Listeriosis During Pregnancy

January 25, 2012

How Does Listeriosis Affect Me & My Baby?

Listeriosis is the result of eating food that has been contaminated with the Listeria monocytogenes bacterium. This bacterium, while perhaps causing only mild symptoms in some people, is potentially fatal to unborn babies and newborns and therefore particularly dangerous for pregnant women. Listeria can cause a blood infection, meningitis, and other serious and life-threatening complications. The threat to pregnant women is because of the impact on the pregnancy and the baby. Although it is relatively rare, Listeriosis affects around 2,500 people in the US every year (CDC estimate) and of those affected, a third are pregnant women.

The infection will probably not make you particularly ill unless you have some type of immune disorder or a disease that affects the immune system. However, it can have devastating effects upon your baby, especially if you are not treated properly and speedily.

Listeria can affect the placenta, cross the placenta to the baby, affect the amniotic fluid and can cause miscarriage or stillbirth. Babies who are infected and survive are usually born prematurely and are severely ill or get sick soon after birth. Blood infection, breathing difficulties, fever, skin sores, lesions on multiple organs and central nervous system infections like meningitis affect babies that are infected.

It May Take A While To Get Sick From Listeriosis

Sometimes a newborn of an infected mother appears healthy at birth only to become sick a week or even several weeks after delivery. This is called late-onset listeriosis and can result from exposure to the infection during labor and birth. It is possible for the bacteria to remain in a mother's body in her cervix, vagina, or GI track for some time. Sadly, many babies who become infected will either die or suffer long-term complications.

It can be difficult to tell if you have listeriosis. Some people present with flu-like symptoms of fever, headache, lethargy, achiness, and GI pain while others have no symptoms at all. In very rare instances, the infection attacks the central nervous system and symptoms of severe headache, stiff neck, confusion, dizziness or even convulsions will occur.

If any symptoms of listeriosis appear, contact your health care provider immediately and have a blood test done to determine the cause. If you do have listeriosis, then the treatment will be IV antibiotics, which will treat your infection and may help to protect your baby from infection. An ultrasound and non-stress test may be done to determine the health of the baby.

Foods to Avoid When Pregnant

To avoid an infection with listeriosis, follow these guidelines:

· Cook all meats, fish and poultry thoroughly and use a food thermometer to ensure the food is properly cooked. Meat should be cooked to 160*F and whole thigh of poultry to 180*F. If you are not using a food thermometer, cook it until it is no longer pink in the middle. Fish should be opaque in the middle before being eaten.

· Reheat leftovers until they're steaming hot. A listeria contamination can occur in foods that are already cooked and the bacteria can survive and grow in refrigerated foods. All previously cooked leftovers should be reheated to 165*F.

· Avoid deli foods unless you reheat them. The reason is the same as stated for reheating leftovers - the bacteria can grow and spread in the refrigerator. Shelf-stable foods and canned foods should be fine but deli salads (potato, chicken and seafood as well as anything with egg) should be avoided.

· Make sure all the dairy you eat is pasteurized or made from pasteurized milk. Soft cheeses like Brie, Camembert, blue-veined cheeses and Mexican cheeses that are not pasteurized are not recommended. Hard cheese like cheddar, yogurt, and buttermilk are all okay.

· Wash all of your produce thoroughly or peel all fruit and vegetables before eating them.

· Avoid raw sprouts until after the baby is born. There was a listeria outbreak from sprouts in March of 2008.

· Avoid contaminating food that's ready to eat. Keep unwashed foods away from clean produce and from cooked and ready-to-eat foods.

· Use hot soapy water to wash all utensils, counters, cutting boards and your hands after contact with potentially contaminated foods.

· Clean sponges and dish cloths regularly in hot soapy water. Use clean towels to dry dishes and your hands.

· Clean out the fridge and don't keep food around too long.

· Make sure the temperature of your fridge is between 35 and 40*F and the freezer is at zero or below.

When you're pregnant, you can't be too careful. The risks for the baby when a listeria infection is contracted are severe.

Pregnancy is a time of sensitivity for both mother and unborn baby. Be sure you are protecting yourself and your baby. Be informed. Check our site to keep abreast of important information and topics for your health and the health of your baby.

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