Listeria in pregnancy: Which food you should avoid, causes, signs, symptoms, and risks during pregnancy 

What is “LISTERIA “?

Listeria is a bacterium. They are scientifically known as Listeria monocytogenes. They are very infectious to humans and other warm-blooded animals. It reaches the body through contaminated foods.  


The clinical condition caused by the bacterium “Listeria monocytogenes’ ‘ is known as Listeriosis. But in common people, the bacterium “Listeria monocytogenes’ ‘ is also known as listeriosis. It is mostly known as a type of food poisoning. It is a rare case. You won’t find listeria cases every now and then. Studies show that 1600 people catch it every year and causing above 250 deaths.

Foods have risk with listeria.

Unluckily, several types of food fasten listeria. Any kind of stored food is more dangerous. The top listed food is shown:

Stored burgers, hot dogs, raw meats, cutlets, and cold cuts.

Raw seafood like squid, prawn, smoked seafood, meat spreads like pate. 

Unpasteurized fruit or vegetable juices

Any type of soft cheese like brie.

Any raw dairy products like milk or yogurt

Ready cut fruits or vegetables found in the Super shop. 

How does listeria affect pregnant women?

Like other communities, this food-borne disease also harms pregnant women. During pregnancy, there are fake stories and rumors; your body is already loaded with hypertension, extra weight, pain, anxiety. In this situation, listeria adds an extra burden. Though listeria is a very rare type of food poisoning, pregnant women are likely 10% more affected than general people. It causes harmful things to the mother and growing fetus. Even the life of a fetus can be in an engendered situation. So, you should keep an eye on pregnant women not to eat contaminated food that has listeria. 

As it is a rare case, most of people don’t know what to do, and rumors spread. Unluckily, it is another cause of fear. 

The first sign of listeria

Any foodborne or meat borne  food poisoning first causes harm to the intestine. It is the safest place for bacteria to live, make colonies and propagate. 

When germ listeria enters the body through contaminated foods, it goes to the intestine and then mixes with the fresh bloodstream and reaches the body’s vital systems.

They show many signs like

  • Fever
  • Muscle ache
  • Chills
  • Convulsion 
  • Diarrhea or other gastrointestinal symptoms
  • Stiff neck
  • Irritability 
  • Vomiting 
  • Less interest in eating 

Among those symptoms, GIT symptoms appear first as the GIT is affected first and other associated symptoms. 

Surest symptoms of listeria 

You won’t find listeria often. But it is a life-threatening condition. People of every age can be affected by listeria. And signs and dispersion vary from person to person. People with less strong immunity can be effected easily, and severity is more common.

A person affected by Listeriosis can have common signs like fever, diarrhea, muscle ache, and GIT problems, including an upset stomach.

Germ listeria goes to the bloodstream from the intestine causing blood infection and reaching the nervous system and causing meningitis (having infection in the covering of the brain named meninges). But, having meningitis is not a sign that that person has Listeriosis. 

People having invasive Listeriosis can have convulsion and delirium (unconsciousness of an ill person having hypo activity). 

General people usually don’t develop an invasive infection from Listeriosis as their immune system is strong enough.

For pregnant women, there are some adding signs and symptoms. This can be a life-threatening condition for growing fetuses and cause miscarriage, stillbirth, and premature birth, which means bacteria have spread out all over the body and crossed the placenta barrier.

Listeria- contagious or not?

No. Listeria doesn’t pass through from person to person. It is not contagious through air, touch, or daily utensils. It is only found in contaminated food and spreads infection. So, people having the same contaminated food from the same source can be infected together – like having food from the same kitchen or same refrigerator(listeria bacteria can survive in fridge temperature). But unborn children can be affected by an infected mother by crossing the blood placenta barrier. 

How to diagnose listeria

For sure, at first, you have some symptoms and an unwell condition of the body and visit the doctor. He can assess listeria through these. But in terms of biochemical tests, the blood test is the best option to know about listeriosis.

Otherwise, you can be prescribed other liquid tests like urine tests or spinal fluid tests. If your brain is affected already, your spinal fluid test will be positive. Generally, doctors recommend blood tests to be sure about listeria. Cause,blood is affected first.

Listeriosis is often diagnosed by bacterial culture ( a biochemical test that can help to find harmful bacteria in samples taken from blood, urine, skin, or other parts of your body to observe cell growth). If you are listeria positive, the doctor will prescribe you antibiotics. 

How long listeria lies in our body

Listeria monocytogenes is a species of pathogenic or disease-causing bacteria found often in hazy environments, soil, water, ripped vegetation, and animal intestine. This bacteria can survive in a very cold environment, even in the refrigerator. Food preservatives also can’t also destroy their colony. They even survive with or without oxygen. 

