Everything You Need to Know About Food Poisoning During Pregnancy
Pregnancy increases the chance of getting food poisoning. There are many risks that come with food poisoning during pregnancy.
Hormonal changes during pregnancy can alter a person’s immune system, making them more susceptible to food poisoning.
Food poisoning can happen after a person eats or drinks something that contains bacteria, viruses, parasites, or other contaminants.
Food poisoning during pregnancy can harm the baby, resulting in premature birth, pregnancy loss, or stillbirth. However, there are many ways to prevent or treat it.
General symptoms of food poisoning can include:
- stomach cramps
The timing of symptoms can vary depending on when a person eats contaminated food and what type of food poisoning a person has.
The type of food poisoning can also cause a variety of symptoms. According to the CDC, the following types of food poisoning have the following symptoms:
Pregnant women are 10 times more likely to become infected with Listeria than the general population. It can take a week to a month for symptoms to develop. They may include:
- muscle pain
Salmonella symptoms may begin 6 hours to 6 days after exposure to contaminated food and may include:
- stomach ache
Norovirus symptoms usually begin 12-48 hours after a person consumes the contaminated food or drink. Norovirus symptoms include:
- abdominal cramps
A person may begin to experience Escherichia coli symptoms 3-4 days after consuming contaminated food or drink. These symptoms may include:
- abdominal cramps
Staph (Staphylococcus aureus)
Staph symptoms can occur rapidly, 30 minutes to 8 hours after a person consumes the affected food. It may include:
- abdominal cramps
Conditions with Similar Symptoms
There are other conditions that can give a person symptoms similar to food poisoning.
Food poisoning or stomach virus?
Gastroenteritis, or stomach virus, is highly contagious and can spread easily from person to person. It is inflammation of the intestines. Contaminated food or drink can cause gastroenteritis, but the main cause is usually a bacterial or viral infection.
Food poisoning is not usually contagious. When people eat the same contaminated food, they will only ingest it at the same time as others.
Food poisoning or morning sickness?
It shows symptoms similar to morning sickness and food poisoning. A person with morning sickness may experience symptoms during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, but they can occur at any time.
Food poisoning can be dangerous for the unborn child as well as the mother. It can cause serious health problems in the child, pregnancy loss, premature birth, stillbirth, or even death of the person carrying the child.
Developing fetuses need to get as much nutrients as possible from their bearing parents. If the parent cannot keep enough food in their body for their body to absorb the nutrients, the fetus may not grow properly.
A person with mild symptoms can pass the infection to their unborn child during pregnancy without the parent even knowing they have food poisoning.
Newborns may also experience health problems and may even be born with food poisoning if the person carrying the child becomes infected.
Treating Food Poisoning at Home
Pregnant people should always see a doctor if they have symptoms of food poisoning, but there are some things they can do at home to help, too.
It can be difficult for a person to want to eat anything when they have food poisoning. However, a pregnant person needs to eat to keep their strength high and ensure they eat enough for themselves and the unborn child. It is best to eat light, low-fat foods that will help keep the stomach as calm as possible.
Foods they can eat include:
- mashed potatoes
- boiled rice
A person with food poisoning has a high risk of developing dehydration. Therefore, it is very important to ensure that they consume enough fluids. Easy ways to replace lost fluids include:
- plain water
- juices diluted with water
- sports drinks containing electrolytes
- Meat Water
Oral rehydration solutions or salts can also help replace glucose and electrolytes. They consist of water with extra salt and glucose that helps in rehydrating the body.
Ginger has properties that relieve nausea and vomiting. Ginger tea can help a person experiencing these symptoms.
When to Apply to the Doctor?
If a person is pregnant and suspects food poisoning, they should consult a doctor. While most people will recover from food poisoning without needing medical attention, a pregnant person should also consider the health of the unborn child.
A pregnant person should contact a doctor immediately if they have any of the following symptoms:
- a fever over 39°C
- blood in stool
- diarrhea lasting longer than 3 days
- dry mouth or throat
- frequent vomiting
Food Poisoning Prevention
While the risks of food poisoning during pregnancy can be frightening, there are ways to prevent it.
Types of food to avoid
Food poisoning can result from a variety of different food products, but there are steps people can take to reduce their risk. For example:
Meat and poultry
Always make sure they are well cooked. This will reduce the risk of developing food poisoning. A meat thermometer can help a person check that their meat has reached a safe minimum internal temperature. For example, a person should cook veal, steak, and chops at least 145°F (63°C) and let the meat rest for 3 minutes after cooking.
Unwashed vegetables and raw vegetables can cause a person to develop food poisoning. Make sure you wash all the vegetables carefully.
Consuming raw or undercooked eggs increases a person’s risk of foodborne illness. Pasteurized eggs carry a lower risk.
Unpasteurized milk can increase a pregnant person’s risk of food poisoning. This includes cheeses made with unpasteurized milk.
Pregnant people should avoid raw or undercooked fish such as sushi. Cooked seafood and canned fish and seafood have a lower risk of causing foodborne illness.
Other foods that pregnant people should avoid include:
- raw sprouts
- delicatessen salads
A pregnant person should also avoid deli meats and hot dogs unless they are cooked at 165ºF (74ºC) or above.
food safety tips
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends four food safety tips for trying to prevent food poisoning:
Make sure everything is clean before preparing food. This includes washing hands and using clean utensils and cutting boards on freshly cleaned counters. This reduces the risk of contamination.
Rinsing fresh fruits and vegetables under running water can destroy germs that can cause food poisoning.
Prevent cross-contamination by ensuring that all utensils that come into contact with raw food do not touch cooked or ready-to-eat food.
From refrigerating to preparing meals, keep raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs separate from other foods when grocery shopping and after returning home.
Use a thermometer to determine if the internal temperature of their food is high enough to kill germs that can cause food poisoning.
Refrigerate perishable foods as soon as possible, keeping the refrigerator at or below 40°F (4°C). Thaw frozen foods in the refrigerator, cold water, or microwave. When food is thawed on the counter, bacteria can multiply rapidly in any part of the food that reaches room temperature.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 48 million people get sick from a foodborne illness each year. 128,000 of these people need to be hospitalized and 3,000 of them die.
Pregnant people are more susceptible to food poisoning.
Food poisoning usually clears up on its own after a few days, but it can be a serious or even fatal illness in a pregnant person. Following food safety protocols can help pregnant people avoid food poisoning, have a safe and healthy pregnancy, and prevent related problems for themselves and their children.
Source: MedicalNewsToday. Everything to know about food poisoning in pregnancy. 2021
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