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What Food Can Harm A Baby When Pregnant?

Medically reviewed by Ruben Macapinlac, MD, DPPS · Pediatrics · Philippine Pediatric Society

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Oct 07, 2022

What Food Can Harm A Baby When Pregnant?

It’s an exciting time to be pregnant, but it can also be a bit overwhelming. There are a lot of “rules and regulations” that go along with pregnancy, so it’s important to be on your toes with the dos and don’ts. For instance, did you know there are certain foods you should avoid while pregnant? Eating these foods could potentially harm your baby, leading to complications or even miscarriage. What food can harm a baby while pregnant? 

Raw Fish Or Seafood 

Raw fish, such as oysters and clams, or foods that contain raw fish, like sushi, might carry bacteria and parasites that can be dangerous to your unborn child. These organisms can lead to food poisoning or even an allergic reaction in a pregnant woman.

To avoid these risks, make sure you cook seafood thoroughly before eating it. If you love sushi rolls but worry about consuming raw fish, why not try those without raw fish, such as baked sushi?

Seafood High in Mercury

Pregnant women should not consume seafood high in mercury even if they are well-cooked. Regular consumption of high-mercury seafood can negatively affect the baby’s brain and nervous system. 

Deli Meats or Pre-Cooked Meat

Deli or luncheon meat, which you can eat straight from the can, are usually high in salt and preservatives. The nitrite preservatives in these products are associated with cancer and birth defects. Additionally, even though they are pre-cooked, they can cause salmonella, listeria, or toxoplasmosis because they can be contaminated in the manufacturing process. 

Salmonella is one of the leading causes of food poisoning, and while reports say it might only cause minimal effects during pregnancy, it’s not the same for listeria and toxoplasmosis, which can cause miscarriage. What food can kill a baby when pregnant? Deli meat is part of the list. 


Pregnant women should also stay away from undercooked or rare meat, poultry, and eggs. They can likewise cause food poisoning if not cooked properly. Hence, it’s important to know the minimum temperatures for cooking these foods safely. For example, you should cook raw eggs until both the white and yolk are solid (145°F/63°C). Eggs that contain soft or runny whites should be avoided.

Liver and Liver Products

Even when properly cooked, liver should still be avoided because they are high in vitamin A. Reports say large amounts of vitamin A can harm your baby. 

Soft Cheeses

Soft cheeses are a common culprit when it comes to listeria, a bacteria that can cause miscarriage or stillbirth. According to the CDC, soft cheeses include brie, camembert, feta, goat cheese, queso fresco (a type of Mexican cheese), ricotta cheese and blue cheese (semi-soft).

There’s no need to stop eating all cheeses once you’re pregnant—just avoid eating them raw or unpasteurized. 

Unpasteurized Milk

Pasteurization is a process where milk is heated to kill bacteria. Pregnant women should avoid drinking unpasteurized milk, such as fresh cow’s milk or goat milk, as they, too, can cause salmonellosis and/or listeria. 


Any form of Alcoholic beverage can cause Fetal Alcohol Syndrome which can lead to congenital anomalies, brain damage and growth restrictions.

Unwashed Produce

Wash fresh fruits and vegetables before serving or cooking them. It’s especially important to make sure that leafy greens, such as lettuce, are completely submerged in water while rinsing so that any sand or dirt is removed thoroughly (this also helps remove pesticides). Don’t forget about items like radishes, carrots, potatoes and apples. Just because these foods aren’t typically served raw doesn’t mean they’re not susceptible to contamination from harmful bacteria.

Key Takeaways

What food can harm a baby when pregnant? It’s important that you know what foods are safe for your unborn child. By avoiding the foods listed above, you can help ensure that the baby will grow healthy and strong. However, please remember that diet and nutrition is just one aspect of healthy pregnancy. You also have to take into account your physical activity, existing illness or allergies, and medicines.

Learn more about Baby Nutrition here


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Ruben Macapinlac, MD, DPPS

Pediatrics · Philippine Pediatric Society

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Oct 07, 2022

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