Baby Hints & Tips

Listeria risk in pregnancy

Listeria is a rare but serious bacterial infection.

In healthy adults, listeria usually causes no problems.  Pregnant women are at one of the highest risks with the risk of miscarriage, premature birth or stillbirth.  People with poor immunity and the elderly are also at risk of severe listeria infections.

listeria risk in pregnancy

Symptoms of listeriosis may include:

Healthy adults may only experience only mild symptoms which may disappear quickly eg fever, feeling sick, headaches, muscle aches, or diarrhoea, which may disappear quickly.

In more severe cases it may also cause

  • stiff neck and sensitivity to light
  • confusion and tiredness
  • muscle aches and pains

Symptoms happen generally 3 weeks after consuming contaminated food but the interval can vary between a few days and 2 months.

Healthy people and pregnant women may have mild or no symptoms, but listeria infection may still cause miscarriage, premature birth or stillbirth.  Listeria can result in serious illnesses including meningitis (brain infection) and septicaemia (blood infection).

Babies born with Listeria infection can develop septicaemia or meningitis.

If you are pregnant or have a weakened immune system and develop symptoms consistent with Listeria infection, see your doctor as soon as possible.

How to avoid listeria

Listeria can survive and multiply at cold temperatures and survive in frozen foods. Any ready to eat food that is contaminated with Listeria can develop enough bacteria to be dangerous, even if stored in the fridge at or below 5ºC.  Listeria is killed above 70oC.

  • Eat cut fruit and salad immediately
  • Avoid ready to eat cold meats
  • Avoid cold cooked chicken
  • Avoid soft serve ice-cream
  • Avoid soft cheese
  • Avoid cold, ready-to -eat seafood and raw seafood
  • Avoid pate and meat spreads
  • Avoid unpasteurised dairy
  • Store and heat food appropriately


Read about safe food at Christmas when you are pregnant to avoid listeria.


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