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Processed Meats During Pregnancy

written by: AlyssaAst • edited by: Rhonda Callow • updated: 5/9/2011

Processed meats are among the many unsafe foods to eat while pregnant. Many serious complications can occur if these meats are eaten. Although they are unsafe and not recommended to eat, they can be made safer by taking time to properly prepare them.

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    Processed meats are considered to be unsafe during pregnancy for two main reasons. These meats contain nitrates and listeria. Both have shown to produce serious complications and fetal death if consumed during pregnancy. Lunch meats and deli meats are among the main meats that have been processed that should be avoided. Hotdogs, sausages, and bacon are some of the processed foods to be avoided. Any meats that come already prepared or contain additives should be avoided. Not only does meat that has been processed hold these risks but other foods with additives as well. This includes refrigerated pastas, uncooked seafood and soft cheeses.

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    Listeria

    Listeria is the biggest concern for eating meats that have been processed while pregnant. Listeria is bacteria that are found in these meats, as well as other processed foods and vegetables. This bacteria is known to produce many complications during pregnancy. Among the complications are miscarriages and still births. Newborns can suffer from infections from the bacteria. Premature delivery is also known to occur from Listeria.

    Symptoms of this condition include flu-like symptoms, muscle aches, headaches and vomiting. If left untreated it can progress to the nervous system causing convulsions and stiffness. Although this condition can occur at any time, it is most likely to occur during the third trimester.

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    Nitrates

    Nitrates are added into many processed meats. They are added into the food to fight the deadly food borne illness botulism. However, once these additives enter our digestive system, they can then form nitrosamines. Although it is unknown whether or not this will have an effect on a developing fetus, it is recommended they are avoided during pregnancy.

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    Safely Eating Meats

    Although it is not recommended for pregnant women to eat meats that have been processed, they can be made safer by cooking or heating them. These meats, including deli meats and lunch meats, should be heated until they are completely steaming. Other meats that have been processed should be completely cooked. The temperature should be checked with a thermometer to make sure they are fully cooked. While pregnant, you should never eat any raw or red meat.

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    References

    “Is it Safe to Eat Cold Cuts or Lunch during Pregnancy?” http://www.amazingpregnancy.com/pregnancy-articles/221.html

    “Nitrates during Pregnancy” http://www.parents.com/pregnancy/my-body/nutrition/nitrates-during-pregnancy/

    “Preventing Infections during Pregnancy” http://www.cdc.gov/Features/Pregnancy/