Do you stick to pregnancy guidelines?

The guidelines about what you can and can’t eat, drink and do during pregnancy seem to make U-turns on a daily basis. But do you take note, or has it all got too confusing?


“I do it in moderation”

“I do find it hard – and this is my third child! I avoid liver and raw eggs, but where tea and coffee are concerned I just do things in moderation. The same goes for wine – I don’t drink a lot, or heavily. I know most pregnant women avoid all alcohol and I do too, most of the time, but I don’t deprive myself of one glass at a special occasion.”
Lindsey Rycroft, 26, from Liverpool, 20 weeks pregnant and mum to Isabelle, 4, and Ayesha, 20 months


“Mums are missing out”

“I often come across women who are depriving themselves of foods that are safe and very good for them – cheese is a common example. And lots of mums-to-be are cutting out their regular tea and coffee completely. That’s fine, but unless you’re replacing them with something else there’s the danger you won’t be getting enough fluid– urinary tract infections are more common in pregnancy, and not drinking enough can compound this. News stories prompt me to check our guidelines, but some headlines just confuse and scare pregnant women. On the plus side, all the publicity shows that these days there’s a lot more input by the government into making the start of life the best it can be.”

Alison Brown, Lincoln midwife

“I agonised for nothing”

“I followed the Government’s guidelines to the letter, but often went overboard. I once agonised for ages over whether a shop-bought mousse I’d eaten would give me salmonella or my baby toxoplasmosis before realising that (like most shop-bought things) it was made with pasteurised egg.”

Kerry Hunter, 26, from Dorset, mum to Ruby, 5 months

“A little generally does no harm”

“It’s important for mums and mums-to-be to know that with some guidelines, the odd lapse is very unlikely to cause any harm. With vitamin A in liver, for example, you would have to eat enormous quantities to cause harm to your baby. And with alcohol, having one or two units of wine a week hasn’t been shown to cause any ill effects. But binge drinking, particularly repeatedly, or a constant intake of alcohol can cause Foetal Alcohol Syndrome. With regard to cheeses, undercooked meat and salads, however, it’s not a question of excess but rather the chance of contracting infection. Listeria is very rare, although toxoplasmosis is less rare and can have devastating effects on the foetus, which is why you should be careful to wash salads well, not handle cat litter and avoid undercooked meat.”
Peter Bowen-Simkins, spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians
and Gynaecologists

“The media can twist good advice”

“A single piece of evidence from one study can be published in the press in lots of different ways, which makes it confusing. So follow advice from trusted sources, such as the Food Standards Agency’s website  (, the Department of Health or NHS Direct. By making sure you’re informed you can take away some of the worry.”

Sam Montell, nutritionist at the Food Standards Agency


“It’s all too much to remember”

“I read the official advice, but realised that if I wanted to stick to it exactly I’d need to keep the guidelines in my handbag. Then a couple of guidelines changed, and I got even more confused. So I tried to memorise the most important. Still, there was one time when I know I ate a couple of mouthfuls of Camembert before I remembered it was supposed to be off limits. Whatever – I’m glad to say, my baby was born healthy!”
Karin Leonard, 27, from Brighton

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