baby feeding

Pregnant food poisoning: when to worry?

Pregnant food poisoning: when to worry?

With Chloé Haddad-Halimi, general practitioner in Neuilly-sur-Seine, specializing in newborn care and breastfeeding

Food poisoning: what is it?

Many microorganisms such as bacteria (Salmonella, Escherichia coli, Listeria, etc.), viruses (present in agricultural and marine products), parasites, heavy metals (such as lead or mercury) andyou pesticides may contaminate food or water.

Once ingested and digested, they can cause fever, abdominal cramps, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or even headaches.

These symptoms appear on average 3 to 30 days after eating contaminated food. It happens, more rarely, that they appear up to 70 days later.

Some food poisonings can be very dangerous for pregnant women, mainly those due to listeria bacteria or to parasite Toxoplasma gondii.

Listeria bacteria: how to know if you have listeriosis when you are pregnant? What are the symptoms ?

Listeriosis is transmitted to humans by food by consuming certain poorly preserved products such as unwashed fruits and vegetablesunpasteurized dairy products and raw milk cheeses, undercooked meats, the cold cutssmoked and raw fish, seafood or sprouted seeds.

The most common symptoms are those of febrile gastroenteritis which occurs between 24 and 36 hours after having ingested a strongly contaminated food as well as those of a flu (fevers and generalized pains). Incubation can range from a few days to 8 weeks.

The bacteria can be transmitted to the fetus and cause a severe brain infection or blood (encephalitis, meningitis, sepsis).

It can also cause miscarriage,premature birth or the birth of a stillborn baby.

Pregnancy: how to differentiate gastro from listeriosis?

Listeriosis can cause the same symptoms asgastroenteritis (diarrhoea, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting…).

To differentiate between the two, the mother-to-be will realize a blood testa lumbar puncture for cerebrospinal fluid or vaginal swabs to detect the presence of the bacteria.

Pregnant: how do you know if you have caught toxoplasmosis?

This infection is commonplace, except for expectant mothers. During pregnancy, 80% of toxoplasmosis causes no symptoms in pregnant women. The diagnosis is made during a serological screening, which is why from the start of pregnancy, the future mother must realize a blood test. This will let her know if she is immune to toxoplasmosis. If this is not the case, she will have to repeat the action every month of the pregnancy to make sure that she does not catch it.

The sources of contamination of toxoplasmosis are:

  • direct contact with a cat or a dog
  • soil or river water soiled with excrement
  • raw and unwashed fruits and vegetables

During pregnancy, the earlier contamination by the parasite occurs, the more serious the toxoplasmosis.

It can lead to many complications for the fetus. Among those :

  • chorioretinitis which is an inflammation of the choroid associated with damage to the retina. It occurs after the birth of the child, or during adolescence or adulthood. It can be responsible for a visual deficit
  • death in utero (spontaneous abortion)
  • premature birth
  • neurological sequelae (abnormal brain development, psychomotor retardation, etc.)

In about 25% of cases, secondary ocular involvement is possible throughout life. A clinical follow-up is set up once a year until adulthood, with fundus check.

Pregnant food poisoning, when should you consult? When to worry?

Pregnancy is a period during which the woman must particularly listen to your body. If she feels feverish and feels anything out of the ordinary, she should go to the doctor.

“A pregnant woman who has fever, heavy diarrhea or heavy vomiting must necessarily consult a doctor so that he can establish a diagnosis and quickly give the appropriate treatment” explains Chloé Halimi-Haddad.

There is no actual treatment for food poisoning. However, one can try to reduce symptoms with paracetamol to relieve pain, an antidiarrheal that does not pass into the bloodstream (such as Imodium®, or Diaretyl®), an anti-emetic (such as Primperan ®) or a anti-spasmodic (like Spasfon®).

During pregnancy, pregnant women have strict rules to follow to avoid any dangerous food poisoning for the baby.

Food must obviously be fresh, so it is important to respect the cold chain by putting the food in the refrigerator as quickly as possible, by adjusting its temperature to the maximum at 4°C and don’t store leftovers in the refrigerator for more than 3 days, but that’s not all.

“To be sure to eat food without risk, you must cook fish and meat well and wash fruits and vegetables well, do not eat raw eggs or raw milk cheeses “adds the doctor.

For mistresses of cats or dogs, it is necessary to avoid clean the litter box yourself or do it with gloves and wash your hands well afterwards. It is also recommended to wear gloves when gardening or when touching soil or sand, as excrement can get lodged in them.

Finally, hand washing is mandatory before cooking and after handling raw meat or fish.

Leave a Comment