Listeria during Pregnancy

Archived Q&A and Reviews

I ate proscuitto, now I'm obsessing about Listeria infection

April 2007

I just found out I am preggers with #2 and I am obsessing about the prosciutto I ate last week. I know pregnant women are not supposed to eat deli meats/luncheon meats when not ''steaming hot.'' I've read that Listeria infection is very rare but I would appreciate some feedback/reasurrance. Thanks! Tina

I ate deli sandwiches several times a week during my entire pregnancy. Nothing bad happened! I wouldn't give it another thought - people eat, drink, and imbibe all kinds of stuff they aren't supposed to before they find out they're pregnant. Ask your doctor if you just can't put it out of your mind; I'm sure s/he will reassure you. Kristine
Wow, I never heard of that one before, and I ate lots of luncheon meat when pregnant with my first. (I also ate some sushi, and soft cheeses, and had one or two glasses of wine a week.) These are just guidelines. Getting sick from these foods is rare but American doctors are so scared of every little thing so they don't want you to do anything that could pose the slightest risk. Do you feel OK? Then you are fine! No problemo
Sometimes I think we simply know too much. Do you honestly believe you will kill your baby by eating ham? I never heard that about cold cuts before and I have two healthy great kids. There always seems to be something. When I was pregnant (5 and 2 years ago), I never heard of this sleeping on your left side thing either but a collegue of mine was so determined that that was the right thing to do, she cause sciatica in her leg and had to leave work 2 months early because she was convinced she would kill her baby if she didn't sleep on her left side. yikes. my great grandmother had 22 babies and I doubt she worried about procuitto or the left side. relax and congratulations. Hell, Courtney Love admitted to shooting heroin during her pregnancy and that kid seems okay........well okay in terms of the consequences of her birth. it's all good.
Even in ''what to expect when you're expecting'' which is a very consevative fear-based book, they say not to beat yourself up for anything you might have eaten before you knew you were pregnant. Anyway, wouldn't you have symptoms by now if there was a problem?
I went through similar anxiety after a deli sandwich when pregnant with baby #1. I'm not sure what I can tell you except, nothing happened and, as you said, listeria problems are extremely uncommon. Being pregnant for the first time is incredibly scary, even for the non-hypochondriacs out there. With baby #2 I ate just about everything -- soft cheese, deli meat, even tuna (only chunk light, and only occasionally) -- though I did still refrain from raw fish. I think once you realize that it's pretty tough to ruin your baby, you realize that your anxiety is probably worse for the kid than any piece of prosciutto could be. Don't Worry
I wouldn't worry too much about it--if it was prosciutto from Italy, those cows are treated pretty well and the EU has stricter food guidelines than the US. Most cases of bacterial infection of raw meats can be traced back to factory-farming practices in the US (that's not to say it can't happen in the EU, but I do remember reading it's less likely), and I suppose with deli meats, there is also the introduction of the processing plant. If you are really worried, you should ask your practitioner for bloodwork sooner rather than later, and just rule it out, because your worry is probably more detrimental to the fetus than the minute chance of listeria infection. That being said, I am pregnant now and freaked when I found out, because I had taken a hot bath at week 3 or something. I worried about it for quite some time, so don't beat yourself up about not being able to stop worrying; it's natural, but just do what you need to do to rule out the possibility of infection so you don't need to worry in the future. --fellow pregnancy-worrier.
I think you should talk to your doctor - not because I think you have anythying to worry about, but because s/he will be able to reassure you. When I was pregnant, one day I bought a salad for lunch that had some cheese sprinkled on it. It smelled a bit funny, but I figured that it was probably some blue cheese, and it probaby wasn't going to kill me. Well, it took me a couple of bites to realize that the cheese was in fact spoiled feta. Well... I was certain that I had just caused irreparable damage to my baby, and how could I forgive myself for being so stupid. That night, seeing how upset I was, my husband suggested that I call my doctor, so I called the 24-hour pregnancy hotline. A very kind and patient nurse listened to my story, and said something along the lines of: ''Honey, if one bite of bad salad killed babies, there wouldn't be so many people on this planet.'' She did go ahead and consult with a doctor, just in case, but they were not worried in the slightest. And by the way, I ate turkey sandwiches throughout my pregnancy and everything was just fine! Don't worry
I didn't respond to the original post but after reading the replies felt I should. The issue with listeria is that it can cause a miscarriage or severe birth defects. I am not an alarmist, I had sushi and the occasional drink while pregnant but did stay away from lunchmeat/soft cheese like it was the plague. The chances of contracting it are extremely slim but the results can be devastating so that's why dr's are concerned. It cannot be compared to eating sushi where if you get sick, you are just way more uncomfortable - in this case you could lose your baby. I'd advise you not to worry if you have already eaten the lunchmeat but I would stay away from it the rest of your pregnancy. not worth the risk
One last word on listeria--everyone who told you to take it easy and not worry said that they had eaten something forbidden and not had a bad result. That's really not a great reason to encourage someone else to eat something potentially harmful. Yes, not everyone who eats soft cheeses or deli meat will get listeria. BUT, I happen to know someone who ate something on the list of no-nos and DID get listeria--went into labor early, and nearly lost her son who became infected with it and was in the NICU for a long time. He seems fine now, but who knows the long term consequences. So, now everyone knows someone who knows someone who had an issue with listeria. There is a reason docs advise not to eat certain things. So, if you ate it, and nothing happened. Great. But, I would advise avoiding it in the future to be safe. It's not so hard to avoid certain foods while preggers