When you're pregnant, your OB tells you all of the things that you can't eat—and soft, unpasteurized cheeses are right at the top of the list. As my doctor was running down the list of noshing no-nos, I wondered, How bad could cheese really be for you? But being the goody-goody, by-the-books type I would never break the rules if it could possibly harm my little peanut. So I said buh-bye to my beloved Brie, Feta and Queso Fresco.
Now after reading this horrifying piece in The Daily Mail, I'm so glad I didn't take the risk. Twenty-five-year-old mom-to-be Vanessa White from Las Vegas is thought to have contracted tuberculosis after eating unpasteurized cheese from abroad, which caused her to go into premature labor. And now for the really sad news: She and both of her daughters ended up dying. Because. Of. Cheese!
How could someone die from dairy? It sounds impossible, mind-blowing even. Well, it truly is dangerous. Unpasteurized soft cheeses may contain dangerous bacteria including the one that can cause fatal tuberculosis, and another one called Listeria, which can cross over into the placenta and lead to infections or blood poisoning in the baby, or even miscarriage.
If you don't know much about listeria, get educated now! According to the FDA, symptoms of Listeriosis can take days or even weeks to appear and may include fever, chills, muscle aches, diarrhea, headache, stiff neck, and loss of balance. Often the pregnant women who are infected don't even feel sick, so they are passing the infection on to their unborn babies without even knowing it.
While Listeriosis is still pretty rare in the US (The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that approximately 1600 illnesses and 260 deaths occur annually in the US due to Listeriosis), the sad fact is that it really does happen, and it wouldn't seem all that "rare" or "unlikely" if it happened to you or one of your loved ones. Plus? Research has shown that pregnant women are 10 times more likely to get Listeriosis than other healthy adults, and an estimated 14 percent of Listeria cases occur in pregnant women.
No matter how fantastic a creamy cheese is (and, boy, do I love 'em!), it's obviously not worth risking yours or your baby's life over. But after the baby's born, you can let loose and fill those cravings with a much-deserved girls' wine and cheese night!
TELL US: What is the hardest food or drink for you to give up while pregnant?
Image of cheese plate courtesy of Shutterstock.