Skip to main content

Trying to get pregnant? Avoid these four foods, say experts

Many of us know as soon as you see that little pink plus on your pregnancy test, you should adjust your diet to keep your growing fetus and yourself healthy. If you are actively trying to conceive, you can make changes to your diet to maximize your health, too.

While there are many things you can include in your diet, like extra folic acid and increased fruits and vegetables, health providers also include some foods to avoid while trying to get pregnant.

Don’t panic if you’ve been eating these foods while trying to conceive and speak with your medical provider about what you can do to stay healthy.

Pregnant person holding an apple.

What foods should you avoid while trying to conceive?

In moderation, nearly all foods are safe while trying to conceive. Understanding daily recommended amounts for the different food groups can be helpful in determining what moderation looks like.

Our diet can cause interactions within our bodies. There are several foods to be cautious of while trying to conceive. According to Kendra Tolbert, R.D., the following four foods are among the top food offenders.

1. Listeria-containing foods

Listeria is a germ that can cause serious illness in people who eat contaminated foods. The CDC states that pregnant people are more likely to develop complications like a listeria infection, and this can put women at an increased risk of having a miscarriage.

Foods that are susceptible to containing listeria include deli meats and unpasteurized soft cheeses (like gorgonzola and brie). You should also keep an eye on the news to see if there are any listeria outbreaks in certain foods. Recent outbreaks have included packaged salads.

2. High-mercury seafood

Fish and other seafood have wonderful health benefits and include many beneficial vitamins, including omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B2 and D, and minerals like iron, magnesium, zinc, and potassium. Many kinds of seafood contain calcium as well.

However, some fish contains high levels of mercury. Fish like swordfish and tuna can contain high levels of mercury. That mercury can build up in the body. Tolbert explains that exposure to high levels of mercury can directly harm a fetus, while other studies suggest mercury may increase a woman’s infertility.

3. Trans fats

Many fried foods and foods that are made with shortening contain trans fats. According to Tolbert, trans fats can create inflammation and cause insulin resistance. This can cause decreased fertility. Tolbert recommends that both women and men avoid trans fats while trying to conceive because both can be at risk of experiencing fertility issues.

4. Alcohol

We all know to avoid alcohol while pregnant, but recently the CDC issued a statement recommending that women who are thinking about trying for a baby or are simply not practicing safe sex, should give up alcohol.

Although the message was met with mixed reactions, newer research suggests excessive alcohol consumption can make it more challenging for women to get pregnant. The study examines both men and women and the effect alcohol can have on reproductive health.

Pregnant woman eating
gpointstudio / Shutterstock

What foods stop you from getting pregnant?

Researchers are still studying the connections between diet and fertility. These studies are starting to show growing evidence that suggests consuming too much of specific foods might decrease your chances of becoming pregnant.

Some health professionals suggest those trying to conceive may increase their chances of getting pregnant if they avoid the following:

Sugar

Sugar, especially processed sugar, has been associated with lower fertility outcomes. Surprisingly, poorer fertility results can show up in both men and women. Although scientists are still studying the connection, women trying to conceive, and their partners, can make an effort to reduce their sugar intakes.

When you think of sugar, your mind may jump straight to the usual culprits — candy, baked treats, and sodas. But did you know you can find added sugar in a variety of unexpected foods? Even many popular bacon brands have added sugar. If you are trying cut down on your sugar intake, make sure you are reading labels for sneaky sugar.

Groceries that can be high in added sugar include:

  • tomato sauces
  • salad dressings and condiments (ketchup, BBQ sauce, etc.)
  • white bread
  • flavored yogurts

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends 24 grams, or about six teaspoons, of sugar a day for women. To put that into perspective, several popular flavored yogurt brands contain between 19 and 34 grams of sugar per serving size.

Saturated Fats

Like sugar, researchers are beginning to make connections between lower fertility outcomes and saturated fats. Occurring naturally in several foods, saturated fats may affect your cholesterol levels. According to the AHA, many meat and dairy sources contain saturated fats. Other sources include coconut oil and palm oil.

