Safe and unsafe Cheeses during pregnancy
For most women, their diet changes when they become pregnant. This happens for multiple reasons. For one thing, your energy requirements are higher during pregnancy meaning that you’ll need to eat slightly more to fulfill them. Another reason could be the morning sickness you experience during pregnancy causing you to steer clear of certain things. Pregnancy cravings will likely influence your diet as well.
Many women become more health conscious during pregnancy, which is really wonderful as a healthy pregnancy diet is crucial to a healthy pregnancy and baby. One of the big things that can cause your diet to be different during pregnancy is that certain foods should be limited or avoided altogether during pregnancy. You’ve likely heard that some cheeses are not considered safe for consumption during pregnancy. It’s important to learn what cheeses are safe as well as what cheeses are not safe and why. This can help you to ensure the safety of your baby throughout your pregnancy.
The Different Types of Cheeses
There are many ways to categorize cheeses. Some of these include the texture of the cheese, how long the cheese is aged for, amount of fat in the cheese, and what methods are used in making the cheese. The most popular way to categorize cheese, however, is by its moisture content.
1. Soft and Semi-Soft Cheese
Soft cheeses have a very high moisture content. As their name suggests, soft cheeses are typically smooth, creamy, and of course soft. Soft cheeses are also made in much less time than hard cheeses as they are either not matured at all or matured for short periods of time. While some soft cheeses are considered safe for consumption during pregnancy, many should be avoided for the duration of your pregnancy. This is because the high moisture content provides a good environment for bacteria such as harmful listeria to grow.
Safe for Pregnancy – Soft and Semi-Soft Cheese Varieties
· Mozzarella Cheese
· Cottage Cheese
· Cream Cheese
· Paneer Cheese
NOT Safe for Pregnancy – Soft and Semi-Soft Cheese Varieties
These varieties of cheese are not safe to eat raw, but if they are cooked and eaten while still hot, they are safe to consume during your pregnancy.
· Brie Cheese
· Ricotta Cheese
· Chevre Cheese
· Danish Blue Cheese
· Camembert Cheese
· Gorgonzola Cheese
· Fetta Cheese
· Bocconcini Cheese
2. Hard and Semi-Hard Cheese
With much lower moisture contents, hard cheeses don’t provide adequate conditions for bacteria like listeria to grow in. Because of this, hard cheeses are generally considered to be safe for consumption during pregnancy.Hard cheeses are matured for months or years, much longer than softer cheese varieties. They also keep longer than softer cheeses thanks to the lower moisture content.
Safe for Pregnancy – Hard and Semi-Hard Cheese Varieties
· Cheddar Cheese
· Asiago Cheese
· Halloumi Cheese
· Monterey Jack Cheese
· Parmesan Cheese
· Romano Cheese
· Pressato Cheese
· Swiss Cheese
· Colby-Jack Cheese
· Edam Cheese
· Gouda Cheese
· Provolone Cheese
3. Processed Cheese
Processed cheese products contain cheese and other ingredients. They may contain varying amounts of real cheese of different varieties. Due to the way these cheese products are made, they are considered safe for consumption during pregnancy. Processed cheese products include things like pre-packaged sliced cheese and cheese spreads.
Why Some Cheeses are Unsafe During Pregnancy
It can be kind of confusing knowing that some cheeses are okay to eat during your pregnancy, but some are not considered safe to eat during pregnancy. The reason that some cheeses are not safe is that certain cheeses have a higher chance of containing a potentially harmful bacterium known as Listeria.
What Exactly is Listeria?
The full name of the bacterium is listeria monocytogenes, but it is usually just referred to as listeria. It is bacteria that is naturally occurring in the environment, which makes it pretty much impossible to just get rid of all together. It’s most commonly found in soil and water. Because of this, vegetables and other plants can become contaminated with it. Animals are also carriers of the bacteria, but usually this would go undetected because it doesn’t make the animals sick. Animals carrying it can cause listeria to be present in foods such as meat or dairy products, thus why some cheeses may contain listeria.
Consuming foods that are contaminated with listeria can potentially cause listeriosis. Listeriosis is a dangerous infection. Most healthy people can come in contact with listeria without contacting listeriosis. However, anyone with a compromised immune system has a higher chance of getting listeriosis. This would include newborns, elderly, immunocompromised people, as well as pregnant women.
Symptoms of Listeriosis
Listeriosis symptoms can be very similar to symptoms of the flu. Most people with listeriosis have a fever and experience all over body aches. Other common symptoms of listeriosis include diarrhea and nausea.
Risks of Listeria During Pregnancy
When a pregnant woman gets listeriosis from listeria, there can be serious negative effects. The pregnant woman herself may not even get super sick; she may experience only mild sickness. However, even if she only has a mild case of listeriosis, it can cause serious harm to the unborn child. A pregnant woman that has contracted listeriosis has an increased risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, premature labour, and even if her baby survives they may end up with other serious health problems.
Preventing Listeriosis During Pregnancy
There are a few easy things that can be done to help lower the risk of getting listeriosis during pregnancy. Avoiding foods with a higher risk of listeria such as certain cheeses is a good place to start. You should also take care to thoroughly cook raw meats, keep utensils and other things like cutting boards very clean and store raw meat separate from other foods. It’s also best practice to thoroughly clean things such as vegetables before consumption.
What About Cheese Made from Pasteurized Milk?
In Australia, it is illegal to sell raw milk for human consumption. All milk sold in Australia must be pasteurized. Milk is pasteurized by being processed with high heat in order to kill bacteria. Even though all milk sold in Australia has been pasteurized and all cheese made in Australia is made with pasteurized milk, cheeses made from unpasteurized milk can be imported into Australia and sold.
Is Cheese Made from Pasteurized Milk Safe in Pregnancy?
It used to be believed that as long as cheese is made using milk that has been previously pasteurized, that the cheese is safe for pregnant women to consume. However, evidence shows that while cheese made from pasteurized milk may be safer than cheese that’s made with raw milk, there are still certain cheeses that need to be avoided during pregnancy even if they are made from pasteurized milk.
Be Safe and Wait to Indulge
The risk of listeriosis is fairly low with only about 65 occurrences in Australia every year. However, doing everything you can to avoid listeria is still critical to your baby’s health. The dangers associated with listeriosis during pregnancy are much too high to take any unnecessary risks. That’s why you should always do your best to avoid the varieties of cheese known to contain listeria and cause listeriosis. Don’t worry, even if it doesn’t feel like it now, pregnancy is only a short time in your life. It won’t be long before you’re able to safely indulge in all of your favourite cheeses again.