The Hidden Dangers of Food Poisoning While Pregnant

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Pregnancy increases the risk of food poisoning. It can be a scary experience for expectant parents. There are many risks of food poisoning during pregnancy.

Food poisoning while pregnant

Hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy can alter a person's immune system, making them more susceptible to food poisoning.

Food poisoning can occur after a person eats or drinks something that contains bacteria, viruses, parasites, or other contaminants. Food poisoning during pregnancy can cause harm to the baby, premature birth, miscarriage, or stillbirth. However, there are many ways to prevent or treat it. This article explains the symptoms of food poisoning during pregnancy, explores its potential harm, and looks at treatment and prevention.


General symptoms of food poisoning may include:

  • upset stomach
  • abdominal cramps
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • fever

The time until symptoms appear can vary depending on when the person consumed the contaminated food and what type of food poisoning the person has.

Types of food poisoning can also cause different symptoms. According to the CDC, the following types of food poisoning have the following symptoms:


Pregnant women are 10 times more likely to contract listeria than the general population. Symptoms can take anywhere from a week to a month to appear. These may include:

  • fever
  • muscle ache
  • headache
  • fatigue


Salmonella symptoms can begin between 6 hours and 6 days
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Exposure to contaminated food may include:

  • stomach pain
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • nausea


Symptoms of norovirus usually begin 12-48 hours after a person has consumed an infected food or drink. Symptoms of norovirus include:

  • stomach cramps
  • diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • nausea

E. coli (Escherichia coli)

Coli symptoms may begin 3-4 days after a person has consumed contaminated food or drink. These symptoms may include:

  • stomach cramps
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea

Staph (Staphylococcus aureus)

Staph symptoms may occur quickly, between 30 minutes and 8 hours
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 after a person consumes the affected food. They can include:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • stomach cramps
  • diarrhea

Conditions with similar symptoms

Some other conditions can give a person similar symptoms to food poisoning.

Food poisoning or a stomach bug?

Gastroenteritis, or stomach disease, is highly contagious and spreads easily from person to person. It is an inflammation of the intestines. Contaminated food or drink can cause gastroenteritis, but the main cause is usually a bacterial or viral infection.

Food poisoning is usually not contagious. People become infected with other people only if they eat the same contaminated food.

Food poisoning or morning sickness?

Morning sickness also causes symptoms similar to food poisoning. People with morning sickness may experience symptoms during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, but these symptoms can appear anytime.


Food poisoning is dangerous for both the unborn child and the parents. It can cause serious health problems for the baby, miscarriage, premature birth, stillbirth and even death for the person carrying the baby. Developing fetuses need as much nutrition as possible from the parent carrying them. If the parents are unable to keep food in the body long enough for the body to absorb the nutrients, the fetus may not grow normally. People with mild symptoms can pass the infection to their unborn baby during pregnancy without the parents even knowing they have food poisoning.

Newborns can also develop health problems and even food poisoning at birth if the baby's carrier becomes infected.

Treatment of food poisoning at home

While pregnant women should always see a doctor when they experience symptoms of food poisoning, there are things they can do at home to help.


If a person has food poisoning, it may be difficult for them to eat anything. But pregnant women need to eat to stay strong and ensure they are eating enough for themselves and their unborn baby. It is best to eat light, low-fat foods that will help keep your stomach as calm as possible.
Foods they can eat include:

  • saltine crackers
  • toast
  • applesauce
  • mashed potatoes
  • boiled rice


People with food poisoning are at high risk of dehydration. Therefore, it is very important to make sure that they consume enough fluids. Simple ways to replace lost fluids include drinking:

  • plain water
  • fruit juices diluted with water
  • sports drinks containing electrolytes
  • broths

Oral rehydration salts can also help replace glucose and electrolytes. They consist of water with added salt and glucose to help rehydrate the body.

When to contact a doctor

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If a person is pregnant and suspects food poisoning, a doctor should be contacted. Although most people recover from food poisoning without seeking medical attention, pregnant women should also consider the health of their unborn child. If a pregnant woman has any of the following symptoms, she should contact her doctor immediately:

  • a temperature of over 102°F
  • blood in the stool
  • diarrhea lasting longer than 3 days
  • dizziness
  • a dry mouth or throat
  • frequent vomiting

Preventing food poisoning

Although the risk of food poisoning during pregnancy can be scary, there are ways to prevent it.

Food types to avoid

Food poisoning can come from a variety of foods, but there are steps people can take to reduce the risk. For instance:

Meat and poultry

Just make sure they are cooked. This will reduce the risk of food poisoning. Meat thermometers help people check if meat has reached a safe minimum temperature. For example, a person should cook beef, pork, steaks, and ribs to at least 145°F (63°C) and let the meat sit for 3 minutes after cooking.


Unwashed and raw vegetables can cause food poisoning. Be sure to wash all vegetables thoroughly.

An egg

Eating raw or undercooked eggs can increase a person's risk of foodborne illness. Pasteurized eggs pose a lower risk. 


Unpasteurized milk increases the risk of food poisoning in pregnant women. This includes cheeses made from unpasteurized milk.


Pregnant women should avoid raw or undercooked fish such as sushi. Cooked shellfish, canned fish and crustaceans have a lower risk of foodborne illness. Other foods that pregnant women should avoid include:

  • raw bean sprouts
  • Deli Salad
  • a pie
  • Pregnant women should also avoid deli meats and hot dogs unless they are cooked to 165ºF (74ºC) or higher.

Food safety tips

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends four food safety tips to reduce food poisoning:
Make sure everything is clean before cooking. This includes washing hands and working with clean dishes and cutting boards on freshly cleaned work surfaces. This reduces the risk of contamination.

Rinsing fresh fruits and vegetables under running water can remove bacteria that can cause food poisoning. separately
Avoid cross-contamination by ensuring that all utensils that come into contact with raw food do not come into contact with cooked or ready-to-eat foods.


raw meat, poultry, shellfish, and eggs from other foods when you shop and when you get home, from storing in the refrigerator to preparing meals. chef
Use a thermometer to determine if the internal temperature of their food is hot enough to kill bacteria that can cause food poisoning.


Cool perishable foods as quickly as possible and ensure that the refrigerator is maintained at 40°F (4°C) or below. Thaw frozen food in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave. When food thaws on the counter, bacteria can multiply quickly on any part of the food that reaches room temperature.

Take away

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 48 million people contract foodborne illnesses yearly. Of these, 128,000 required hospital treatment and 3,000 of them died. Pregnant women are more prone to food poisoning.

Food poisoning usually clears up on its own after a few days, but it can be a serious or even fatal illness for pregnant women. Following food safety protocols can help pregnant women avoid food poisoning, ensure a safe and healthy pregnancy, and avoid related problems for themselves and their babies.


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