Food Poisoning While Pregnant

Pregnancy doesn’t necessarily mean “eating for two,” but you do need to eat a variety of foods to provide you and your growing baby with the proper nutrients. A pregnancy diet is usually the same as you normally eat when not pregnant, but there are a few foods to avoid getting food poisoning while pregnant. This can alleviate complications in pregnancy and risk to your baby.

Food poisoning in pregnancy may only have a few symptoms and be mild such as fever and body aches and then clear up quickly. In some cases, the infection can affect the baby and cause severe consequences like stillbirth or illness in the fetus. To protect your unborn child, make sure you understand the risks of eating contaminated food.  

How Do I Know I Have Food Poisoning While Pregnant?

Food poisoning happens when food is contaminated with bacteria and doesn’t mean food has poison in it. During pregnancy, the symptoms of food poisoning can easily be mistaken for “morning sickness.” The symptoms of food poisoning may be more pronounced and include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Increased fatigue
  • Chills  

Food poisoning can show up within minutes to hours of eating a contaminated food. This time frame is different for each person and case. It is very important to contact your doctor as soon as you develop symptoms. This will help eliminate complications. The most important complication to avoid is dehydration. Symptoms of dehydration include:

  • Dry mouth and eyes
  • Feeling thirsty
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Headache
  • Dark urine

Will Food Poisoning Hurt My Baby? What to Do?

Food poisoning while pregnant can come with greater complications to both mother and baby.If not treated properly, this can lead to dehydration, or possible harm to the baby. The following 3 food borne illnesses can cause pregnancy complications or loss and so it’s important to learn the treatment for each condition as well as drinking enough water to prevent dehydration. Other remedies include ensuring enough rest to allow your body to recover, do not rush into eating and drinking right after an upset stomach, and then ease back to low-fat, bland and easy to digest foods like toast, rice, bananas and crackers. If your symptoms are severe, or if they are mild but you are concerned about the baby, please do not hesitate to see the doctor.


This food illness is bacterial and needs to be treated with antibiotics. If you are close to your delivery date, your newborn may be treated with antibiotics as well.

These bacteria come from contaminated water and dirt that food is grown in. Any food can have it, but the worst offenders tend to be soft cheese, lunchmeats, and hot dogs. In non-pregnant people it usually doesn’t do any harm at all. In pregnancy, listeria can cause the infection to spread to the baby and cause early labor or stillbirth. Symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Stiff neck
  • Headache
  • Brain fog and confusion
  • Diarrhea
  • Sore achy muscles


Treatment includes anti-parasitic medication. There is also a blood test you can get before you get pregnant to see if you have ever been exposed to toxoplasmosis.

This infection comes from cat feces, litter boxes, and soil that has come into contact with the parasite. It is easily passed from the mother to the fetus without the mother knowing it is present in her blood. It is often contracted from cleaning a cat litter box while pregnant. Toxoplasmosis can cause stillbirth, birth defects, and miscarriage in early pregnancy. There are usually no symptoms in the mother, but can include:

  • Feeling like you have the flu
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Muscle aches


Salmonella in non-pregnant people may clear up by itself. Pregnant women need to be treated quickly with antibiotics. If you have severe vomiting and diarrhea, you may need IV anti-nausea medication and fluids.

Salmonella is bacteria that live in your digestive tract and the digestive tract of animals. It is excreted in feces. Some animals carry salmonella on their fur and you contract it from petting the animal. Most common animals to carry salmonella are chickens, lizards, snakes, geese, and ducks. It can be passed to your baby and cause your baby to have diarrhea and vomiting at birth.

The most common cause of salmonella is these contaminated foods:

  • Food that grows near the soil (sprouts, mushrooms, beans)
  • Raw or undercooked chicken, beef, fish (includes sushi)
  • Raw or undercooked eggs (Cesar dressing, hollandaise, mayonnaise)
  • Raw milk (unpasteurized)

Always wash your hands before handling food. If you have touched an animal or something that may have salmonella, you can transfer it into your food. For example, touching raw chicken and then touching vegetables. Also, watch for food recalls that may contain salmonella.

Symptoms of salmonella begin around 12 to 72 hours after eating a contaminated food and include:

  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headache

Experiences of Other Moms:

“I was in my 7th month of pregnancy when I developed diarrhea and throwing up for about 24 hours. I tried to take care of myself at home, but called my doctor. He advised me to go straight to the emergency room. I’m glad I went. I was dehydrated very bad and needed IV fluids. They told me the dehydration could send me into early labor.”      Jamey

“Around my 20th week of pregnancy I developed food poisoning. My muscles were achy and I had diarrhea pretty severely. I called my doctor and was told that if my temp stays below 100.4 and I was keeping fluids down that I would be okay. The doctor strongly advised me to drink lots of fluids and rest.”       Carrie

“I got food poisoning while pregnant and felt like I was going into labor at 32 weeks. I had about 6 hours of vomiting when I started to have contractions. I called my doctor and he told me to increase my fluid intake. I was throwing up everything I ate and I was afraid the baby wasn’t getting any nutrients. The doctor said the baby would be fine. I drank some of that coconut water with electrolytes and felt fine by the next day. The contractions stopped and my baby was fine.”      Marie

How to Prevent Food Poisoning During Pregnancy

To prevent getting food poisoning while pregnant, follow these food safety tips:

  1. Avoid eating lunch meat or hot dogs (You can slightly cook lunch meat in the microwave to kill bacteria).
  2. Never eat soft unpasteurized cheese (Feta, brie, camembert, blue cheese, and “queso blanco fresco. It is okay to eat processed cheese, cream cheese and cottage cheese).
  3. Avoid Pate and meat spread(Canned versions are okay, but not out of the refrigerator section).
  4. Avoid deli salads (Chicken salad, tuna salad, ham salad, or egg salad).
  5. Do not touch cat feces or litter (Have another person in your home change the litter box and avoid gardening during pregnancy.
  6. Do not drink water from a natural spring (Untreated drinking water can contain a wide range of contaminants, especially E. coli).
  7. Wash your hands and all kitchen surfaces before and after cooking (Clean surfaces in between working with meat and vegetables).
  8. Make sure the store bags meat separates from vegetables(Raw meat juice can contaminate your veggies).
  9. If you aren’t sure, throw food away(If you are not sure if a food is safe to eat, throw it out. Never use an expired food past its expiration date.)
  10. Keep hot food hot and cold food cold (This is especially important at a barbeque or buffet. Keep salads with eggs or mayo very chilled and do not eat any leftovers. Use a chafing dish to keep hot foods hot.)
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