, and learning and behavioural disorders.

Foods to avoid when pregnant

It's best to steer clear of some foods when you are pregnant in case they make you ill or harm your child.

Avoid mould ripened soft cheeses such as brie and soft blue-veined cheeses such as gorgonzola, raw or partially cooked eggs, raw or undercooked meat, pate, liver and raw shellfish.

Dr Beckett, who's a spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists says: "Pregnant women need to avoid infections like salmonella, listeria and toxoplasmosis."

She adds: "Toxins like mercury should be avoided." The NHS says shark, swordfish and marlin, which contain high levels of mercury should not be eaten during pregnancy and the amount of tuna eaten should be limited.

"Try to use the time when you are pregnant to have a rethink of your foods, choose good healthy options and be aware of food hygiene. You probably shouldn't have a kebab from a van at midnight!"

Caffeine should be avoided or taken in moderation. Gail warns that a huge coffee from a high street chain is likely to contain more caffeine than the one you make yourself at home. The NHS recommends limiting caffeine consumption whilst pregnant to no more than 200mg of caffeine a day, the equivalent of two mugs of instant coffee.

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