Listeria and Pregnancy
During pregnancy it is important to be aware of what you put inside your body. You should be
aware of what is good to eat and also what is not so good to eat. Listeria is a type of bacteria that can be found
in some contaminated foods. Listeria can cause problems for both you and your baby. Although Listeriosis (the
illness from ingesting Listeria) is rare, pregnant women are more susceptible to it than non-pregnant healthy
What is Listeria?
Listeria monocytogenes is a type of bacteria that is found in water and soil.
Vegetables can become contaminated from the soil, and animals can also be carriers. Listeria has been found in
uncooked meats, uncooked vegetables, unpasteurized milk, foods from unpasteurized milk and processed foods.
Listeria is killed by pasteurization and cooking. There is a chance that contamination may occur in ready-to-eat
foods such as hot dogs and deli meats because contamination may occur after cooking and before packaging.
What are the risks of a pregnant woman getting
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 2,500 persons
become seriously ill each year in the United States and among these, 500 will die. According to research, pregnant
women account for 27% of these cases. The CDC claims that pregnant women are 20 times more likely to become
infected than non-pregnant healthy adults.
How will I know if I have Listeriosis?
Symptoms of Listeriosis may show up 2-30 days after exposure. Symptoms in pregnant women include
mild flu like symptoms, headaches, muscle aches, fever, nausea and vomiting. If the infection spreads to the
nervous system it can cause stiff neck, disorientation or convulsions. Infection can occur at any time during
pregnancy, but it is most common during the third trimester when your immune system is somewhat suppressed. Be sure
to contact your health care provider if you experience any of these symptoms.
Can Listeriosis harm my baby?
If you are pregnant and are infected with Listeriosis, you could experience:
Early treatment may prevent fetal infection and fetal death.
How is Listeriosis treated?
Listeriosis is treated with antibiotics during pregnancy. These antibiotics, in most cases, will
prevent infection to the fetus and newborn. These same antibiotics are also given to newborns with Listeriosis.
What can I do to protect my baby from Listeriosis?
Following these guidelines can greatly reduce your chances of contracting Listeriosis.
Eat hard cheeses instead of soft cheeses: The CDC has recommended that pregnant
women avoid soft cheeses such as feta, Brie, Camembert, blue-veined cheeses and Mexican style cheeses such as queso
fresco, queso blanco and Panela.
Hard cheeses such as cheddar and semi-soft cheeses such as mozzarella are safe to consume.
Pasteurized processed cheese slices and spreads such as cream cheese and cottage cheese can also be safely
consumed. The most important thing to do is read the labels!
Do not eat hot dogs, luncheon meats or deli meats unless they are properly reheated to
steaming (or 160 F): Eating out at certain restaurants that provide deli meat sandwiches such as Subway is
not recommended for pregnant women since they do not reheat their deli meats. Therefore Subway recommends that
pregnant women eat non-luncheon meat items such as meatball, steak & cheese, roasted chicken, seafood &
crab and tuna (limit 2 servings a week).
Do not eat refrigerated pates or meat spreads.
Do not eat refrigerated smoked seafood unless it is contained in a cooked dish, such as
Practice safe food handling:
Wash all fruits and vegetables
Keep everything clean including your hands and preparation surfaces
Keep your refrigerator thermometer at 40 degrees or below
Clean your refrigerator often
Avoid cross contamination between raw and uncooked foods (this includes hot dog juices)
Cook foods at proper temperatures (use food thermometers) and reheat all foods until they are steaming
hot (or 160 F)
Proper Temperatures for Cooking Foods:
Refrigerate or freeze food promptly.