A balanced, nutritious diet during your pregnancy is
important to maintain your health and nourish your
fetus. When making your food choices, you generally
are able to eat the foods you usually eat. But because some types of
food poisoning pose a greater risk to you and your
fetus, you should take a few extra precautions when you choose and prepare your
Listeriosis is caused by Listeria monocytogenes, a bacterium found in soil and water.
It can be found on vegetables, meats, and dairy products as well as in
processed foods such as soft cheeses and in cold cuts. Although the bacteria
are of little danger to healthy people, in pregnant women the infection can
result in premature delivery, serious infection of the newborn, or even
Symptoms of listeriosis include fever, muscle aches,
and sometimes nausea or diarrhea. In some cases, headache, stiff neck,
confusion, loss of balance, or convulsions can occur. Pregnant women who are
infected may experience only a mild, flu-like illness.
If you are
pregnant and get listeriosis, taking antibiotics can often prevent infection of
the fetus or newborn. Babies who have listeriosis receive the same antibiotics as
adults, although a combination of antibiotics is often used until doctors are certain of the diagnosis.
If you are
Do not eat hot dogs, luncheon meats, or deli
meats, unless they are reheated until steaming hot.
Do not eat soft
cheeses unless the label states they are made from pasteurized milk. Common cheeses typically made with unpasteurized milk—such as feta, Brie, Camembert, blue-veined cheeses, and Mexican-style
cheeses such as "queso blanco fresco"—can cause listeriosis. Hard cheeses and semisoft cheeses such
as mozzarella along with pasteurized processed cheese slices and spreads, cream
cheese, and cottage cheese are safe to eat.
Do not eat
refrigerated pâté or meat spreads. But you can eat these foods if they are
Do not eat refrigerated smoked seafood unless it is an
ingredient in a cooked dish such as a casserole. Examples of refrigerated
smoked seafood include salmon, trout, whitefish, cod, tuna, and mackerel. You
may eat canned fish such as salmon and tuna or shelf-stable smoked seafood.
Do not drink raw (unpasteurized) milk or eat foods that contain
Avoid eating salads made in a store, such as ham, chicken, egg,
tuna, or seafood salads.
Toxoplasmosis is caused by the
parasite Toxoplasma gondii. A pregnant woman can give
toxoplasmosis to her fetus. Fetal toxoplasmosis can cause miscarriage,
stillbirth, and birth defects.
You can acquire the parasite by
accidentally swallowing Toxoplasma gondii eggs from soil
or other contaminated surfaces. This can happen by putting your hands to your
mouth after gardening, cleaning a cat's litter box, or touching anything that
has come into contact with cat feces.
Toxoplasmosis often has no
symptoms, or the symptoms are flu-like. You may have swollen lymph glands or
muscle aches and pains that last for a few days to several weeks.
Are planning to become pregnant, consider being
tested for Toxoplasma gondii. If the test is positive,
it means that you have already been infected at some time in your life and you
probably do not have to worry about giving the infection to your future baby
(discuss this with your doctor). If the test is negative, take
precautions to avoid infection.
If you are pregnant, you
and your doctor should discuss your chance of getting
toxoplasmosis. Your doctor may order a blood sample for testing.
If you are diagnosed with toxoplasmosis during your
pregnancy, you will be treated with antibiotics. If further testing shows that
your fetus is infected, you will be given antibiotics that are known to reduce
the impact of toxoplasmosis on the fetus.
To help prevent toxoplasmosis:
Avoid cat feces, in both the home and the
If you have a cat and you are either pregnant or planning to
become pregnant soon, have someone else clean the cat litter box. If you must
clean the box yourself, do it daily. Wear gloves and a face mask, and wash your
Make a habit of washing any table or counter
surfaces that a cat may have walked across.
Consider keeping your
cat indoors. A cat who goes outdoors is likely to become infected with
Toxoplasma gondii by eating infected birds or rodents.
(Eating indoor mice also poses a risk.)
When gardening or handling
soil, wear gloves and wash your hands afterward.
Wash all foods
that could have had contact with cat feces, including commercial fruits and
Eat only well-cooked or previously frozen meat. Avoid dried
meats. Sustained high or low temperatures are needed to kill Toxoplasma gondii in meat.
Carefully wash your hands and all utensils after preparing raw
meat, poultry, seafood, fruits, or vegetables.
Avoid untreated drinking water. This is a concern when you are in
the wilderness or are traveling to developing countries where drinking water is
Other food poisoning
Pregnant women may become much
more ill from food poisoning than other people, so it is important that you
prevent food poisoning in your home by taking precautions when preparing and
storing foods. Perishable foods, such as eggs, meats, poultry, fish, shellfish,
milk, and milk products, should be treated with extra care.
U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends the following steps to prevent food
Shop safely. Bag raw meat, poultry, or fish
separately from other food items. Drive home immediately after finishing your
shopping so that you can store all foods properly.
safely. Wash your hands before and after handling food. Also wash them after
using the bathroom or changing diapers. Wash fresh fruits and vegetables by
rinsing them well with running water. If possible, use two cutting boards—one
for fresh produce and the other for raw meat, poultry, and seafood. Otherwise,
be sure to wash the cutting board with hot, soapy water between each use. You
can also wash your knives and cutting boards in the dishwasher to disinfect
Store foods safely. Cook, refrigerate, or freeze meat,
poultry, eggs, fish, and ready-to-eat foods within 2 hours. Make sure your
refrigerator is set at
40°F (4°C) or colder.
Cook foods safely. Use a clean meat thermometer to determine
whether foods are cooked to a safe temperature. Reheat leftovers to at least
165°F (74°C). Do not eat
undercooked hamburger, and be aware of the risk of food poisoning from raw fish
(including sushi), clams, and oysters.
Serve foods safely. Keep
cooked hot foods hot [140°F (60°C) or above] and cold foods cold [40°F (4°C) or below].
Follow labels on food packaging.
Food packaging labels provide information about when to use the food and how to
store it. Reading food labels and following safety instructions will reduce
your chances of becoming ill with food poisoning.
When in doubt, throw it out. If you are not sure whether a food
is safe, don't eat it. Reheating food that is contaminated will not make it
safe. Don't taste suspicious food. It may smell and look fine but still may not
be safe to eat.
Pay particular attention to food
preparation and storage during warmer months when food is often served outside.
Bacteria grow faster in warmer weather, so food can spoil more quickly and
possibly cause illness. Do not leave food outdoors for more than 1 hour if the
temperature is above 90°F (32°C), and never leave it outdoors for more than 2 hours.
For more information, see the topics Toxoplasmosis
During Pregnancy, E. Coli Infection, and Food Poisoning and Safe Food
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.