Eating Cheese During Pregnancy
While eating cheese during pregnancy, you need to ensure that the cheese is made of pasteurized milk and not raw milk! This is because raw milk contains a harmful bacteria, called Listeria monocytogenes, that can cause several diseases, especially to the fetus, by passing through the placenta. This is more likely in case of soft cheese, as they are made of raw milk, making them less acidic. Also, they have more moisture than hard cheese, which makes them the perfect breeding ground for Listeria and other bacteria. However, these bacteria are generally killed during the process of pasteurization making cheese made from pasteurized milk safe to consume. I must point out that, only 1,600 Americans are victimized by this bacteria found in unpasteurized dairy products, every year. Listeria is known to be responsible for blood poisoning and deadly infections like listeriosis, meningitis and several flu symptoms. Unfortunately, pregnant women are at a higher risk of the ill effects of Listeria because the body's defense mechanism becomes more vulnerable. They may suffer from nausea, vomiting and muscle aches. These symptoms develop within 2 to 30 days of ingestion of Listeria. According to statistics, pregnant women have 20 times higher chance of suffering from listeriosis. Nonetheless, it is detrimental to your baby's health and can even lead to birth complications like preterm labor, stillbirth or a miscarriage, though it may not be fatal to your health. Did you know? 22 in 100 cases of listeriosis in pregnant women result in death of the baby. So, avoid soft cheese during pregnancy like
- All kinds of goat cheese or chèvre that is mold-ripened like feta cheese, castelo branco
- All types of blue-veined cheese like Gorgonzola, Roquefort, Danish blue
- White Mexican-style cheese like queso fresco, blanco, panela
What You Should Do?
I'd suggest that to protect your unborn baby from such harmful bacteria, avoid eating food containing cheese from outside and switch to foods cooked at home. Ensure that you cook and steam the cheese well, at a high heating point, so that such harmful disease-causing agents are killed during the process and pose a lesser threat. Deep-fry your cheese or bake it well! Another point to be noted about American cheese is that they contain trans fats which have been linked to childhood food allergies towards dairy products, if consumed by pregnant mothers. Beware of words like 'hydrogenated' and 'partially hydrogenated' on the label.
Lucky you, the cheese sold in the United States is mostly made of pasteurized milk. Not just cheese, but all kinds of dairy products, that are made from unpasteurized milk, are risky to consume during pregnancy. So, next time when you go to the farmer's market to buy some cheese to satisfy your cravings, do check the label for ingredients or ask the vendor. When in doubt, its best not to buy that cheese, instead of exposing your baby to harmful bacteria. Cheese is healthy for your body and helps fulfill your body's need for extra calcium during pregnancy.