Listeria and Pregnancy

By Alicia Purdy

Your health is of the utmost importance when you're pregnant. Your body is working overtime to support not only yourself, but also your baby's developing body. It's commonly known that pregnant moms should be very careful about what they eat. Everything from certain seafood to moldy cheeses is off-limits. Most importantly, how is the food you're eating is processed or prepared? Any food can turn deadly if it contains food-borne illnesses, and no food is exempt from potential issues. Listeria is a dangerous food-borne illness that is present in uncooked or processed, ready-to-eat foods and it can be fatal to an unborn fetus. If there are any foods to avoid eating while pregnant, it's those that may put you at risk of a Listeria infection (listeriosis).

The Facts about Listeria

Listeria monocytogenes (Listeria) is a strong, hardy bacterium found in water and soil that can survive the freezing and refrigeration process to show up in your foods. Although a normally healthy person won't suffer too much after coming in contact with the Listeria bacteria, it can be fatal to unborn children. Pregnant women are 20 times more likely to suffer the effects of Listeria, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Symptoms of a Listeria Infection

How can you know if you may be experiencing the symptoms of Listeria? If you have flu-like symptoms, a fever, muscle aches, headache, nausea and vomiting, contact a doctor immediately. Tell him about everything you've eaten in the past 30 days, as best you can recall, as this is how long it may take for symptoms to show up.

If not treated immediately, a Listeria infection can spread to the nervous system and can lead to disorientation and even convulsions. You are more susceptible in the third trimester of your pregnancy, when your immune system is at a low point. Listeria infections can lead to miscarriage, infections in your unborn baby and even death for the baby.

Treatment and Prevention of Listeriosis

Avoiding pre-packaged and processed foods while you're pregnant is sound advice, as these provide little or no nutritional value to you or your baby. Listeria can usually be eliminated from your food through the cooking/heating and pasteurization process. This dangerous bacterium has been found in uncooked meat, raw vegetables, processed foods, unpasteurized milk and food made from unpasteurized milk (unpasteurized cheeses).

Generally, a round of antibiotics will cure a Listeria infection. Antibiotics, when used early enough, will help prevent the infection from spreading from you to the baby, and will help treat an infection in you and your baby.

If you want to truly avoid anything that could introduce Listeria into your system while you're pregnant, some well-known culprits you should avoid are: soft, unpasteurized cheeses; prepackaged meats like hot dogs and deli meats; and smoked or refrigerated seafood. Wash your hands before you eat. Wash all raw veggies well and always cook foods to their recommended temperatures.

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