Pregnancy comes with many dietary restrictions and guidelines to ensure the health and safety of mom and baby. One of the biggest no-nos during pregnancy is eating unpasteurized cheeses like brie due to the risk of foodborne illnesses. But what if you accidentally ate brie before realizing you were pregnant or without realizing it was unpasteurized?
Is it safe to eat brie while pregnant?
No, it is not considered safe to eat most types of brie while pregnant. Brie is an unpasteurized soft cheese, which means it is made from raw, unpasteurized milk. The pasteurization process helps kill potentially harmful bacteria like Listeria, Salmonella, and E. coli that could be present in raw dairy products.
Pregnant women have an increased risk of developing foodborne illnesses from bacteria that can be found in unpasteurized cheese. Listeria infection during pregnancy can lead to pregnancy complications like miscarriage, stillbirth, and preterm labor. For this reason, the CDC recommends avoiding all unpasteurized soft cheeses while pregnant.
Some types of brie that are clearly labeled as pasteurized are considered safe to eat during pregnancy. But if it does not say pasteurized on the packaging, it is best to avoid it.
What are the risks of eating unpasteurized brie while pregnant?
Eating unpasteurized soft cheeses like brie during pregnancy carries the following risks:
– Listeriosis – Listeria infection can cause fever, muscle aches, nausea, and diarrhea in pregnant women. It also crosses the placenta and can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, preterm labor, or life-threatening infection in the newborn. Around 20% of Listeria infections in pregnant women result in stillbirth or neonatal death.
– Salmonellosis – Salmonella infection causes nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, fever, and diarrhea that may lead to dehydration. Severe infection can also increase the risk of preterm labor and infection in the fetus.
– E. coli – Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) can trigger a life-threatening complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) in pregnant women. Symptoms include severe abdominal cramps, diarrhea that may be bloody, vomiting, and fever. HUS can lead to kidney failure.
– Other risks – Other bacteria like Brucella, Campylobacter, and Staphylococcus aureus in unpasteurized dairy can also cause food poisoning and pregnancy complications.
The bottom line is unpasteurized soft cheeses are more prone to bacterial contamination that can harm mom and baby. Pasteurization kills these dangerous pathogens.
What if I accidentally ate brie while pregnant?
If you are pregnant and realize you may have accidentally consumed unpasteurized brie or another soft cheese, don’t panic but do contact your doctor right away. Let them know when and what you ate. Your doctor can help determine if you need any tests or antibiotic treatment based on factors like:
– How far along you are in pregnancy
– If the cheese was definitely unpasteurized or unknown
– If you’re experiencing any symptoms of illness
– If you have any underlying health conditions that increase risk
You may be advised to go to the hospital for fetal monitoring, bloodwork, and IV antibiotics if you are showing signs of Listeria infection. If you do not have symptoms, your doctor will likely monitor you closely for the next few weeks for any signs of problems. They may draw blood to test for Listeria antibodies.
The good news is that your risk of actually developing an infection from a one-time exposure to unpasteurized cheese is very low. But it’s still important to let your doctor know so they can take appropriate precautions and monitor you. Accidentally eating brie once does not mean you will necessarily get sick.
How can I avoid brie and other unsafe cheeses during pregnancy?
Avoiding unpasteurized dairy completely during pregnancy is the safest choice. Here are some tips:
Check the label
Read food labels carefully and look for the terms:
– Pasteurized – Safe to eat
– Unpasteurized – Avoid
– Raw milk – Avoid
– Made from raw milk – Avoid
If it does not say pasteurized, it is better to be safe than sorry and not eat it. Soft cheeses sold at the deli counter are more likely to be unpasteurized.
Stick to hard cheeses
Hard cheeses like cheddar, parmesan, swiss, gouda, and mozzarella are considered safe during pregnancy, even if unpasteurized. The aging process of hard cheeses makes it unlikely for harmful bacteria to grow.
Heat it up
Heating brie and other soft cheeses to steaming hot (over 160°F) can kill any bacteria present. But it can be tricky to know if it got hot enough throughout. It’s better to just avoid these cheeses altogether.
Ask questions when dining out
Ask your server about the source and pasteurization status of any soft cheeses included in menu items. Many restaurants voluntarily avoid unpasteurized dairy to be safe.
Avoid cheese made with raw milk
Cheeses labeled as being made from raw or unpasteurized milk should not be consumed during pregnancy. This includes some cheddar, gouda, swiss, and other hard cheeses too.
Skip cheese spreads and dips
Avoid soft cheese spreads, dips, and prepared food items that may contain unpasteurized cheese as an ingredient. Read labels closely.
Being vigilant about only consuming pasteurized dairy during pregnancy can reduce your risk of food poisoning. But accidents happen, so talk to your doctor if you have any concerns after eating higher risk cheeses.
