Is it safe to eat deli meats and hot dogs during pregnancy?Posted on March 2nd, 2009 No comments
I had always heard that pregnant women should avoid deli meats, hot dogs, and other pre-cooked meats. I never really knew why until recently.
In general, I know to avoid certain things during pregnancy…smoking, alcohol, and certain foods. Not smoking is an easy one for me, because I never have and never will smoke. Alcohol is also easy, because I rarely have any in the first place. I’ll have an occasional glass of wine on a special occasion or with the ladies from my local Mom’s Club. As for food…
I know to avoid foods that contain nitrates, nitrites, or sodium nitrates. Foods that usually contain these are hot dogs, salami, luncheon meats, and smoked fish and meats. They are used as a preservative in these foods. I recently found out that nitrates in food can be converted to nitrites, which can react in your stomach to form nitrosamines, potent cancer-causing agents. As I would NOT like to risk getting cancer from what I eat, I will avoid these foods, especially while I’m pregnant. I am unable to find more thorough information about nitrates, etc. related specifically to pregnancy, although this page on iVillage, talks about nitrites in well water causing miscarriage.
The other big thing related to food I just found out about is Listeriosis, and I must say what I read shocked me.
Listeriosis is a serious infection caused by eating foods contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. Pregnant women are 20 times more likely than other healthy adults to get listeriosis. About one-third of listeriosis cases happen during pregnancy.
You get listeriosis by eating food contaminated with Listeria. Babies can be born with listeriosis if their mothers eat contaminated food during pregnancy. The bacterium has been found in a variety of raw foods, such as uncooked meats and vegetables, as well as in processed foods that become contaminated after processing, such as soft cheeses and cold cuts at the deli counter. Unpasteurized (raw) milk or foods made from unpasteurized milk may contain the bacterium.
Listeria is killed by pasteurization and cooking; however, in certain ready-to-eat foods such as hot dogs and deli meats, contamination may occur after cooking but before packaging.
A person with listeriosis has fever, muscle aches, and sometimes gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea or diarrhea. If the infection spreads to the nervous system, symptoms such as headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, or convulsions can occur.
Infected pregnant women may experience only a mild, flu-like illness; however, infections during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage or stillbirth, premature delivery, or infection of the newborn. When infection occurs during pregnancy, antibiotics given promptly to the pregnant woman can often prevent infection of the fetus or newborn. Even with prompt treatment, some infections result in death.
I knew to avoid soft cheeses (feta is the only one I really like), unpasteurized foods, and cold cuts without ever really looking into why. I can’t believe I went through an entire pregnancy and I’m now almost halfway through my second and have only just now found out this information.
Part of the reason I wrote this post was to hopefully inform other pregnant women who are searching for information on this subject. I don’t mean for it to scare anyone or to add more foods to the “unsafe during pregnancy” list, but really wanted to share what I learned.
As a mother of one and soon-to-be two, I feel it’s my job to protect my children and do whatever I can to keep them safe. That begins with being safe and healthy during pregnancy and doing my best to avoid anything that could be bad for my developing baby. I feel better about avoiding these foods now that I know the reasons behind why I should avoid them.
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