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Pregnancy Weeks 13-18 - Page 6

Healthy Pregnancy Newsletter
Healthy Pregnancy Newsletter - Safe Passage

Protection from infection

Avoiding infections during pregnancy is important for your health and for protecting the well-being of your unborn baby. Some infections can be prevented by taking simple steps to make your environment and your food safe.


Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by a single-celled parasite named Toxoplasma gondii. While the infection in adults causes flu-like symptoms, swollen lymph glands, or muscle aches and pains that last for a few days to several weeks, babies who became infected before birth can have serious mental or physical problems. The organism can be transmitted by eating raw meat, by handling litter boxes with cat feces containing the parasite, or by outdoor gardening in contaminated soil.


Listeriosis is a food-borne illness transmitted by bacteria in contaminated food. The listeria organism 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 listeria. Symptoms are flu-like, with fever, muscle aches, and sometimes nausea or diarrhea. When contracted during pregnancy, listeriosis may cause infection in the amniotic membranes leading to miscarriage, stillbirth, or severe infection in a newborn.

Food poisoning

Food poisoning is a risk for all people, but in pregnancy, it can lead to dehydration in the mother and may deprive your unborn baby of nourishment. In addition, maternal food poisoning can cause serious illness in the fetus. Escherichia coli O157:H7 (a specific type of E. coli) can cause food poisoning that leads to bloody diarrhea and possible kidney failure. Illness can occur after eating undercooked, contaminated ground beef, drinking raw milk, or after swimming in or drinking contaminated water. Although alfalfa sprouts are often considered a "health food," the warm, humid conditions needed to grow sprouts from seeds are also ideal for bacteria, such as E. coli, to flourish.

Stay healthy and avoid these potential illnesses with the following recommendations:

  • Wash your hands well with antibacterial soap and warm water after outdoor activities, especially before you eat or prepare any food.
  • Wear gloves when you garden or do anything outdoors that involves handling soil.
  • Have someone who is healthy and not pregnant change your cat's litter box. If this is not possible, wear gloves and clean the litter box daily, and wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.
  • Have someone who is healthy and not pregnant handle raw meat for you. If this is not possible, wear clean, latex gloves when you touch raw meat. Wash your hands thoroughly with antibacterial soap and warm water afterwards.
  • Cook all meat, especially ground beef, thoroughly until it is no longer pink in the center or until the juices run clear. Do not sample meat before it is fully cooked.
  • Wash raw vegetables thoroughly before eating.
  • Keep uncooked meats separate from vegetables and from cooked foods and ready-to-eat foods.
  • Avoid raw (unpasteurized) milk or foods made from raw milk, as well as unpasteurized juice and cider.
  • Wash hands, knives, and cutting boards with warm soapy water after handling uncooked foods.
  • Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot.
  • Avoid unpasteurized soft cheeses, such as feta, Brie, Camembert, blue-veined, and Mexican-style cheese. It is safe to eat hard cheeses, processed cheeses, cream cheese, cottage cheese, and yogurt.
  • Avoid raw sprouts, including alfalfa and clover.
  • Left-over foods or ready-to-eat foods, such as hot dogs, cold cuts, and deli foods, should be cooked until steaming hot before eating.
  • Do not eat refrigerated pâtés or meat spreads and do not eat refrigerated smoked seafood unless it's in a cooked dish.

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