Have you recently found out that you’re pregnant? What amazing news to receive! There’s nothing more exciting than the prospect of starting a family. However, I understand that this time can be a little nerve-racking, as you want to protect your bub to the best of your ability, especially from the harmful effects of listeria.

You may have heard of Listeria – if you haven’t, you’ve come to the right place. Many women don’t realise the risks of listeria, especially during pregnancy.

Listeria is probably one of the most important dietary considerations during pregnancy because of the harmful effects it may have on your bub. If you’re feeling nervous or anxious about this topic, that’s completely normal… I’m here to help you. Let’s walk through it.

What is listeria?

Listeria is a type of bacteria that causes a type of food poisoning called listeriosis. Listeria bacteria can be found in dirt, plants and water and can be transferred into foods. The most common foods known for listeria contamination include meat, dairy products, seafood and vegetables, which can make things difficult. I know what you’re thinking… It’s not so ideal, since these foods are usually an essential part of our diet.

This may seem very scary, but there are ways to avoid listeria toxicity without entirely removing these foods from your diet. After all, meat, dairy, seafood and vegetables are very beneficial during pregnancy, you just need to take some extra precaution.

Although listeriosis is rare (occurring in less than 0.1% of pregnancies), it can be extremely dangerous to your unborn bub. Did you know that the risk of listeriosis is 20 times higher in pregnant mammas than non-pregnant women? So, you can see that we need to be cautious of potential risks but also keep stress levels at bay.

How can listeria affect my baby?

When listeria toxicity occurs, it can travel to- and infect- your placenta, reaching your developing baby. Listeriosis can cause several pregnancy complications including:

  • miscarriage
  • stillbirth, and
  • preterm birth.

In addition to this, if your baby is exposed to listeria during late pregnancy, he or she may experience something called an early-onset form of infection. If your bub is at risk, symptoms will show within 7 days of birth. Early-onset form of infection is a form of listeriosis and is a result from listeria exposure in the placenta.

Signs of early-onset form of infection in newborns include:

  • irritability
  • fever, and/or
  • poor feeding.

How do I know if I have listeriosis?

Symptoms of listeriosis may include:

  • vomiting,
  • cramps,
  • diarrhoea, and
  • fever

Symptoms may develop any time from 2 days to 3 months after ingestion of the bacteria, which can make it very difficult to pinpoint whether the symptoms are pregnancy-related, a common virus or listeria.

What should I do?

The best thing you can try to do is keep calm and try not to panic. It is still extremely important that you’re still consuming a wide variety of foods to ensure that you and your baby are receiving all essential nutrients for your bub’s proper growth and development. Head to Nourish with Melanie on YouTube and watch ‘how to avoid listeria’ for my interview with dietitian and food safety expert, Claire Ward where we discuss some practical tips on keeping your baby safe during pregnancy.


You may also like to read:

Can I eat cheese while pregnant?

Should I be avoiding fish during pregnancy?