A growing trend I’m seeing in many of my pregnant patients has me concerned – especially those from Latin American countries who often don’t realize that many cultural traditions, when it comes to food, can put their unborn children in danger.
When these patients either return to or have family members visit from their respective countries, who bring food that may not be properly processed, the potential for foodborne bacterial infections is increased. Once ingested, bacteria can cause complications in pregnancy that lead to miscarriage, severe intrauterine infection, or even stillbirth.
Certain infections like Listeria and E. coli are prime examples of those bacteria that you can get from unpasteurized cheeses, cold cuts, raw milk, undercooked meats and contaminated produce.
The CDC estimates that about 1,600 people contract listeriosis in the United States every year – with about a third of those cases occurring in pregnant women. Odds are, if you contract listeriosis, it will not make you seriously ill. But that doesn’t mean it can’t have a serious impact on the health of your developing baby.
Other infections like toxoplasmosis can be acquired by handling soil or cat litter that contains feces infected with the parasite, or by eating unprocessed or undercooked meats. About half of pregnant women infected with toxoplasmosis can transmit the infection to their unborn baby, which can cause severe problems either during or after birth.
I remember in medical school, we were taught about these infections in pregnant women, but you hardly saw them – especially here in the U.S. Now, more and more cases are being documented and personally, I have treated too many to say that it’s a coincidence, but rather a problematic trend that needs to stop.
Of course, there are other restrictions pregnant women need to observe when it comes to things like sushi and other fish, but I’ll answer those questions another time.
So pay attention, and don’t consume homemade dairy products – especially those that are unpasteurized or unprocessed, if you want to have a healthy pregnancy.