Listeriosis and Pregnancy
by Marnie Webb, P.H.Ec.
Listeriosis is an infection caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. Although rare, pregnant women are twenty times more likely than other healthy adults to get listeriosis.
Healthy food choices and safe food practices protect mother and baby, contributing to a healthy pregnancy. Hormonal changes during pregnancy affect the immune system, causing pregnant women to become more susceptible to foodborne illness. While serious, foodborne risks for pregnant women can be addressed by handling food properly and by avoiding certain foods.
Foods to avoid include:
Listeriosis infections during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage or stillbirth, premature delivery, or infection of the newborn. Pregnant women may only experience a mild illness. Symptoms of listeriosis usually appear within 2 to 30 days but have been known to occur up to 90 days after eating contaminated food.
Listeria is prevalent in the environment. It is found in soil, water, vegetation, human and animal feces. In some processed foods like deli meats, contamination may occur after cooking but before packaging. Listeria may be present in all foods.
Listeria can survive and grow slowly at refrigeration temperatures. Listeria will grow faster at refrigerator temperatures above 4°C (40°F). You cannot tell by the look, smell or taste if
listeria is present in food. Listeria is killed by cooking food.
To reduce the risk of developing listeriosis:
Pregnant women with questions or concerns about listeriosis are advised to consult with their health care provider.
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