Can You Eat Olives When Pregnant?

Written by a Qualified Midwife

Essentially the answer is YES! But there are some risks so let’s take a look into them.

Interestingly enough, I have never been asked whether the consumption of olives during pregnancy is safe but I had definitely been keen to find out the answer.

Health Benefits of Olives During Pregnancy

When doing my research, I discovered that olives have many health benefits. They are known to be rich in antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory effects. This is great for pregnant women as the use of ibuprofen (an anti-inflammatory pain killer) is not advised during pregnancy.

Olives also contain oleic acid which is known to reduce the risk of heart disease, helps to regulate cholesterol and can help to keep blood pressure stable. Oleic acid is a healthy fat that is found in many foods such as avocados and nuts, other benefits of which are skin repair and bone growth.

Top Tips For Safely Consuming Olives Whilst Pregnant: 

  1. Avoid olives bought from a delicatessant. The main reason for this is that these foods may come into contact with other raw or unpasteurised foods. These types of food are to be avoided during pregnancy to reduce the risk of contracting listeria.
  2. Avoid olives that are stuffed with foods that are discouraged during pregnancy. Be mindful of this when choosing your olives.
  3. Avoid olives that have been sat out of their container/fridge for a while or are part of a buffet meal.
  4. Avoid olives that aren’t heat treated. This is pretty much the same rule for all foods that are consumed throughout pregnancy. An effective way to ensure olives are safe is by eating them straight from a sealed container.
  5. Stick to salt intake guidelines when pregnant. There are roughly 0.6grams of salt for every 5 olives and so I recommend always checking the labels on the foods you consume to ensure you are sticking to guidelines. The NHS recommends a salt intake of no more than 6g a day for adults and so my advice is to enjoy whilst being mindful of the amount you are consuming. If you are wanting to make your olives less salty you can always rinse off the salt water brine or soak them in fresh water before consuming.
  6. You are also safe to eat olive tapenade and cooking olives thoroughly is also a good way to ensure food safety.

If you have recently eaten olives you think may not have been safe, do not worry:

Your risk of becoming ill or contracting listeria from olives is very low.  If you are at all concerned- these are the symptoms that you should keep an eye out for:

  • Feeling generally unwell
  • Fever/chills
  • Muscle aches
  • Upset stomach – vomiting or diarrhoea

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms please call the hospital you are booked with or your obstetrician for advice. Chances are, your healthcare provider will want you to visit the hospital and get you checked out.

And like always, if you have concerns regarding your baby’s movements (post 20 weeks of pregnancy) please call your healthcare professional and arrange a monitoring ASAP.

Other Foods to Avoid During Your Pregnancy: 

General food preparation is an important step in keeping you well.  Keep your hands and surfaces clean and wash all your foods throroughly, especially fruit and vegetables. Always make sure your food is well cooked to ensure any bugs have been killed off with the heat.

Avoid these foods when pregnant:

1. Foods that are made with unpasteurised milk to avoid listeriosis. Such foods consist of:

  • Mould ripended cheeses and soft blue cheeses
  • Unpasteurized milk/cream/yogurt

2. Cold cured meats and raw/under cooked meats to avoid toxoplasmosis:

  • Liver or liver products
  • All kinds of pate
  • Prosciutto/pancetta

3. Goose, partridge/pheasant to avoid the risk of lead poisoning

4. Eggs that aren’t British Lion eggs – eggs that are raw or partially cooked can increase your risk of catching salmonella

5. Raw/smoked fish to avoid parasites/bacteria. Specifics to note:

  • No more than 2 servings of oily fish a week
  • Keep a limit on your tuna consumption (4 tins or 2 tuna steaks a week at most)
  • Avoid sushi with raw fish/ sashimi
  • Avoid swordfish/marlin and shark due to the mercury levels

6. Liquorice root due to the high levels of glycyrrhizin which has been linked to fetal developmental issues

7. Consume no more than 200mg of caffeine a day (Tommy’s website has a great caffeine calculator to help you understand how much caffeine is too much)

8. No more than 4 cups of herbal tea a day (raspberry leaf tea from 32 weeks only)  

9. No high dose vitamins or vitamins that include vitamin A. I would stick to pregnancy approved vitamins and always check with your midwife/doctor before taking any.

10. Avoid alcohol, completely. If you require help with this (or quitting smoking) please contact your midwife or GP and they will be able to support you to get help in stopping.

Safe and happy eating,

Lucy x


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