When you’re pregnant, you’ll probably hear a lot of different opinions about things you should and shouldn't do: everything from what exercises are safe, to what foods you can and can’t consume. At times, it might be hard to separate fact from fiction.

Is eating ricotta cheese safe during pregnancy? Here’s what you need to know.

Why the Food Rules?

Not all of the risks and warnings about what you can or can’t eat during pregnancy are unfounded. Your potential to contract foodborne illnesses increases during pregnancy. The Cleveland Clinic shares that pregnant women are 20 times more likely to contract listeria than non-pregnant women.

You should speak with your doctor to obtain the most current information about food do’s and don’ts. Some doctors are more relaxed than others about certain ingredients. In the end, you might need to make some of these food decisions on your own.

What to do? To start, you’ll want to steer clear of anything that might increase your chances of coming in contact with listeria.

What Is Listeria?

What exactly is listeria? It’s a type of infection caused by listeria monocytogenes bacteria. The general population doesn’t have a high risk of developing this life-threatening infection. Instead, it typically affects people with compromised immune systems: older people, newborn babies, and pregnant women.

Symptoms of listeria include:

  • headache
  • stiff neck
  • confusion
  • loss of balance
  • fever
  • muscle achesconvulsions

Of these symptoms, pregnant women usually experience fever and general aches.

Feel off? Think about the meals you’ve eaten recently. If you think you’ve come in contact with listeria, contact your doctor right away. Complications can include miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth, and passing the infection on to your baby.

Read on to discover what foods carry a listeria risk.

Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy

According to the Mayo Clinic, pregnant women should avoid the following foods:

  • certain seafood (swordfish, shark, etc.)
  • unpasteurized dairy products (Brie, feta, blue cheese)
  • unwashed fruits and veggies
  • hot dogs and lunch meat
  • excess caffeine (more than 200 milligrams a day)
  • alcohol
  • herbal tea

The types of seafood listed above are high in mercury. For this reason, your doctor may advise you to skip them until you give birth. Caffeine can cross the placenta and may affect your baby’s heart rate.

Research about herbal teas during pregnancy is mixed, so it’s best to chat with your doctor before steeping your bag.

No amount of alcohol should be considered safe during pregnancy. Mothers who drink during pregnancy have higher rates of miscarriage and stillbirth. You also are putting your baby at risk for birth defects. It’s best to save the wine and beer for after your due date.

Other foods on this list — including unpasteurized dairy, unwashed fruits and veggies, hot dogs and lunch meats — all carry the risk of listeria. Proceed with caution and always wash your fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating.

Safety preparation of foods is just as important as the ingredients themselves. Avoid eating raw fish, undercooked meat and poultry, and raw or runny eggs.

With a little attention to detail, you may be able to enjoy your favorite treats. For example, you can actually eat hot dogs and other lunch meats. But make sure they’re cooked until steaming to kill any possible listeria.

Is Ricotta Safe?

The answer to this question may be as simple as reading your favorite brand’s label. Most ricotta cheese you’ll find at the grocery store is made using pasteurized milk. Pasteurization is a process of heating liquids and foods to kill off harmful bacteria that can cause infections like listeria.

This means most ricotta is safe for consumption during pregnancy.

The cheeses you want to avoid are the soft ones with white rinds like Brie, Camembert, and chevre. Stay away from soft blue cheeses, too. You may be able to eat these cheeses if they’re cooked, but consult with your doctor for more detailed instructions.

Other dairy products considered safe to eat during pregnancy include:

  • cottage cheese
  • mozzarella
  • feta
  • cream cheese
  • paneer
  • goat cheese
  • processed cheeses

Always look for the word pasteurized on cheese packaging. When you see this word on the label, you’re in the clear.

When to Call Your Doctor

Still unsure if one of your favorite foods is safe during pregnancy? Call your doctor or write down questions to ask at your next appointment.

There are lots of rules and suggestions you’ll hear during your 40 weeks growing a baby. The advice you followed during one pregnancy could have changed by the next.

Likewise, if you’re concerned that you might have come into contact with listeria or have symptoms of foodborne illness, contact you doctor. It never hurts to have a quick checkup to make sure you and your baby are healthy.

The Takeaway

There are many delicious recipes that call for ricotta cheese. You can stuff it into ravioli or manicotti, drop it atop pizza, or even mix it with something sweet for a low-fat dessert.

Eat up. If your ricotta cheese is made from pasteurized milk, there’s no harm in including it in your diet during pregnancy.