Health Watch -- Pregnancy and Cheese

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.



Pregnant women know they have to be careful about what they eat and drink, but do they know to be careful about cheese?

Women know they need to take extra precautions during pregnancy. They may avoid alcohol, caffeine and medications while taking extra vitamins and eating nutritious meals that include iron, protein and calcium. But doctors at UT Southwestern warn that one nutritious food could also be dangerous to pregnant women in some forms.

That potentially dangerous food? Cheese. Feta, brie and goat's milk cheese are common in gourmet dishes, while queso fresco and other Mexican cheese are often found in traditional Hispanic cuisine. But Dr. Kevin Magee, a UT Southwestern obstetrician, says these cheeses in their unpasteurized - or raw - form may be dangerous to pregnant women and their unborn children.

Unpasteurized cheese and dairy products may contain the bacteria listeria. This bacteria can cause serious complications during pregnancy. Listeria may also be found in raw or undercooked meats.

You're most likely to find unpasteurized cheeses in gourmet or import shops.

Doctors recommend that pregnant women avoid any unpasteurized cheeses or dairy products. They should also wash all raw vegetables and cook meats thoroughly. Make sure that cooked foods and foods that will be eaten raw don't come in contact with surfaces that have held raw meats.

If you eat leftovers, heat them thoroughly - not just to the point where they feel warm.

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Aug. 2004

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