Trying to conceive? Foods you should avoid

Preparing the body for conception and pregnancy is an important time in a woman's life. From eating healthily to addressing weight issues, there are lots of factors to consider in giving your baby-to-be the best chances of being born healthy. Knowing which foods to avoid is also an important factor when making dietary changes. This article explains the foods and drinks to avoid and limit when trying to conceive.

Liver and supplements containing vitamin A

Avoid liver and liver-containing products, e.g. patés and liver sausage, because they are very high in the retinol form of vitamin A. High levels vitamin A may be harmful for a developing baby, and since your body stores this vitamin, it's best to avoid it whilst trying to conceive.

Vitamin A is also found in milk, cheese, oily fish, fruits and vegetables, but these are fine to eat because they contain carotenoids, a different form of vitamin A safe for pre-conception and pregnancy (and safe levels of retinol). You should avoid taking nutritional supplements containing vitamin A, such as standard multivitamin tablets or cod liver oil. If you want to take a supplement in addition to vitamin D supplements, choose a pre-conception or pregnancy multivitamin tablet; these don't contain vitamin A.

Raw and undercooked meats, fish and eggs

Choose well-cooked meats and fish during pre-conception, and avoid raw / cured meat or fish, e.g. parma ham, sushi and smoked salmon. Eggs should be well-cooked, which means no more dippy eggs or runny yolks! Steer clear of products made with raw eggs, such as homemade mayonnaise, homemade icecream and mousses. Avoiding these foods in pre-conception is important because they may contain harmful bacteria, e.g. listeria, salmonella and E.coli, which could be dangerous for the tiny new embryo at conception.

Unpasteurised milk and soft cheeses

Avoid unpasteurised milk, cheese and yoghurts, as they could carry dangerous infections, and threaten the chance of new life beginning. Also avoid soft and mould-ripened cheeses, e.g. ricotta, brie, camembert and blue veined cheeses. Hard cheeses, e.g. cheddar and edam are fine providing they're pasteurised (check the label if worried).

Swordfish, shark and marlin

If you like your seafood, it's best to avoid swordfish, shark and marlin. These fish contain potentially high levels of mercury, which are unsafe for a developing baby's nervous system. Because a baby's nervous system starts developing around week 3 of pregnancy, (before you even know you're pregnant), it's best to avoid these.


It's best to avoid all alcohol whilst trying to conceive, especially if you're having difficulty conceiving. A study in 1998 found that fertility was decreased even among women who drank five or less alcoholic drinks a week. The Department of Health recommends that if women choose to drink alcohol, limit it to 1-2 units once or twice a week.

Foods and drinks to limit when trying to conceive

You might also like:

Factors affecting female fertility

Smoking and female fertility

The impact of obesity on female fertility

Diet for a healthy conception


Your New Pregnancy Bible

The experts' guide to pregnancy and early parenthood - by Dr Anne Deans


Your guide to second trimester nutrition

Your guide to third trimester nutrition

Bulimia, fertility and pregnancy

Caffeine in pregnancy: How much is too much?

“Pass the sick bag”: Eating your way through Hyperemesis Gravidarum

The role of probiotics in breastfeeding

Digestive problems during pregnancy

Calcium during pregnancy – what you need to know

Your guide to first trimester nutrition

Trying to Conceive? Foods you should avoid

The information provided on this site is not meant to substitute for the advice of a qualified medical professional. neither assumes any legal liability nor makes any warranty or guarantee, either expressed or implied, regarding the completeness, accuracy, usefulness, or currency of this information. It is the responsibility of the reader to check for updates to the information contained on this site.