Listeriosis and Pregnancy: What is Your Risk?

Listeriosis and Pregnancy BrochureInformation provided by:

  • Association of Women s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN)
  • International Food Information Council Foundation
  • U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
  • U. S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)

When you're expecting, it's natural to be concerned about your health and that of your unborn baby. Maintaining a healthful diet, drinking plenty of liquids, and taking prenatal vitamins are all important for the health of the expectant mother and her baby. Food safety is also very important. This information will help you make safe decisions when selecting and preparing food for yourself and/or your family.

Sometimes, what we eat can make us sick. Food contaminated by harmful bacteria can cause serious illness. One type of bacteria, Listeria monocytogenes ( pronounced lis-TIR-ee-ya mon-o-si-TAH-gin-eez) , can cause an illness called listeriosis. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC) estimates that 2,500 people become seriously ill with listeriosis each year in the United States. Of these, one in five die from the disease. Listeriosis can be particularly dangerous for pregnant women and their unborn babies. Foodborne illness caused by Listeria in pregnant women can result in premature delivery, miscarriage, fetal death, and severe illness or death of a newborn from the infection.

What is Listeria?
Listeria is a type of bacteria found everywhere in soil and ground water and on plants. Animals and people can carry Listeria in their bodies without becoming sick. Despite being so widespread, most infections in humans result from eating contaminated foods.

Most people are not at increased risk for listeriosis. However, there are some people who are considered at risk because they are more susceptible to listeriosis. In addition to pregnant women and their unborn babies and newborns, other at-risk groups include older adults and people with weakened immune systems caused by cancer treatments, AIDS, diabetes, kidney disease, etc. By carefully following food safety precautions, persons at risk for listeriosis can substantially reduce their chances of becoming ill.

Download the PDF in English to read the full brochure. PDF en español.