Your immune system is your body’s way of protecting itself from illnesses and diseases. During pregnancy your immune system weakens. This is a normal change, but it also means you need to be extra careful with the foods you eat. Certain foods can get contaminated with different germs and make you sick.
Foodborne illnesses can be especially dangerous during pregnancy. Symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea and fever, can become life-threatening. If you are infected during pregnancy, foodborne illnesses can cause birth defects, premature birth, miscarriage, or stillbirth.
How can you reduce the risk of becoming ill from contaminated foods?
Hygiene is key
- Wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food.
- Wash all fruits and vegetables under running tap water before eating, and remove surface dirt with a scrub brush, cutting away any damaged sections, which can contain harmful germs.
- Wash utensils and cutting boards with hot soapy water after each use. Don’t use cutting boards made of wood. They can hold more germs than other kinds of cutting boards.
- After preparing food, clean countertops with hot soapy water.
Separate, cook, and chill food properly
- Use one cutting board for raw meat, poultry and seafood. Use a different board for fruits and vegetables.
- Separate raw meat and poultry from cooked or ready-to-eat foods.
- When you’re shopping, keep raw meat, poultry and seafood and their juices separate from other foods.
- Cook foods to their proper temperature.
- Make sure your refrigerator’s temperature is between 32-40 F and the freezer at 0 F or below.
- Refrigerate all leftovers within 2 hours after eating. At room temperature, bacteria in food can double every 20 minutes.
- Chill foods that need to be kept cold. Cold temperatures keep most harmful bacteria from multiplying.
- Thaw meat, poultry and seafood in the refrigerator, not on the counter or in the sink.
Every year many people get sick from eating contaminated foods. Pay special attention to the news to learn about recent recalls and safety alerts. Inspect your pantry and fridge and remove foods that have been recalled.
Contaminated food doesn’t always smell or look bad. Only a very small amount of germs are enough to make you very sick. If you are unsure about any food you have at home, it is best not to eat it. When in doubt, throw it out!
If you think you may have food poisoning, call your health care provider right away. You can read more about foods that you should avoid during pregnancy here.
For the most recent information on food recalls visit:
Visit marchofdimes.org for more information about how to have a healthy pregnancy and baby.