From the moment you conceive, you should be conscious of foods and chemicals that might harm your baby. Sometimes, items that you’d interact with everyday before your pregnancy can have seriously negative side effects on your growing baby. It’s important to be informed about what you should avoid before you inadvertently cause your baby any harm. Being informed is actually the most important part of keeping you and your baby healthy. You should speak with your health care provider about what to give up when you become pregnant, but one of things is most definitely deli meat.

All deli meat is prone to bacteria, even when it’s kept cold. These bacteria cause an infection called Listeriosis. For healthy adults, Listeriosis can cause gastrointestinal illness, a blood infection and sometimes meningitis. However, women that are pregnant need to be extra careful to avoid the infection. When you’re pregnant, you’re twenty times more likely to get Listeriosis from deli meats. While the side effects aren’t much worse for you as a pregnant woman, they can be fatal for your baby.

Listeriosis can easily be transmitted into the birth canal and your baby could suffer from serious complications. Listeria outbreaks are fairly common, and every time they happen, pregnant women who ate deli meats or other contaminated food often have miscarriages or preterm birth.

The bacteria that cause Listeriosis can survive at cold temperatures, so even proper storage will not guard you from infection. In addition to deli meats, the bacteria is often present in hot dogs—which you should avoid during your pregnancy anyway—unpasteurized milk and cheese and pâté. Even if you don’t eat the hot dogs or deli meats but prepare them for your family, make sure you thoroughly wash your hands after handling. Your hands can transmit Listeriosis if you accidentally touch your mouth or face.

Getting Listeria while your pregnant won’t make you feel terribly ill, but it could be fatal for your developing baby. Instead of risking it, you should avoid deli meats during your pregnancy unless you decide to thoroughly cook them. Even consider having your partner prepare the lunchmeat sandwiches in the morning if you have other kids in the family. If you have eaten deli meats and you hear about a Listeriosis outbreak in your area, be sure to visit your health care provider immediately to find out whether or not you are infected.

Source: K.A. Jackson et al: Pregnancy-Associated Listeria. Cambridge Journals Online Volume 138 Issue 10 October 2010

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