Pregnancy is a beautiful, miraculous time in life. It’s also an incredibly overwhelming one, with so many things to plan and to track and to remember. One of the first places that all starts – and one of the areas familiar even to people who have never come close to being pregnant – is the list of foods pregnant women aren’t supposed to eat and drink: shellfish, alcohol, caffeine, unpasteurized cheeses. Lately, though, we’ve noticed that there’s been a lot of discussion about how seriously we all need to take that list, with a lot of claims that a small glass of wine there or one cup of coffee here won’t hurt. While we always defer to your doctor’s opinion – always consult with and listen to your obstetrician (OB/GYN) about your diet while pregnant – there is one thing we want to highlight that you should definitely avoid while pregnant: cold cuts.
Yes, cold cuts— the refrigerated deli meats, cheeses and deli products usually served cold. Why are they so dangerous? Because they can play host to a bacteria called listeria. While adults’ immune systems can handle and fight off the infection, an infant’s immune system isn’t developed enough to fight it off. So if a pregnant woman eats cold cuts, has the listeria in her system, and then gives birth, she can pass it on to her baby— and that baby can develop listeria meningitis.
That’s what happened to Lucinda, an Iowan mom, and her two-week-old son Ezra. When Ezra spent his time crying nonstop, in a way both unlike her two-year-old daughter and unlike his normal hungry cry, Lucinda suspected something could be terribly wrong. When he turned red and had a fever of almost 102 degrees Fahrenheit, she knew, and rushed him to the hospital where doctors diagnosed the poor baby with listeria meningitis. The likely source? Cold cuts.
Thankfully, Ezra is going to be fine. Doctors say that the infection, while scary, shouldn’t leave any permanent damage, and the treatments, albeit lengthy, will rid his system of the meningitis. Additionally, it’s important to note that the infection isn’t contagious, so there’s no danger to Lucinda’s daughter or other members of the family. The key, though, was that Lucinda caught it before it could progress to scarier, more dangerous levels, because if left untreated, listeria meningitis can be fatal.
What should we all take away from this story? Pay attention to any unusual behavior and cries in your infants, and definitely don’t eat cold cuts while pregnant! Watch the report from KETV Omaha for more information, and be safe and healthy!