Top of the page
A balanced, nutritious diet during your pregnancy is important to maintain your health and nourish your fetus. When making your food choices, you generally are able to eat the foods you usually eat. But because some types of foodborne illness pose a greater risk to you and your fetus, you should take a few extra precautions when you choose and prepare your foods.
Listeriosis is caused by Listeria monocytogenes, a bacterium found in soil and water. It can be found on vegetables, meats, and dairy products as well as in processed foods such as soft cheeses and in cold cuts. Although the bacteria are of little danger to healthy people, in pregnant women the infection can result in premature delivery, serious infection of the newborn, or even stillbirth.
Symptoms of listeriosis include fever, muscle aches, and sometimes nausea or diarrhea. In some cases, headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, or convulsions can occur. Pregnant women who are infected may experience only a mild, flu-like illness.
If you are pregnant and get listeriosis, taking antibiotics can often prevent infection of the fetus or newborn. Babies who have listeriosis receive the same antibiotics as adults, although a combination of antibiotics is often used until doctors are certain of the diagnosis.
If you are pregnant:
Toxoplasmosis is caused by the parasite Toxoplasma gondii. A pregnant woman can give toxoplasmosis to her fetus. Fetal toxoplasmosis can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, and birth defects.
You can acquire the parasite by accidentally swallowing Toxoplasma gondii eggs from soil or other contaminated surfaces. This can happen by putting your hands to your mouth after gardening, cleaning a cat's litter box, or touching anything that has come into contact with cat feces.
Toxoplasmosis often has no symptoms, or the symptoms are flu-like. You may have swollen lymph glands or muscle aches and pains that last for a few days to several weeks.
If you are diagnosed with toxoplasmosis during your pregnancy, you will be treated with antibiotics. If further testing shows that your fetus is infected, you will be given antibiotics that are known to reduce the impact of toxoplasmosis on the fetus.
To help prevent toxoplasmosis:
Pregnant women may become much more ill from foodborne illness than other people, so it is important that you prevent foodborne illness in your home by taking precautions when preparing and storing foods. Perishable foods, such as eggs, meats, poultry, fish, shellfish, milk, and milk products, should be treated with extra care.
The following steps can help prevent foodborne illness.
Pay particular attention to food preparation and storage during warmer months when food is often served outside. Bacteria grow faster in warmer weather, so food can spoil more quickly and possibly cause illness. Do not leave food outdoors for more than 1 hour if the temperature is above 32°C (90°F), and never leave it outdoors for more than 2 hours.
For more information, see the topics Toxoplasmosis During Pregnancy, E. Coli Infection, and Foodborne Illness and Safe Food Handling.
Adaptation Date: 5/6/2021
Adapted By: Alberta Health Services
Adaptation Reviewed By: Alberta Health Services
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2021 Healthwise, Incorporated. All rights reserved. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.