How much saturated fat you should consume in your diet depends on your caloric intake. The AHA recommends keeping your saturated fats at about 5 to 6% of your total daily calories. For example, most people who eat 2,000 calories a day should have about 13 grams of saturated fat a day.

Foods high in saturated fats include:

  • beef
  • pork
  • coconut
  • butter
  • cheese

Understanding the nutritional content of the foods you consume is key. Although most everything is fine in moderation while you’re trying to conceive, if you are struggling to get pregnant, it could be time to look at your diet.

Editors' Recommendations

Whitney Sandoval
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Whitney Sandoval is a freelance writer and educator living in the Midwest. She writes about parenting, accessibility, and…
We love these creative maternity photoshoot ideas
Maternity shots that will stand out more than your belly
A couple with their hands over pregnant belly.

When someone shows you their maternity pictures, you'll probably look at the same types of poses over and over again. So, when it's your turn to capture that belly on film, you want to make sure your pictures don't look like everyone else's. If you can't think of how to snap pictures of your growing bump, give one of these different themes a try. Capture the magic with inspiration from any of these maternity photoshoot ideas.
The more, the merrier
Here are some ideas that involve more than Mom.

Invite everyone in the shot
Do you have furry, four-legged children? Include them. Do you have older children? Make sure they get in there. Have a partner? Maybe get one or two with them, as well. Yes, the focus is on the pregnant person, but that doesn't mean you can't get a few shots with those you love the most.
Take this one further
Let's get even more into this idea. If you have multiple generations of females alive and well, try getting a photo of them all together.
Take things outside
Consider these ideas that include the outdoors.

Read more
What is nesting? Everything you need to know about this totally normal behavior
From feathery moms to human moms, nesting is a part of preparing for having a baby
Pregnant woman planning for baby.

From strange food cravings to constant body changes to not being able to tie your shoes, pregnancy brings about quite a few interesting shifts in life. One part of pregnancy that might seem to come out of nowhere is a fun stage called "nesting." If a vision of a bird prepping a nest for their little ones comes to mind, you are on the right track. It is along the same lines, but for people. Here's what nesting means when it doesn't relate to furry or feathery animals.

Nesting basics
What nesting is
From squirrels to cats, moms-to-be of various species have the need to create a space for their little one's arrival. Nesting is the urge to organize, clean, and prep the home for baby. It's that second wind feeling mom feels to get everything ready. And to double-check everything is ready. And maybe triple-check.
When nesting starts
A woman might feel the urge to start nesting toward the end of pregnancy or the third trimester, but it could hit in the fourth trimester. The feeling could come a few weeks before the baby's due date or as late as the week before. Every pregnancy is different, so the exact week varies, but if you are past the second trimester, the urge to redo the house isn't too far away.
Why nesting happens
The surge of adrenaline, hormones, and estrogen during the third trimester gives pregnant women a burst of energy to get things done. There's also the evolutionary factor where a mother is getting ready to protect their young.

Read more
Can you get a manicure while pregnant? These are the factors to consider
Find out if you have to give up your nail appointments during pregnancy
Getting a manicure

Getting a regular manicure is something many people do but can you still keep your regular manicure appointment while pregnant? Pregnancy has you constantly questioning whether it's safe to do the things you did before you were pregnant, like not drinking alcohol and smoking. While these things are common knowledge, many don't know that pregnant women are warned against other things like eating sushi, scooping the litter box, and soaking in a hot tub. The list of things pregnant women can't do is seemingly endless, therefore it makes sense to wonder if you can get your nails done while pregnant.

Thankfully, you really shouldn't have to give up your regular mani and pedi appointment, because getting your nails done is mostly safe during pregnancy, although there are still some safety factors and precautions to keep in mind. Just because this is another area that requires a little research doesn't mean you can't enjoy it, so read up and then get that mani you've been craving.

Read more