Are you wondering why your prenatal care provider has asked you to avoid eating foods like soft cheeses and deli meats during your pregnancy? This piece of prenatal care advice is related to food safety. Pregnant women and their babies can be seriously affected by a bacteria called Listeria, which can cause blood infections, meningitis, and other serious and life threatening complications.
Infection with the Listeria bacterium is called Listeriosis. Listeriosis is a relatively rare illness, with about 2500 cases annually in the United States. It is very serious and it can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth, and infections and complications after the baby is born.
Fortunately, you can avoid contracting Listeriosis by choosing to eat only foods that you know have been prepared and handled safely. Cook deli meats and hot dogs until they are steaming hot and then keep them steaming hot until you eat them. Raw milk and cheeses made from raw milk are off the table until baby is born. Picnics, cookouts, and buffets should be approached with caution. If you are unable to determine whether the food has been heated and kept hot or cooled and kept cold, don’t eat it. Also pass on the prepared salads behind the deli counter.
When you cook your own meals, cook meat and fish thoroughly. Leftovers are okay, as long as they go in the fridge right after the meal and are reheated thoroughly. Fruits and vegetables can be contaminated with Listeria, so keep your kitchen very clean and wash and peel your fruits and veggies. Raw sprouts could be contaminated, so you may want to avoid those until the end of your pregnancy.
Unfortunately, not all cases of Listeriosis cause symptoms. If you start to feel like you are coming down with a flu or food poisoning, call your doctor right away so that they can test you. With an illness this serious, it is best to be as cautious as you can be.