Pregnant and down with Listeriosis? You may have contacted a serious infection that may cause pregnancy complications. What exactly is Listeriosis? Find out more about it now!
What is Listeriosis?
Listeriosis is a bacterial infection commonly caused by the consumption of food that has been contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, a foodborne disease-causing bacteria. This can be extremely life-threatening for pregnant women as it can be fatal to foetuses and infants.
The risk of infection is increased with improper food handling, preparation and storage of meats and unpasteurised milk.
How can Listeriosis affect me and my baby?
Most pregnant women do not show much symptoms nor feel sick. On top of that, the symptoms can take a few days or up to weeks to appear. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States, pregnant women are more susceptible to get infected with Listeriosis by about 10 folds as compared to a healthy adult.
Generally, the infection can be passed on from mother to infant without any knowledge. Although Listeriosis will not necessarily cause your health to deteriorate, it can still has devastating effects on your baby if the treatment is delayed.
It affects foetuses regardless of the stage of your pregnancy as exposure in the womb will result in infection. For the first trimester of pregnancy, Listeriosis can lead to miscarriage, premature birth or even, stillbirth. After the first trimester, foetuses have an exponentially higher risk of developing health problems like mental retardation, paralysis, seizures and even blindness. Babies that survive becomes severely ill and sometimes experience pneumonia or meningitis.
How will I know if I have Listeriosis?
The symptoms of Listeriosis are often mild or none at all. It may even be confused for flu at times as similar symptoms like fever, chills, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea are sometimes observed. However there may be severe symptoms like headache, stiff neck, confusion, dizziness and even convulsions.
That being said, Listeriosis during pregnancy is not common at all. Although the risk for pregnant women is higher, it is not untreatable. It is highly recommended to contact your physician immediately should any of the symptoms occur.
How is Listeriosis treated or managed?
Most often, Listerosis is treated and managed via IV antibiotics. Prompt treatment with antibiotics are usually very successful in treating Listerosis. Subsequently, ultrasounds are performed to check on the infant’s growth.
What can mothers do to avoid getting affected?
To prevent Listeriosis and avoid infection, it is best to avoid foods that can possibly cause Listeriosis as the most common cause is due to consumption of food contaminated with this bacteria.
The list of food that is very susceptible to the Listeriosis bacteria are as follow:
• Unpasteurised diary
• Improper handling of meats
It is essential to take note that when you consume food at home, all meat, poultry and seafood are cooked thoroughly. Leftovers must be reheated thoroughly as well. Generally, it is best that pregnant women avoid deli foods, unpasteurised milk and any ready to eat food that can potentially be contaminated.
It is also important to remember that although a refrigerator is helpful in preserving your food, it does not necessarily prevent the growth of bacteria. Therefore, you should heat your leftovers and ready to eat food thoroughly and consider cleaning your refrigerator regularly.
Written by Dr Ting Hua Sieng
Obstetrics & Gynaecology specialist