What are the symptoms of Listeria infection?
Listeria monocytogenes is the type of bacteria primarily linked to unpasteurized dairy risks during pregnancy. Pregnant women need to recognize the symptoms of Listeria infection to seek prompt treatment:
|Early Listeria symptoms:
|Later more serious symptoms:
|– Muscle aches
|– Loss of balance
|– Nausea or vomiting
|– Stiff neck
Symptoms typically start 1 to 4 weeks after eating contaminated food. But listeriosis can initially seem like a mild illness with fever, muscle aches, and gastrointestinal distress.
As infection progresses, more serious symptoms arise as the bacteria spreads to the nervous system and bloodstream. This includes headache, confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions.
Pregnant women with Listeria infection may also go on to develop:
– Decreased fetal movements
– Preterm labor
Newborns with listeriosis may develop sepsis, pneumonia, or meningitis after birth. Seek emergency care if you have symptoms of Listeria along with high fever during pregnancy. Early treatment with IV antibiotics is critical.
Can I eat brie while breastfeeding?
Soft unpasteurized cheeses may also pose a risk while breastfeeding because bacteria could be passed to your baby through breastmilk. Listeria, Salmonella, and E. coli infections are rare in breastfed infants, but possible.
To reduce risk, it is still advisable to avoid unpasteurized brie and other soft cheeses while breastfeeding. Stick to pasteurized options whenever possible.
If you were to get a foodborne illness from unpasteurized cheese while breastfeeding, symptoms in your baby may include:
– Lethargy or irritability
– Refusal to feed
Consult your pediatrician right away if your breastfed baby develops any symptoms of illness. You will also need antibiotic treatment to prevent continued passage of bacteria through breastmilk.
The takeaway is unpasteurized soft cheeses are best avoided altogether while pregnant and breastfeeding. But if you accidentally ate brie once, the risk is low. Tell your doctor to get appropriate monitoring and testing.
When can I eat brie after giving birth?
You may be wondering when it will be safe to enjoy brie and other soft cheeses again after pregnancy and breastfeeding. Here are some general guidelines on when you can add these foods back to your diet:
If you did not breastfeed
If you are not breastfeeding, you can resume eating any cheese right after giving birth if you desire. There is no longer a concern about harming a fetus or passing bacteria to an infant through milk. But always opt for pasteurized cheeses when possible for your own health.
If you are exclusively formula feeding
No special dietary restrictions apply if your baby is exclusively formula fed. It is fine to go back to eating brie and other soft unpasteurized cheeses right away after delivering your baby. But again, minimize risk by choosing pasteurized options when you can.
If you are breastfeeding
It is recommended to wait until you completely stop breastfeeding before eating unpasteurized soft cheeses again. Your baby can continue to get infections through your breastmilk until weaning is complete. This takes a minimum of 2 weeks after your last nursing session, but 3-4 weeks is ideal.
After that time, you can safely add brie and other unpasteurized dairy back to your diet without worry. Always heat these cheeses to steaming hot before eating to reduce lingering risks.
If your baby was ill at birth
If your baby had any illnesses or complications detected at birth that could be linked to a foodborne infection you had during pregnancy, be extra cautious. Speak to both your own doctor and your baby’s pediatrician about when it would be safe to start eating higher risk foods again. Don’t take any chances while your baby’s immunity is still developing.
The bottom line is once breastfeeding is done, you can eat brie and other soft cheeses again. But always err on the side of caution and choose pasteurized options when possible, especially right after pregnancy.
Here are the key takeaways to remember about eating brie while pregnant and breastfeeding:
Avoid unpasteurized brie
Raw, unpasteurized brie can contain dangerous bacteria and should be avoided altogether during pregnancy and while nursing. Only eat pasteurized brie and other soft cheeses.
Don’t panic if you eat unpasteurized cheese once on accident. Tell your doctor and monitor for symptoms. Risk is low with one-time exposure.
Know the symptoms
Watch for signs of Listeria infection like fever, chills, nausea, and headache that can indicate a serious problem. Seek treatment immediately.
Wait until after nursing stops
Refrain from eating any unpasteurized soft cheeses until you fully stop breastfeeding your baby. This takes a minimum of 2 weeks after you pump or nurse for the last time.
Always heat it
If you want to eat unpasteurized brie or other soft cheeses after pregnancy, make sure to heat it to steaming, bubbling hot all the way through first to reduce risk.
Being cautious with dairy during pregnancy and nursing helps keep you and your baby safe. But don’t stress excessively if you make a mistake. Pay attention to your health, talk to your doctor, and you can get back to enjoying your favorite cheeses again soon.