Things to Avoid When Pregnant Around the World: It's Not What You Think!

Updated: July 11, 2019
The foods pregnant women are told to avoid when pregnant varies across the world and cultures. Read what foods women avoid eating when pregnant and why!
Foods to Avoid When Pregnant
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Most pregnant women learn from their doctors or midwives the things to avoid when pregnant and what is and isn't OK to eat or drink. But, we all know that unscientific myths persist in every country and culture, and it can be hard to dispel such ideas. While we're well aware to avoid alcohol, drugs, and sushi, what else is discouraged for pregnant women around the world?

The BBC conducted a survey of things to avoid in various cultures. While most women defer to their doctors, what their mom or mother-in-law says has a lot of weight. Here's a roundup of things to avoid when pregnant from around the world:

Pouring Milk

  • In the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, many pregnant women are told that foods like papaya and pumpkin are too "hot" for the baby. Meanwhile in parts of the state of Gujarat, white foods including milk, yogurt, and bananas are routinely avoided because they're too "cold."
    Fresh Cherry Tomatoes
  • In Mexico, mostly among some indigenous cultures, there's a similar concept of foods being deemed too "hot" or too "cold" for a growing baby. Women are warned against eating foods like tomatoes, eggs, and avocados or else their temperature might affect the pregnancy.
  • In parts of Tanzania, women try to avoid eating meat for fear that their baby might take on characteristics of the animal they are consuming.
  • Women in rural Nigeria similarly believe that eating snails while pregnant will make their babies slow and sluggish.
  • Another common belief, not just in Tanzania but across several African nations, is that women should avoid eggs. The belief is that eating eggs while pregnant can cause future sterility.
  • According to the BBC report, many African and Asian communities share the belief that breastfeeding should be delayed for several days after birth and that colostrum, a mother's first milk and considered a perfect first food for baby by Le Leche League International, should not be fed to newborn babies.
    Red Grapes
  • In certain areas of China, women are told that eating raw fruit or crab meat could cause stillbirth.
  • Some moms in England believe that eating lamb while pregnant can cause epileptic seizures.
  • In Alaska, there's a belief that eating bear meat can cause miscarriages.
    Close Up of Chili Peppers
  • Women in Japan are told to avoid spicy food because otherwise their baby will have a short temper.
  • Italian women are often fearful of listeria from fresh fruit to the point they avoid it altogether.

It goes without saying, but the cultures we grow up in can teach us a lot of things (true or not), and these kinds of cultural myths are very pervasive. Myths about women's bodies especially seem to get around, as education about women's health is often ignored in sex ed and anatomy programs everywhere. What are some pregnancy myths you've been taught by a relative or by media?

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About the author
Laura Richards

Laura Richards is a writer, journalist, communications, brand, and PR specialist with 20+ years of experience. She’s also a mother of four so understands the joys and struggles of parenting.