Food safety for pregnant women

By: Dr.Scott Pendergraft

Food safety is really important for pregnant women as they are more prone to catch illness from food as compared to other healthy humans. During pregnancy immunity takes a hit and common food borne diseases and contaminated food can result into health problems. Food can get contaminated during handling, storing or cooking by microorganisms and it can cause all sorts of problems like:
stomach pain and cramps
fever and chills
Food poisoning is dangerous for everyone but for pregnant women it is even more so. In pregnant women there can be health complications that can result into severe side effects.
Health risks
As immunity of body is lowered during pregnancy it becomes difficult to fight infections. This increases the risk of food poisoning. There are some harmful bacteria like Listeria that can pass through placenta. Therefore if you get sick there is increased risk of infection of the fetus. Infection might not be as dangerous for you but for your baby it can be lethal. Any kind of food poisoning in the first three months of pregnancy can also lead to miscarriage. In later year food poisoning still can cause premature delivery. Stillbirth can result if the baby gets severely ill.
As you are the source of nutrition for your baby it is your responsibility to take care of what you eat. You cannot take risk of food poisoning just because you are too nave to store, prepare and cook your own food.
Safe food alternatives for pregnant women
There are some foods that should be avoided off the shelf as they post much higher risk of food poisoning as compared to other foods. Here are some foods that should be avoided:
Hot dogs
Non-dried deli meats, such as roast beef
Raw or lightly cooked eggs
Raw or undercooked meat or poultry
Raw seafood, such as sushi
Raw or unpasteurized dairy products
Raw sprouts, such as alfalfa
Unpasteurized fruit juice and cider
All of these items are source of bacteria, fungi and viral infections due to contamination. As a thumb rule you should always avoid raw food items on the list.
You should be extra careful with what you are buying and how you store your food.
Taking care of food
Always buy frozen food from the counter. It is obvious to take care of the best before date. Dont buy foods that are damaged. You can avoid spreading harmful bacteria from raw food to other food items by keeping them separate in the grocery kart. Empty your food of any perishable food item regularly.
Bacterial growth is maximum at temperature between 4 C to 60 C (40 F to 140 F). Therefore you should make sure that your perishable food items never reach at this temperature.
You should cook meat enough to kill all the bacterial growth. Temperature at which you cook is very important and you should pay attention to store cooked food at above 60 C.
All these steps will help you to easily avoid food poisoning during pregnancy.

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Dr. James S. Pendergraft opened the Orlando Women's Center in March 1996 to provide a full range of health care for women.

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