When food is harvested, they transfer from moist soil to vegetables and go into the human intestine. They can also mix with food while processing, preparing, packaging, transporting, or storing. You can be affected by your pet, too.

Treatment of listeria

 There are variations in the type of listeria. If the infection is not invasive or acute, there is no need for medication. But for major complexities, antibiotics are the most common treatment choice. Ampicillin can be useful for it. 

If the patient is in a chronic state, the infection has already reached the nervous system, and the patient will be given intravenous antibiotics with 6 weeks of care and treatment.

How to prevent listeria

As listeria is not a very often found condition, we do not feed the topic. But if you want to prevent it, you have to follow some simple tips. You can skip it just by following some easy healthy practice. There are some tips to prevent it:

  • Heat your cooked food before eating 
  • Avoid raw meat spreads such as pate or steams it before eating.
  • Eat cottage cheese and cream cheese instead of soft cheese.
  • Avoid unpasteurized milk and dairy products. 
  • Cut unpasteurized vegetable or fruit juices.
  • Avoid ready-cut vegetables and meats.
  • Sanitize your chopping board, knife, and other kitchenware regularly.

Is listeria a common phenomena 

Listeriosis is not so common in other foodborne diseases like Norovirus, Salmonella, Clostridium perfringens, Campylobacter, E. coli, etc. It is rare but can be severe and sometimes fatal, too. Listeria monocytogenes cause it. It is such a rare case that 0.1 to 10 cases per 1 million people per year. However, it depends on the countries and regions of the world.

Incubation period

The incubation period means the time required to show the pathogens’ signs and symptoms of the disease or illness. This incubation period is also known as a latent period. Because, at times, the symptoms remain latent. 

Most of the infectious diseases show a short incubation period, especially the food-borne pathogens-made diseases. However, some diseases show prolonged incubation periods like HIV. This time is dangerous because, in this time, the pathogens make their colony stronger. Besides, as the symptoms are not visible, patients don’t take any measures to get well.

So, the organisms multiply their colony in their host. In the case of listeria, they have a long incubation period. They appear with signs and symptoms after 3 months. But it affects pregnant women early.

In this replicate period, the infection is called subclinical infection. 

In two weeks, the first presumptive symptoms like fever, myalgia (muscle pain), septicemia, and meningitis are seen. Still, they can vary between a few days and up to 90 days after consuming the contaminated food. 

Peoples are at risk of listeria 

Listeria mostly sickens pregnant women and their unborn babies, adults aged 65 or more, and people who have weak immune systems. Healthy people do not get sick easily. They can be infected but do not get severe illnesses.

It causes mild illness to pregnant women but causes fatality to the fetus.

How does it cross placenta and harms baby

Most of the foodborne pathogens can not cross the placenta. But there is an exception. Foodborne pathogens named salmonella and listeria can cross the placenta and infect the fetus. It’s most likely to happen when the mother suffers from listeriosis for a long period during pregnancy. A child can also be infected by listeria during manual delivery when the placenta breaks and blood mix up with the mother’s blood while giving birth.

Listeriosis can also cause stillbirths like bacteria, parasites, viruses, and certain chemicals.

Listeria outbreak history 

Listeria is being investigated by The FDA, along with CDC. There is no significant “outbreak” history of listeriosis as it is very rare. However, Listeria monocytogenes infections are linked to Dole packaged leafy greens and fruits. 

The CDC found the latest history on December 22, 2021. Almost  16 people were infected with the outbreak strain of Listeria. 

CDC has been investigating listeria outbreak since 2019 but was unable to gather enough information. Finally, in 2021, the CDC found it when 16 people were suddenly infected.

In 2021, as a part of routine sampling, the Georgia Department of Agriculture found a product sample contaminated with listeria in prepackaged salad mix from a grocery store. And the sample was listeria positive.  

Is listeria able to cause miscarriage? 

It might be severe tension, even if it is silly when you are pregnant. It’s ok!!! And if it is listeria, you should be worried about it. It is quite dangerous! 

During the 1st trimester, listeria can cause even miscarriage. As time goes by, the condition can be riskier! In the second and third trimesters, listeriosis can be riskier and can cause stillbirth, death of the fetus, and LBW (low birth weight). It can cause premature birth. If it happens before the viable age(it is the minimum time when a baby can live without the mother’s support and is physically capable of living. Generally, the viable age of the fetus is 6 months), the baby will definitely die.


Listeria – a bacteria. A harmful pathogen that is normally not noticeable nor taken seriously. But obviously, it is more serious than other food borne or meat borne diseases. It shows signs and symptoms at a large range. When a normal person is getting attacked by it, he or she may don’t need to get medicated. But in the case of pregnant women, it is worse. It can cause miscarriage, even. It is unbelievable!!! Whatever, we should be conscious about our health. We can eradicate this food poisoning disease by making healthy choices and making our lives healthier, better, and more comfortable. 

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