Pregnancy and Listeria: Things “Moms to be” Need to Know

Pregnancy concerns including listeriosis

Pregnancy and Listeria: Safety for “Moms to Be”

According to the Center for Disease Control, pregnant women are 10 times more likely to get a Listeria infection than other people. With about 260 deaths per year, food poisoning from Listeria is the third leading cause of death from foodborne illnesses in the United States. Pregnant women infected with listeriosis risk passing the illness on to their unborn child.

How to Prevent the Deleterious Effects of Pregnancy and Listeria

Food poisoning lawyer
Food Safety Attorney Tony Coveny, Ph.D.

Once linked primarily to ready-to-eat meat products like deli meats and hot dogs, Listeria outbreaks have been traced back to items like” soft cheeses, celery sprouts, cantaloupe, and ice cream” (CDC)  in recent years.

Pregnant women should avoid soft cheeses made from unpasteurized milk, for according to the CDC, these products are “estimated to be 50 to 160 times more likely to cause Listeria infection than when they are made with pasteurized milk” (CDC). Even when made with pasteurized milk, queso-fresco can also become contaminated during the cheese-making process, and pregnant women should be aware of the risk.

Pregnancy and Listeria is so consequential that the highest authorities recommend that pregnant women avoid eating raw sprouts of any kind like alfalfa and radish. Sprouts can be easily contaminated with Listeria, not to mention e. coli and salmonella.

 The outside of melons like cantaloupe and honeydew can carry harmful pathogens like Listeria. The best practice for handling melons it to eat cut the melon right away and refrigerate leftovers as soon as possible. Do not eat cut melons left out at room temperature for over 4 hours.

For more tips on avoiding potentially contaminated foods, follow this link to the CDC’s Prevention webpage:

What is Listeriosis

According to the Mayo Clinic, a Listeria infection is a foodborne bacterial illness which can be fatal to unborn infants. Symptoms in adults may be delayed up to 30 days but include fever, muscle aches, nausea, and diarrhea. If the infection spread to nervous system, one may experience convulsions and a loss of balance.

A newborn infant experiencing listeriosis may show the following subtle symptoms:

  • Little interest in feeding
  • Irritability
  • Fever
  • Vomiting

For more information about listeriosis, visit the Mayo Clinic’s webpage over Listeria infections here:


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