It’s 3AM and out of nowhere it hits you—if you don’t have an Italian sub, you will probably be crushed by the sheer weight of the craving.
But before you jump out of bed to put together this winning midnight snack, you stop yourself with the crucial question: can pregnant women eat deli meat?
Right. Let’s get to it—with the warning that you may not like the answer.
Deli meat while pregnant FAQs
Can you have cold cuts while pregnant?
Deli meat (AKA cold cuts AKA lunch meat AKA sandwich meat) is meat that has been cured or previously cooked and (often) packaged.
It’s the kind of meat you might enjoy on a sandwich or as part of a light meal with salads.
Think ham, sliced turkey, salami, prosciutto, pepperoni, etc.
So can you enjoy these delights while pregnant?
Well, you can—but the risks potentially outweigh even the most delicious of tastes.
Why can’t pregnant women eat deli meat?
The short answer? Bacteria.
There’s one in particular to really worry about, and it goes by the name of listeria monocytogenes.
Listeria is one powerful bacteria. It can grow in temperatures as low as 29.5℉ (-1.5℃) and as high as 114℉ (45.5℃).
Listeria leads to listeria infection (AKA listeriosis) and this can be harmful to both you and your baby.
The chances of getting listeriosis are slim—there are only about 1,600 cases of the infection in the US every year—but if you get it, the possibility that you will be hospitalized is very high.
The CDC has this to say: you are 10 times more likely to catch listeriosis when you are pregnant.
About one-sixth of all cases of listeriosis happen in pregnant women.
But it’s not just that you are more vulnerable to an infection that can make you sick.
Listeriosis can lead to pregnancy loss, preterm labor, and stillbirths.
Yep, it’s definitely worth the worry.
Symptoms of listeriosis include:
- Muscle aches.
- Headache and sore neck.
- Confusion and feeling off-balance.
Can I have a ham sandwich while pregnant?
If you’re talking about cured (rather than cooked) ham, sorry mama—this is also a no-go.
Ham that has been cooked and cooled is also on the blacklist.
To make things more complicated, it’s not only bacteria that puts ham in the no-go section.
Cured ham (and any cured meat for that matter) is technically uncooked. This is a pregnancy red flag for another reason, and that reason is parasites.
Toxoplasmosis is a disease that you can get from the parasite Toxoplasma gondii—and it can cause serious harm to both you and your baby.
But there is some hope for your ham sandwich yet.
A roast ham that’s served steaming hot? That should keep you safe from bacteria and parasites alike.
What deli meats can I eat while pregnant?
So, if it’s dried, salted, or heated, it’s probably okay to eat.
Pepperoni on your pizza? Should be okay.
And then there’s the question of temperature. While we know listeria can survive the most freezing of temperatures, how does it do on the other end of the spectrum?
Can pregnant women eat deli meat if it is heated?
In fact, Chrissy Teigen came up with her own answer to the pregnancy deli meats conundrum—and that’s microwaving her meat.
This should kill whatever listeria may be present, but it’s not completely reliable as a method.
Also, if the thought of munching your meat microwaved puts you off a bit, that’s totally understandable.
So, if you’re desperate, the microwave hack is there for you—but it doesn’t completely eliminate the risk. If you want to be totally safe, that turkey slice on rye is going to taste so good after the wait.
For now, head here for some delicious alternatives.
Be strong, mama.
More on pregnancy foods:
Can Pregnant Women Eat Hot Dogs?
Can Pregnant Women Eat Pork?
Can Pregnant Women Eat Cream Cheese?
Can Pregnant Women Eat Pepperoni?
Can Pregnant Women Eat Salami?
Can Pregnant Women Eat Bacon?
Can You Eat Medium Rare Steak While Pregnant?
Can You Eat Seafood While Pregnant?
Can You Eat Beef Jerky While Pregnant?