The price of enjoying biological harmony with your growing baby is a weakened immune system during pregnancy—and greater vulnerability to foodborne illnesses associated with certain favorite holiday foods.
Brie, eggnog, pâté, deli cold cuts—this sampling of holiday party staples is also a who’s who of tasty offerings that can pose dangers for pregnant women and their unborn babies. Food safety should be a priority throughout pregnancy, but never more so than during the festive season. Parties and dinners can be minefields of potentially harmful ingredients, unless you know which foods belong on the naughty list.
A Sprinkle of Cinnamon, a Touch of Nutmeg and a Dash of Caution
Why take food poisoning seriously when eating for two? During pregnancy, your immune system must recalibrate itself so your body will welcome its precious new cargo, but the tradeoff is that the system can’t battle bacteria and other harmful invaders with its usual vigor; your baby’s immune system certainly isn’t ready to face a serious test.
Food poisoning during pregnancy can have much more serious consequences than its usual symptoms of nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Pregnant women have a 10-times greater risk of being infected with the listeria bacterium than the general population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The infection, called listeriosis, can cause an expectant mother to develop fever fatigue, and achiness and can infect her fetus via the placenta.
Worst-case scenarios: Foodborne illness can put your unborn baby’s future at risk or your health in jeopardy. If you experience symptoms, don’t assume the flu or another illness is causing them—seek medical help immediately.
Here’s to a Healthy Pregnancy!
This holiday season, raise a glass of soy nog to food safety and follow these tips:
• Eat your veggies, but…Don’t partake in a raw veggie platter unless you’re certain the baby carrots and broccoli have been washed. Vegetables can carry a parasite that can cause an infection called toxoplasmosis.
• If it swims, proceed with caution. Hosts who like to think outside the turkey-or-ham box may serve fish at parties or dinners. Abstain from enjoying smoked, deli-bought fish or mercury-laden varieties, such as swordfish.
• Look for steam. Avoid raw meat, and only eat the deli or carving station versions if they’re thoroughly cooked and still steaming (or you’re able to reheat them until piping hot).
• Renew your appreciation of pasteurization. Unpasteurized milk and soft cheeses, including Brie, feta, Roquefort and queso varieties, can harbor listeria. Cheddar, Swiss and Mozzarella are safe. Avoid unpasteurized eggs—typically those harvested at home—and products made using them to prevent salmonella exposure. Steer clear of homemade eggnog and eggnog that contains alcohol. Eggs and egg products sold in stores are typically pasteurized, but be sure to check the label.
Finally, start practicing to set a good example for your little one and always wash your hands before and after any contact with food or drink. You might find it difficult at times to put food safety first, but passing over a few hors d’oeuvres this year is a small price to pay for a lifetime of holiday memories with your child.