Pregnancy can be a magical time for many expecting mothers. However, there is a potential risk of developing food poisoning during this special period. Pregnancy food poisoning can be a serious condition, so it is important to be aware of the symptoms and to take preventive measures to avoid it.
While food is one of the basic needs of man, the safety of the foods we eat is a concern to everyone. Sometimes, toxins, parasites, and microorganisms are present in the food we eat. This can become poisonous to us.
Overview of Pregnancy Food Poisoning
Pregnant women are often more susceptible to some of these food-borne toxins because the hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy compromise immune function as it causes some immune alterations.
Not only can these toxins cause illness for the mother, but they can also have adverse effects on the unborn baby.
Listeria Monocytogens and Salmonella enterica are examples of some microorganisms that can cause food poisoning in pregnant women.
When food contaminated by these bacteria is eaten by a pregnant woman, it can induce abortion, stillbirth, and other pregnancy-related complications.
What Causes Food Poisoning During Pregnancy?
Hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy compromise immune function, leading to immune alterations. This makes pregnant women more prone to food poisoning.
Consumption of contaminated food or drink is the major cause of food poisoning during pregnancy. Bacteria, viruses, toxins, and parasites cause contamination.
Food poisoning in pregnancy caused by bacteria
When certain types of bacteria come in contact with food or drinks, they can cause food poisoning when ingested by pregnant women.
Some of these bacteria include:
- Listeria Monocytogenes
- Escherichia coli
Listeria Monocytogenes: listeria is the most common cause of pregnancy food poisoning. Pregnant women are 10 times more likely to be infected by Listeria. Its effect on pregnant women ranges from miscarriage to death.
Listeria can be found mainly in animal products such as soft cheese made from unpasteurized milk, raw or undercooked meat, and contaminated fruits & vegetables.
Salmonella: Salmonella is a bacteria commonly associated with food poisoning in pregnant women. Symptoms of Salmonella infection in pregnant women include fever, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and sometimes neonatal sepsis.
Salmonella bacteria can be found in eggs, meat, and improperly cooked poultry.
E.coli: Escherichia coli is a bacteria that can cause food poisoning in pregnancy. Symptoms of E. coli infection in a pregnant woman include diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea, and vomiting.
It can be contained in raw or undercooked beef, contaminated water, and pasteurized dairy products.
Food poisoning in pregnancy caused by viruses
Some viruses cause food poisoning when in contact with food eaten by pregnant women. These viruses can be transmitted through contaminated food and water and can be transferred through contact from person to person.
Some of these viruses include:
Norovirus: this virus is contained in contaminated food and water. It can also be found on surfaces. Norovirus is highly contagious and can be spread from person to person.
Symptoms of norovirus infection in pregnant women include diarrhea, nausea, stomach cramps, and vomiting.
Food poisoning in pregnancy caused by parasites
some parasites can cause food poisoning in pregnant women if they are present in food or water ingested by pregnant women.
Parasites that can cause food poisoning in pregnant women include tapeworms, toxoplasma, and roundworms.
Toxoplasma: causes toxoplasmosis, which can be transmitted from mother to baby. It can be found in contaminated meat, undercooked meat, unwashed fruits, and unwashed vegetables. This parasite can cause miscarriage, premature birth, stillbirth, and even death.
Food poisoning in pregnancy caused by toxins
Seafood and some mushrooms are commonly associated with toxin-related food poisoning in pregnant women.
Symptoms of Pregnancy Food Poisoning
In some cases of food poisoning during pregnancy, a pregnant woman may not observe any symptoms. However, the fetus might still get infected.
Such infection would become harmful to the fetus, resulting in complications like neonatal sepsis, stillbirth, and premature labor.
In symptomatic cases, symptoms of food poisoning in pregnancy vary. Also, some symptoms associated with food poisoning in pregnancy are normal in pregnancy, so it might be difficult to tell if they’re just normal pregnancy symptoms or symptoms induced by food poisoning.
That being said, some symptoms of food poisoning in pregnancy include:
- Muscle aches
- Gastrointestinal problems like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
- Abdominal cramps
In cases of fetal infection, symptoms may be severe, and potentially cause the death of the fetus.
What factors put you at risk of food poisoning during pregnancy?
Several factors can increase a pregnant woman’s chances of food poisoning. Some of these include:
- Consumption of raw or undercooked foods: these foods may contain harmful pathogens that can be transferred to pregnant women, resulting in food poisoning. Foods that are more prone to this are animal food products.
- Having a compromised immune system: while pregnancy causes some immune alterations, some factors can compromise a person’s immune system. Some of these factors include underlying diseases like diabetes, HIV, lupus; obesity, and stress.
Pregnant women with these conditions are much more susceptible to food poisoning.
- Consumption of unpasteurized milk, cheese, and other dairy products: these foods are associated with listeriosis in pregnant women.
- Using contaminated kitchen utensils, or surfaces
- Poor hygiene
- Eating at restaurants and other unrecognized food establishments.
Foods to avoid to prevent food poisoning during pregnancy
- Raw or undercooked foods especially animal products like meat and eggs.
- Unpasteurized dairy products
- Fish containing high levels of mercury such as mackerel, and tuna.
Prevention Tips for Food Poisoning During Pregnancy
- Avoid cutting your vegetables on the same cutting surface, or with the same knife used to cut your raw meat.
- Practice proper hand hygiene by washing your hands with soap frequently.
- Cook foods thoroughly, especially meat and eggs.
- Avoid unpasteurized dairy milk, cheese, and other dairy products.
- Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly
- Pregnant women should opt for fish with low mercury like Salmon and Shrimp, other than higher mercury varieties.
- For foods like pastries that require the use of raw eggs, pregnant women can opt for safer alternatives like pasteurized eggs.
- Pregnant women should make sure to get their food supplies from reputable establishments, known for safe food practices.
- Foods should be consumed in a timely manner. Pregnant women should avoid eating foods left for a very long time.
Treatment of Food Poisoning During Pregnancy
Symptoms of food poisoning in pregnancy may be similar to other more serious pregnancy conditions, so It is very important to see a qualified doctor if you think you’re experiencing food poisoning.
However, there are a few things you can do to manage the symptoms if you’re experiencing food poisoning during pregnancy.
- Ensure you stay hydrated: symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea can cause dehydration. This could be detrimental to you. It is important to drink plenty of fluids such as water and electrolyte solutions to prevent dehydration.
- Get plenty of rest.
When to see a doctor for food poisoning during pregnancy
To prevent complications and ensure the safety of you and your baby, it is important to seek medical advice.
A doctor can advise you on the best course of treatment that can help manage your symptoms as self-medication may be harmful to you and your baby.
However, you should see a doctor immediately if you experience any of these:
- Severe abdominal cramps
- High fever & persistent vomiting
- Dark urine, and dry mouth.
Last Updated on July 12, 2023 by Our Editorial Team