Posted by Claudia Grazioso on November 4, 2011
Thanks to cantaloupes, listeria has been in the news a lot recently. And it rang a bell, because I remember when I first got pregnant and I was presented with a list of no-nos, I had been stunned. No booze, no coffee, no sushi — I kind of expected that. But no deli sandwiches? No brie or Camembert or blue cheeses? How on earth was I supposed to gain weight if I couldn’t eat any of my favorite, fattiest foods?
I was a little skeptical, but I followed the advice and vigilantly asked that the blue cheese and deli turkey on my Cobb Salads be replaced with something a bit less exciting but perhaps more safe. Oddly, I didn’t really even look into what listeria is, I just accepted that it was something I didn’t want to risk getting when I was pregnant. That, as it turns out, is an understatement.
Listeria is a bacteria that can cause the illness listeriosis. While most people with healthy immune systems aren’t at risk for it, pregnant women are, especially during their third trimester when a woman’s immune system can be a little suppressed. As innocuous as a salami sandwich might seem, if you contract listeria during pregnancy it could result in miscarriage, premature delivery or, horribly, still birth. Listeria can also infect the placenta, the amniotic fluid and your baby, resulting in a sick newborn who might show signs of meningitis as well as fever, skins sores and blood infections. Not exactly the happy delivery you’re looking forward to.
Fortunately, avoiding listeria is fairly easy. Wash all fruits and veggies thoroughly before eating them. Avoid deli meats and hot dogs unless they have been steamed. Put your pâté yearnings on hold and avoid soft and semi-soft cheeses like brie, camembert, feta or blue-veined cheeses. And make sure that eggs, meat and seafood are all thoroughly cooked. If food is old, chuck it. Keep your sponges and chopping surfaces clean. Finally, avoid sprouts on your sandwiches and salads as an outbreak of listeria has also been connected to them. (But, really, what pregnant woman has ever craved sprouts?)
If you contract listeriosis, flu-like symptoms will occur within 2 to 30 days after exposure, and in the event that the infection makes its way to your nervous system, you might experience disorientation and convulsions. Early treatment is key, so talk to your doctor for more information about this avoidable problem.
And for the duration of your pregnancy, kiss those multi-layered deli sandwiches and brie-slathered baguettes goodbye. Just think — as soon as your baby is here, you’ll be eating gourmet again.