Aside from steering away from smoking or drinking while pregnant, expectant mothers are also encouraged to avoid certain foods. According to, pregnancy takes a toll on the mother’s immune system, making her and her unborn child more vulnerable to foodborne bacteria, viruses, and parasites like Listeria, Salmonella, and Toxoplasma. Consuming foods that are raw or have a high risk of containing these microbes could lead to health issues.

“Harmful foodborne microorganisms or some metals in food can cross the placenta and cause harm to the developing fetus,” the Food and Drug Administration states on its website. “As a result, the infected fetus or newborn can experience a wide range of health problems — or even death.” However, making sure to stay hydrated and potentially taking antibiotics prescribed by a doctor could help fight the infection, and “preventing foodborne illness is really quite easy,” the FDA adds.

The infographic below lists the main foods women should avoid when they're pregnant. Soft cheeses made from unpasteurized milk, for example, shouldn’t be eaten due to the risk of E. coli or Listeria. But if you can't bear to part with dairy, hard cheeses, like cheddar or Swiss, get the green light.

Some of the more common sense foods on the list include raw cookie dough or cake batter, as they might contain Salmonella, as well as raw or undercooked fish like sushi. Unpasteurized milk and juice may also contain bacteria, so stick to the pasteurized stuff. Interestingly, it’s also important to steer clear of store-bought salads that that contain chicken or seafood, as they might also have been contaminated with Listeria. Even without meat some packaged salads are questionable.

It's not all bad news. The infographic lists foods women can enjoy, as long as they exercise a little caution. Getting in the habit of checking a food's ingredients and, if it's something like meat, cooking and storing it properly can be perfectly healthy. As for fish, while certain types of fish may contain high levels of mercury that can be harmful to the baby, research has shown that eating low-mercury fish like anchovies, butterfish, clam, crab, salmon, shrimp, and tilapia (among others) is safe and actually beneficial to both mother and child. Eating fatty fish while pregnant, in fact, has been shown in a recent study to provide long-term benefits for a child’s brain health. And that's a good rule of thumb whether women are pregnant or not.

So while pregnancy calls for safety and caution when it comes to certain foods, there are some things they don't have to cut out at all. Check the list, talk to your doctor, and make sure you’re preparing your meals properly.

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