Food poisoning can be scary, no matter when it happens. Food poisoning while pregnant? Doubly so.
First things first, if you are feeling sick, check in with your doctor. They are there to help.
And if it turns out to be “just” a pregnancy symptom and not food poisoning, at least you have peace of mind.
You can get food poisoning from eating food contaminated with viruses, bacteria, parasites, or toxic chemicals. Food poisoning has the potential to be harmful to you and your baby.
So how can you ensure you stay nourished and satisfy your cravings—all while keeping you and your baby safe? Let’s take a look.
In this article: 📝
- Food poisoning during pregnancy
- Can food poisoning cause miscarriage?
- What happens if I get food poisoning while pregnant?
- Food poisoning symptoms while pregnant
- What to do if you get food poisoning while pregnant
Food poisoning during pregnancy
When you’re pregnant, your risk of getting food poisoning is higher than usual because your immune system is weaker.
That means that you are not quite as able to fight off infections that enter your body.
As the CDC warns, your risk of listeria infection, for example, is ten times more likely when you’re pregnant.
Can food poisoning cause miscarriage?
Unfortunately, the short answer is yes.
Certain types of food poisoning can lead to various complications that may, in worst-case scenarios, result in miscarriage or stillbirth.
(And this is a perfect time to say that if you experience pregnancy loss, it’s not your fault. Take time to grieve. Check in with your Peanut community. You don’t have to carry on as if nothing has happened.)
What happens if I get food poisoning while pregnant?
It all depends on what kind of food poisoning it is. Some of the more common types are:
- Listeriosis: You may have already heard of the dangers of coming into contact with listeria while pregnant. That whole don’t eat sashimi while pregnant drama? Yep, this is one of the chief reasons why.
Listeria is a type of bacteria that causes an illness called listeriosis. We pay so much attention to it because there is a risk that it can be passed from you to your baby. The FDA warns that listeriosis can be dangerous at all stages of pregnancy, and is linked to miscarriages, stillbirths, and low birth weight, as well as a range of health complications.
Foods to avoid? Cold deli meats, hot dogs, raw dairy products, raw and smoked fish, and some raw fruits and vegetables.
This is also a bacteria that you can come into contact with through infected food–usually of the raw variety–or from touching an animal or their poop. Yep, you’re excused from cleaning the fish tank for now.
It causes an illness called salmonellosis that can make you sick and possibly be passed on to your baby. If your baby is born with salmonellosis, they might be prone to getting meningitis.
E coli lives quite happily in your intestines—but not all strains of e coli are made equal. If you come into contact with certain types of e coli, you can get sick. The main dangers here are dehydration through diarrhea.
E coli is also the most common cause of urinary tract infections in pregnant women—but this kind of infection generally enters through your genital area rather than through food you eat. Urinary tract infections can be a danger to you and your baby. Check in with your doctor if you suspect this is what’s going on.
This illness comes from a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii. It’s possible to give it to your baby and is linked to miscarriage and stillbirths. Avoid raw and/or dried meats and stay away from any untreated drinking water.
Other ways to stay safe? Wash your hands well and often, use gloves while gardening, and avoid cat poop. No litter box duty for you.
According to the CDC, noroviruses are the leading cause of food-borne illnesses. They are very contagious and can be spread through consuming infected food, coming into contact with infected people, or touching infected surfaces.
The good news is that you should recover relatively quickly from norovirus, and there are generally not long-term dangers for you and your baby. Having said that, keeping hydrated is important, as is getting medical attention when you feel unwell.
So how do you know if it’s actually food poisoning—especially with all the other digestive woes that can accompany pregnancy?
While it’s difficult to confirm without the input of your doctor, here are some symptoms to watch out for:
Food poisoning symptoms while pregnant
Food poisoning symptoms may vary depending on the type. Because many of the symptoms overlap, it’s important to check in with your healthcare provider to find the source.
Here are the more common symptoms you might experience.
Listeria while pregnant
- Feeling unbalanced
- Fever or chills
- Stiff neck
- Aches and pains
Salmonella poisoning while pregnant
- Dehydration (Signs are fatigue, serious thirst, dark-colored urine, headaches, and constipation.)
- Blood in your poop
- Fever or chills
- Pain in your stomach
Norovirus while pregnant
Toxoplasmosis while pregnant
- Blurred vision
- Gland swelling
- Aches and pains
What to do if you get food poisoning while pregnant
So, should I go to the hospital for food poisoning while pregnant?
Yes. If you suspect that you have food poisoning—regardless of the source of the infection—check in with your healthcare provider as soon as you can so that you can get the treatment you need.
The good news is there are health measures you can take to help protect yourself against food poisoning while pregnant.
Here are our top tips:
- Avoid raw fish, poultry, and red meat.
- If you are cutting up raw meat, fish or poultry, wash your cutting board before using it to chop vegetables.
- Stay away from deli meat and hot dogs for now.
- Only eat your dairy pasteurized. Same with your fruit juice.
- Be extra careful with washing your fruit and veg before eating.
- Steer clear of untreated drinking water.
- Make your salad at home. That way, you can be more in control of the source of your ingredients.
- Wash your hands thoroughly before you eat.
- Store your food safely—and if you’re not sure if it’s safe, it’s probably not the best time to gamble.
- Check that your fridge is set to 4°C (40°F) or colder.
And if you do get sick, get to your doctor so that they can work out the most appropriate treatment for you.
Take care of yourself.
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