Listeria and its Implications

A healthy diet when pregnant is important for the nutrition and development of the baby. With this in mind, it is important to note that pregnancy complications can also be caused by the safety of the food the mother eats. The foods to avoid when pregnant being a major culprit. Let’s look at Listeria as one of the major risks that a mother may face during pregnancy.

What is Listeria

Listeria is bacteria which can grow in cold temperatures. It is mostly prevalent in deli meats and dairy products. Foods that are known to harbor listeria are such as:

  • Hotdogs
  • Soft cheeses
  • Cantaloupes
  • Unpasteurized milk

What is Listeriosis?

Listeriosis is a disease caused by the bacteria, listeria. Symptoms of listeriosis can appear immediately after exposure or up to 90 days after eating infected food. For healthy people, listeriosis isn’t a cause for concern. It may, however, cause complications in pregnant women and persons with compromised immunity.

Some of the symptoms include;-

  • Constipation
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Vomiting
  • Persistent fever
  • Flu like symptoms like chills, fatigue, muscle pain and fatigue
  • Persistent vomiting
  • Headaches 
  • Nausea

Listeriosis in Pregnancy and Newborns

Listeriosis is common to pregnant women with a 10 times likelihood of catching an infection. Symptoms such as fever, diarrhea, and vomiting causing dehydration.

The risk here is mostly towards the unborn baby. If infection happens during the first trimester it poses a risk of a miscarriage.

Complications that may arise in a newborn whose mother suffers from listeriosis may include:-

  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Paralysis
  • Blindness
  • Seizures
  • Infections of the blood
  • Problems with the brain, kidney and heart.
  • Death

How is Listeriosis Diagnosed and Its Treatment

This disease is often diagnosed by a blood or stool test. Once confirmed, treatment often commences

Listeriosis is treated by the administration of antibiotics which will prevent the bacteria from reaching your baby.

A mother who is being treated for listeria is also advised to rehydrate well to avoid complications that may arise from it.

What You Can Do to Prevent Listeria

Since listeria is common in foods, it is important to practice proper food safety. Interventions include;

  • Cleanliness-Keep your hands clean by washing with soap. Wash food preparation surfaces thoroughly with hot water.
  • Clean vegetables and fruits well by using a vegetable brush and plenty of running water
  • Cook food thoroughly.
  • Avoiding foods that are not recommended during pregnancy.

Diagnosis and treatment of listeria is of utmost important as this bacterium poses a major risk to your unborn child. Having frequent screening of its exposure is also often advised.



Please note that development differs from one child to another. 

Content intended for educational purposes only, and should not be substituted for medical advice from your doctor.

Be careful when using any products mentioned on this website. We hold no regulations for such products or their providers.


Last reviewed March 2019 

Sources: acog, emedicine.medscape, mayoclinic, medbroadcast, webmd

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