Healthy Pregnancy Diet Guidelines

By EatingWell Editors

Steps for a healthy pregnancy.

Handle food safely

Pregnant women are more vulnerable to foodborne illness because pregnancy tends to suppress a woman’s immune system. Why? So the body doesn’t attack the baby, mistaking it for a foreign invader. (Fascinating!) What’s more, an unborn baby's immune system is not developed enough to fight off harmful microorganisms, which makes it even more important to take measures that will protect both of you from foodborne “bugs,” including Listeria moncytogenes, a bacteria most often found in deli meats and unpasteurized dairy products.

Listeriosis (the name of the illness caused by these bacteria) is particularly worrisome for pregnant women, who represent a third of the 2,500 annual cases. While listeriosis may not at first present as a serious condition—symptoms include fevers, chills, muscle aches and back pain, and strike several weeks after you are exposed to the bacteria—it is. One in five cases is fatal. What’s more, this disease can spread to the fetus, leading to preterm delivery, miscarriage or a stillbirth. Experts advise that all pregnant women avoid foods that are most likely to be contaminated by the bacteria, including unpasteurized milk, soft cheeses, such as Brie, blue cheese and feta as well as prepared meats (e.g., hot dogs, bacon and deli meats) unless they are reheated until steaming hot.

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