Food poisoning in pregnancy: which are the most dangerous

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It is common to suffer from morning sickness during pregnancy. But sometimes your symptoms could stem from something else: food poisoning. How do you know if it is a foodborne illness that is making you sick? Once you know it is, how can you safely treat it when you are the expectant mother?

In this article

  • Food poisoning in pregnancy: the types of intoxication
  • Food poisoning infections in pregnancy: symptoms
  • Food poisoning in pregnancy: when to call a doctor
  • Complications of food poisoning during pregnancy
  • Food poisoning infections in pregnancy: how to prevent them


Read also: Toxoplasmosis

Food poisoning in pregnancy: the types of intoxication

Your immune system is weaker than usual when you are pregnant, so it is harder for your body to fight off germs that could stand in your food and make you sick. There are now more than 250 foodborne infections in the world, which manifest themselves with different symptoms and are caused by different pathogens, mostly bacteria, viruses and parasites. You can get food poisoning when you eat foods contaminated with:

  • Battery
  • Parasites
  • Virus
  • Some chemicals

There are many types of food poisoning. Some are more common and more dangerous during pregnancy.


This comes from the listeria bacterium. Pregnant women are 13 times more likely to get listeriosis than other people. It can hide in ready-to-eat meats such as hot dogs and cold cuts. Poultry, seafood, and dairy products can also have it, especially if they aren't pasteurized. It can also grow on cold foods in the refrigerator.


This bacterium causes something called salmonellosis. Most often, it is obtained from raw or undercooked eggs, meat, poultry, or unpasteurized foods. You can also get it if you eat food that has touched the ground or poop from salmonella-infected animals.

Escherichia coli (E. coli)

This bacterium naturally lives in the intestine. However, you can get sick if you eat contaminated fruits and vegetables, raw or undercooked meat or unpasteurized milk and fruit juices with some types of E. coli.


You can get it by eating raw meat or unwashed vegetables and fruits.

Food poisoning infections in pregnancy: symptoms

It can be difficult to know when food poisoning is the cause of your illness. Sometimes, food germs can make you sick right away. Other times, they stay in your body for days or even weeks before you have symptoms. Often times, food poisoning can feel like a flu, because you may have a fever, headache, and body aches along with other things.

Usually, it causes:

  • Stomach ache
  • Threw up
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Dehydration

Food poisoning in pregnancy: when to call a doctor

Your food poisoning needs professional treatment if you have:

  • Signs of dehydration such as excessive thirst, dry lips, little or no urine, or dizziness
  • Vomiting or diarrhea that won't stop
  • Severe pain in the abdomen
  • A fever above 38
  • Blood or pus in the stool
  • Black or tarry stools

Call your doctor right away if you have one or more of these problems. They will do blood or stool tests to find out what is making you sick. Antibiotic treatment may be required. They will also want to make sure your body has enough fluids. You may need an IV to help your body rehydrate.

Complications of food poisoning during pregnancy

Some types of food poisoning are very dangerous for your unborn baby.

If you suffer from listeriosi, you may not have any symptoms. However, you can pass it on to your baby. This can cause serious health problems such as:

  • Paralysis
  • Blindness
  • Convulsions
  • Problems with the brain, heart or kidneys
  • In the worst case, listeriosis can cause preterm birth, low birth weight, and even miscarriage or stillbirth.

La salmonellosis it can also pass on to your baby and put him at risk for serious complications like meningitis.

Il Campylobacter it can cause miscarriage if you catch it in early pregnancy. It is also very dangerous if you have it at the time of delivery and pass it on to your newborn. Infection in a newborn can be life-threatening.

For you, the most common complication from food poisoning in general is dehydration. Some food-borne diseases, especially E. Coli, can also cause kidney damage.

Food poisoning infections in pregnancy: how to prevent them

You can protect yourself from many types of food poisoning, whether you are pregnant or not, by paying attention to what you eat and how you wash your food.

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before and after handling food.
  • Do not let raw meat come into contact with other foods
  • Store perishable foods in the refrigerator or frozen
  • Clean fruits and vegetables before eating or cooking them
  • Wash utensils and food preparation surfaces after using them
  • Cook food high enough to kill germs
  • Put leftovers in the fridge right away.
  • Do not eat food that is left out or that has expired.

Some foods should be excluded from the menu until after the baby is born. Don't eat or drink:

  • Unpasteurized dairy products, such as raw milk and some brands of soft cheese
  • Raw or undercooked meat, poultry, fish or shellfish
  • Runny or raw eggs, or things that contain them, like cookie dough and homemade eggnog. 
  • Hot dogs or cold cuts, unless they are reheated to 165 degrees
  • Pre-packaged chicken, ham or seafood salads from a deli
  • Smoked fish, unless it comes from a can or you cook it
  • Sprouts

Article sources: epicentro.iss, webmd,

  • intestinal infections
  • food poisoning
  • salmonella
  • toxoplasmosis
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