What to Do if You Get Food Poisoning While Pregnant

Medically reviewed by Nicole Galan, RN on March 24, 2016Written by Jesica Salyer on March 24, 2016
Food Poisoning While Pregnant

If you have food poisoning, it means you’ve consumed something that contains a bacteria, virus, or toxin that’s causing your body to react negatively. Often characterized by vomiting, nausea, or diarrhea, food poisoning is an unpleasant experience for anyone.

During pregnancy, food poisoning can cause even more anxiety. In addition to feeling ill, you’re worried about the safety of your baby-to-be.

Food safety is an important issue for pregnant women, for good reason. If you get food poisoning while pregnant, it can be dangerous. In the worst cases, it can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, or premature delivery. If you get food poisoning during pregnancy, it’s important to let your doctor know right away.

Unfortunately, pregnant women are more susceptible to food poisoning because of changes to their metabolism and circulation.

Here’s a look at the symptoms and treatment options for food poisoning during pregnancy.

Symptoms

In addition to nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, common symptoms of food poisoning during pregnancy include:

  • headache
  • fever
  • abdominal pain or discomfort
  • dehydration
  • bloody stool

With the constant changes your body experiences during pregnancy, it might be difficult to tell if symptoms like nausea and vomiting are normal, or if they’re from food poisoning. Look for symptoms that present themselves suddenly, or feel abnormal. If you’re unsure, it’s best to consult your doctor to rule out an infection or virus.

Causes of Food Poisoning During Pregnancy

According to the FDA, you’re prone to foodborne illnesses during pregnancy because your immune system is altered. This suppressed state of immunity is largely because your hormones are in flux. Your body’s priority is helping develop another human life.

Growing the baby is your body’s prime mission, and most of your energy goes toward that task. For this reason, pregnant women need to be careful about what they eat and how it’s prepared. In addition, your baby’s immune system is underdeveloped. If you get food poisoning, it can be dangerous for them.

Treatment of Food Poisoning During Pregnancy

Dehydration is one of the most common complications of food poisoning. This is because of the diarrhea and vomiting that you’re experiencing. To replenish fluids lost, it’s important to ramp up water consumption. If you’re throwing up, start by slowly drinking a sip of water until liquids are tolerated, then build up slowly from there.

Keep in mind that your body is comprised primarily of water. It’s the body’s master cleanser, flusher, and detoxifier. Keeping your fluid intake continuous will play a role in how quickly your body recovers from illness.

Water is the most economical and universally effective way to help your body heal. Ideally, you want to consume clean, purified water from a trusted home filter, or bottled source.

Let your doctor know if you become dehydrated. Severe dehydration during pregnancy might require hospitalization and/or an IV to issue fluids.

Types of Food Poisoning

The most common types of food poisoning are listeria, E. coli, and salmonella. If left untreated, all of these can be dangerous during pregnancy. If you think you have food poisoning from a foodborne illness, let your doctor know right away. If you think you’ve fallen ill after eating out, also contact your local health department. They can investigate if there’s a serious foodborne illness outbreak in your area.

Complications of Food Poisoning During Pregnancy

Listeria can cause long-term neurological development problems for your baby-to-be. E. coli can cause blood vessel lining damage or kidney failure, often indicated by bloody stools. Salmonella has the potential to cause meningitis, reactive arthritis, and bacteremia (bacteria in the bloodstream). In extreme cases, food poisoning can cause miscarriage or stillbirth.

For these reasons, it’s important to be careful about what you eat during pregnancy.

Preventing Food Poisoning During Pregnancy

Food safety is important during pregnancy. To avoid getting sick, follow all of your doctor’s instructions for preparing food, and avoid foods that aren’t pregnancy-safe. There are several precautions you can take in order to minimize your chances of experiencing food poisoning while pregnant.

Keep these pointers in mind when you’re preparing food:

  • Keep raw foods separate from ready-to-eat foods.
  • Thoroughly cook your raw meat. Use a meat thermometer if need be. Some harmful bacteria can’t survive at a high temperature.
  • Store perishable foods safely.
  • Pay attention to expiration dates.
  • Store in the freezer for retain optimum freshness.
  • Opt to defrost foods instead of letting them sit out at room temperature.
  • As much as possible, avoid packaged meats.
  • Steer clear of raw or unpasteurized dairy.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables well before eating.

Foods to avoid during pregnancy include:

  • uncooked or raw meat, poultry, seafood, eggs
  • unpasteurized fruit or vegetable juices
  • cheese and meat spreads
  • packaged meats

The Takeaway

Getting rid of mild food poisoning symptoms can be a dreadful period of trial and error, especially during pregnancy. Talk to your doctor to decide what the best healing approach is for you.

Unfortunately, food poisoning cannot always be treated at home. Your doctor may recommend and prescribe medication. More serious cases of food poisoning might require antibiotics. Listeria during pregnancy is commonly treated via hospitalization and administered intravenous antibiotics.

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