During pregnancy, the mother must consume a nutritious and balanced diet. The mother can choose the foods one generally consumes while making a diet plan. However, there need to be precautions taken while choosing and preparing food as some types of foodborne illnesses carry a high risk for both the mother and the fetus. The immune system of the mother may be altered due to the hormone changes associated with the pregnancy making them more susceptible to foodborne illness.
Since the immune system of pregnant women is compromised, there is a higher risk of foodborne illness for the mothers, their newborns, and their unborn fetus too. These illnesses can be very serious at the pregnancy stage as they can result in premature delivery or miscarriage, or even stillbirth. There is a possibility that while the mother does not feel sick at all, the fetus may be infected by foodborne illnesses like Toxoplasma gondii and Listeria. A person may suffer from food poisoning when they consume something having parasites, viruses, bacteria, or other contaminants. However, it may be prevented or treated in various ways.
In general, the maternal infection may be without symptoms or maybe with mild flu-like symptoms such as muscle aches, fever, and gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea or nausea. Fetal or neonatal infection, in contrast to maternal illness, may result in premature birth, abortion, early-onset neonatal sepsis, and stillbirth. The risk of adverse fetal outcomes due to maternal listeriosis can be reduced through the management of the illness through broad-spectrum antibiotics such as penicillin or ampicillin. The risk of L. monocytogenes infections is thought to be lowered if the food is handled and stored properly. Hence, pregnant women are advised not to consume deli meats and soft-ripened cheeses, though these can be consumed in moderate amounts that too when procured from reputed stores.
Soft-cooked or raw eggs
One of the most common causes of Salmonella infection is eggs. The infection is a foodborne illness due to non-typhoid Salmonella bacteria. In recent times, the safety of the eggs has been increased through the collaborations of various regulatory agencies. The frequency of infected eggs in the United States ranges from 1 out of 10,000 to 1 out of 30,000.
This infection, like other foodborne illnesses, causes fever and gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea, cramps in the stomach, vomiting, and nausea, though, in approximately 4 percent of the cases, intrauterine sepsis may be caused due to bacteremia. Hence, pregnant women are advised to avoid undercooked or raw eggs unless, in place of shell eggs, pasteurized eggs are used. Raw eggs are present in homemade food items such as salad dressings and mayonnaise; raw cake batter and cookie dough; and ice-creams and custards.
Shellfish and raw fish
Foodborne illnesses related to seafood are generally linked with the consumption of undercooked or raw items. In general, higher seafood-related infections are caused due to shellfish than finfish, as the latter is consumed mostly after being cooked. Pathogens that are linked with seafood consumption are Salmonella (bacteria) species, noroviruses, Vibrionaceae, and some helminthic and protozoan species.
There are not many studies done on the effects of seafood-related infections on pregnancy, with the infection generally limited to the gastrointestinal tract while being self-limiting. The safety of commercially available products is enhanced as these are subjected to rigorous screening for microbial contamination. Though flash-freezing is used to inactivate the parasites, as in the case of sushi-grade fish, cooking is the most effective way of inactivation. Pregnant women are advised to avoid consuming raw fish unless it is obtained from a reputed store and is stored carefully and consumed soon after purchase.
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