“Spread Prevention, Not the Infection” during Pregnancy: Listeria

This year the theme of  National Birth Defects Prevention Month is Prevent to Protect. This week we will be posting a series of guest posts from MotherToBaby’s Kirstie Perrotta, MPH, Lorrie Harris-Sagaribay, MPH, Robert Felix and Susan Sherman of the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists (OTIS) Zika Task Force. Each day they will respond to one of the top five questions they receive about preventable infectious diseases and what you can do to prevent exposure during pregnancy.

“It’s 2018! I didn’t even know you could get syphilis nowadays!” Yes, I mentioned the stats about syphilis and other infections that can affect pregnancy to the caller who had contacted me through our free MotherToBaby helpline. I thought, this is a great time to educate her as well as others about a variety of infections. Some infections, like Zika, seem to make headlines every week, while others tend to be discussed much less frequently. January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month, and this year’s focus is on infection prevention.

I just ate unpasteurized cheese and I’m worried I have Listeria. What symptoms should I watch for? Do I need to be tested?

Eating unpasteurized cheese does put you at risk for a Listeria infection (called listeriosis). So during your pregnancy it’s important to avoid unpasteurized cheeses and other foods made with unpasteurized milk. The US Food and Drug Administration has developed additional food safety guidelines specific to pregnancy.

While listeriosis has not been found to cause birth defects, it can increase the risk for miscarriage, preterm delivery, and still birth. It also increases the risk of infection in newborns which can result in very serious long-term complications for baby.

Not everyone who is infected with Listeria will have symptoms, but some will have mild to severe symptoms that appear a few days or even weeks after eating contaminated food. Symptoms of a Listeria infection to watch for may include: diarrhea, fever, muscle aches, joint pain, headache, backache, chills, sore throat, swollen glands, and sensitivity to light.

Since not everyone has symptoms, it is important to be tested if you think you might have listeriosis. Your health care provider can order a simple blood test to confirm a Listeria infection. Treatment will reduce the risks of infection for you and your baby.

Other posts in the series:

“Spread Prevention, Not the Infection” during Pregnancy: Zika

“Spread Prevention, Not the Infection” during Pregnancy: Toxoplasmosis

“Spread Prevention, Not the Infection” during Pregnancy: Syphilis

About MotherToBaby 

MotherToBabyis a service of the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists (OTIS), suggested resources by many agencies including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If you have questions about exposures during pregnancy and breastfeeding, please call MotherToBaby toll-FREE at 866-626-6847 or try out MotherToBaby’s new text information service by texting questions to (855) 999-3525. You can also visit MotherToBaby.org to browse a library of fact sheets about dozens of viruses, medications, vaccines, alcohol, diseases, or other exposures during pregnancy and breastfeeding or connect with all of our resources by downloading the new MotherToBaby free app, available on Android and iOS markets.