Food Poisoning While Pregnant? What to Do

It’s common to have morning sickness when you’re pregnant. But sometimes your symptoms might come from another culprit -- food poisoning.

How can you tell if it’s food-borne illness that’s making you sick? Once you know it is, how can you treat it safely when you have a baby on board?

Types of Food Poisoning

Your immune system is weaker than usual when you’re pregnant, so it’s harder for your body to fight off germs that might hitch a ride on food and make you feel bad.

You can get food poisoning when you eat foods contaminated with:

One of the most common forms of food poisoning in pregnant women is something called listeriosis, which comes from the bacteria listeria. Pregnant women are 13 times more likely to get listeriosis than other people. It can lurk in ready-to-eat meats like hot dogs and cold cuts. Poultry, seafood, and dairy products can have it, too, especially if they’re not pasteurized. It can grow even on foods that are cold in the refrigerator.

You may have no symptoms at all from listeriosis. However, you can pass it on to your unborn baby. That can cause serious health problems like:

It can also lead to issues with the brain, heart, or kidneys.

You can also get food poisoning from other things like:

Escherichia coli (E. coli): This bacteria lives in your gut naturally. Still, you can get sick if you eat contaminated fruits and vegetables, raw or undercooked meats, or unpasteurized milk and fruit juices with certain types of E. coli.

Salmonella: This bacteria causes something called salmonellosis. Most often, you get it from

undercooked or raw eggs, meats, poultry, or unpasteurized foods.

You can also get it if you eat food that has touched soil or animal poop infected with salmonella. It can pass to your baby if you get it when you’re pregnant and put her at risk of serious complications like meningitis.

Campylobacter: You get this bacteria mainly through contaminated chicken or unpasteurized foods. It’s unlikely to cause long-term problems for you and your baby, unless you have it at the time you give birth and pass it to your newborn.

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Symptoms

It can be tricky to know when food poisoning is to blame for your sickness. Sometimes, germs from food can make you sick right away. Other times, they hang around in your body for days or even weeks before you have symptoms.

Usually, it causes:

Often, food poisoning can feel like the flu, because you might have fever, headache, and body aches along with your other things.

Handling Symptoms Safely

When you’re pregnant, it’s more than just your health you’re protecting. Some bouts of food poisoning can pose problems for your baby, whose immune system isn’t strong enough yet to fight off germs.

When you start having symptoms that seem like food poisoning, call your doctor right away. She can help you figure out if it is food poisoning, and if so, what may have caused it.

You may be able to handle your symptoms at home with your doctor’s guidance. However, if you're vomiting and having diarrhea, you may need treatment at the doctor’s office or even hospital. They can affect your baby’s wellbeing. Don’t take any over-the-counter medications without talking to your doctor first.

If your case is mild enough to treat at home, work on rest and rehydration. Get fluids however you can: ice chips, small sips of water or clear liquids, or by drinking a sports drink with electrolytes in it. Wait until you’re sure your vomiting is over before you try to eat. Take your first foods slowly and stick with bland, non-greasy fare.

When to See a Doctor

Your food poisoning needs professional treatment if you’re having:

Call your doctor right away if you have one or more of these problems. She'll do tests on your blood or stool to find out what's making you sick. You may need treatment with antibiotics. She’ll also want to be sure your body has enough fluids. You may need an IV to help your body rehydrate.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Traci C. Johnson, MD on May 24, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: “Nutrition During Pregnancy.”

Antimicrobe.org: “Campylobacter species.”

eMedicine Health: “Food Poisoning.”

FDA: “While You're Pregnant - What Is Foodborne Illness?” “Food Safety for Moms-To-Be: While You're Pregnant - Listeria.”

Foodsafety.gov: “Food Safety for Pregnant Women.”

March of Dimes: “Salmonellosis.”

Mother to Baby: “E. coli and pregnancy.”

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: “Foodborne Illnesses.”

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: “Food-borne Illness During Pregnancy - Women’s Health.”

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