Is it safe to eat cold cuts or lunch meat during pregnancy?
There are at least two areas of concern in regard to eating lunch meats while you are pregnant: nitrates and listeria.
Pre-packaged lunch meats often contain high levels of a preservative called sodium nitrate. There have been few studies related to the effect of sodium nitrates on pregnancy, but some experts suggest that nitrates may cause problems during pregnancy.
The biggest concern with lunch meats during pregnancy is the risk of listeria. Listeria is a bacteria that can be found in deli meats as well as vegetables and processed foods. This bacteria can cause an illness known as Listeriosis, which can cause any number of problems during pregnancy such as:
- Premature delivery
- Infection to the newborn
- Death to the newborn (about 1/4 of the cases of perinatal Listeriosis result in stillbirth or neonatal death.)
Symptoms of Listeriosis may include mild flu like symptoms, headaches, muscle aches, fever, nausea and vomiting. If the infection spreads to the nervous system it can cause stiff neck, disorientation or convulsions. Infection can occur at any time during pregnancy, but it is most common during the third trimester when your immune system is somewhat suppressed. Be sure to contact your health care provider if you experience any of these symptoms.
To avoid getting listeriosis from cold cuts, reheat the cold cuts until steaming. In addition, avoid soft cheeses, refrigerated pates, uncooked seafood, and practice safe food handling.