What Shouldn’t You Eat When Pregnant?


No raw egg yolks, no unpasteurised cheese, no sushi etc etc. Are women everywhere given restrictive diets? Basically the answer is yes but what is restricted varies hugely. In parts of Thailand papaya salad, pickled food, spicy hot food, coffee, tea and shellfish are all to be avoided. In parts of Madagascar peanuts, bananas and milk are taboo. Masaii women have traditionally followed a near starvation diet for the last months of pregnancy with very little meat intake and induced vomiting. The intention is to reduce the size of the baby and allow for a safer birth. Unfortunately, as you can imagine, the neonatal mortality rate is particularly high.

Amongst the Huoarani in Ecuador, pregnant mothers don’t eat fish or most types of meat towards the end of their pregnancy too but what is really interesting is that expectant dads don’t either. Expectant couples see themselves as ‘one flesh’ so it’s vital that fathers participate to ensure their child’s good health. Laura Rival writes about how she observed one occasion when a pregnant mother was prescribed vitamins by a visiting doctor and she shared these with her partner too. It’s interesting to see how both parents are encouraged to take care of themselves, not just the mother, and that the father’s body is part of pregnancy too.

I really wanted to eat poached eggs so took the salmonella risk seeing as it seemed extremely unlikely and also drank small amounts of alcohol as the NHS at the time said that was permitted and did the same with my second even though they’d changed their advice by then. I would think that most mothers don’t always stick to all the rules however, it’s well documented that French women do avoid unpasteurised cheese even if Japanese women do eat sushi, so I would err on the side of caution and follow NHS guidelines as much as possible.

Laura Rival article on the Huoarani

Madagascar Health research (not anthropology)

Madagascar pregnancy and gender article – Rita Astuti

Fun article in the Guardian with loads of anecdotal stories in the comments

5 thoughts on “What Shouldn’t You Eat When Pregnant?

  1. I wouldn’t want to risk my baby’s life, so I’ll also follow the guidelines my doctors give me.
    Rather safe than sorry…


    1. I totally hear you but sometimes women are made to feel pretty needlessly restricted so it’s good to get a wide range of info. In the US sushi is a total no no but here in the UK it’s now considered safe by the NHS. They can’t both be right! So you have to use your judgement sometimes too.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Agreed… Who’s actually right then?
        My friend’s doctor told her she can eat sushi here (South Africa) as well. And mine is saying NO WAYS… I think you’re right in that sense. Just use your judgement and make sure you get your food from good sources, I suppose…

        But on that same note, 7 more months of no sushi is not that big a sacrifice to make for me 😉

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Now that is a new one to me! I know doctors here until very recently and sometimes even now unofficially recommend drinking a small amount of Guinness!


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