Recently, Salmonella was found in a common cereal.
There’s a good chance someone you know personally has had salmonella. I know two people who got salmonella in the same house at the same time once. The World Health Organization calls it one of the most common foodborne illness-causing bacteria in the world, and it causes more than 40,000 cases in the US alone every year. No matter when you get it, a salmonella infection is nasty and difficult to manage. Symptoms include a fever, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting and stomach cramps. Clearly, these symptoms are even more difficult to manage during pregnancy, and the risk of dehydration alone can cause serious complications for a growing baby. In addition to the dangerous symptoms of salmonella, there are complications with the treatment options in pregnancy.
In some cases, salmonella doesn’t go away on its own in a few days. If you get salmonella during your pregnancy, there is a chance you might need antibiotics to treat it. However, the specific type of antibiotics needed is called fluoroquinolones, and studies show that they cause birth defects when taken during pregnancy.
There is also a great risk of salmonella making its way into the bloodstream. When it does so in pregnant women, it crosses into the placenta and affects the fetus directly. The infection is severe even in adults, so it’s no surprise that it can cause fetal death when transferred to the delicate system of a baby. Even if a baby infected with salmonella survives after delivery, there will be serious developmental delays that could last through adult life.
Avoiding salmonella isn’t as easy as avoiding raw meat or eggs, though that is certainly a good step towards prevention. If you’re pregnant, you should also make sure you avoid any foods that might contain raw eggs, such as homemade custard and Hollandaise sauce. When these items are sold commercially and pre-packaged, the eggs are fully cooked. However, eating homemade versions will increase your risk for salmonella, so it’s a good idea to avoid them during your pregnancy unless you can personally check with the chef and make sure each ingredient is fully cooked. You should also avoid handling raw meat and let your partner prepare meat-based dinners until you’ve delivered.
Salmonella is one of the most dangerous illnesses you can come down with during your pregnancy, so you should be diligent in avoiding it. Talk to your doctor about other methods of prevention.
Source: Carolyn Tam et al: Food-Borne Illnesses During Pregnancy: Prevention and Treatment. Canadian Family Physician Volume 52 Issue 4 pp. 341-343 April 2010