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Q&A: Is it safe to eat soft cheese during pregnancy if it is fully cooked?

The answer is yes, but only if it is fully cooked. Soft cheeses are usually made from unpasteurized milk and put you at risk for becoming infected with bacteria known as listeria. Most people will not develop listeriosis, but the infection is dangerous for expectant women. With pregnancy, your immune system may have a tougher time fighting listeriosis. If you do develop listeriosis, your symptoms may include: fever, aches, chills, and sometimes nausea and diarrhea. It can lead to possible meningitis and you can pass the bacteria on to your baby, leading to possible birth defects (and in some cases miscarriage).

If you ate a soft or blue-veined cheese and develop any of the above symptoms, notify your doctor immediately. She will do a blood test and a vaginal culture to make a diagnosis.

When caught early, antibiotics can be prescribed, which can sometimes prevent problems with your baby.

The March of Dimes suggest that all pregnant women “avoid soft cheeses, such as feta, brie, Camembert, Roquefort, blue-veined, queso blanco, queso fresco or Panela, unless the cheese is labeled as made with pasteurized milk. Hard cheeses, processed cheeses, cream cheeses, and cottage cheeses are safe.”

This category of food can be tough for some moms to think about living without, but for the safety of you and your baby it is best not to eat soft cheese unless it is cooked—completely. The cheese should be bubbly hot (just be careful not to burn yourself!). Once the baby is born, you can resume eating all the tasty cheeses you had to do without during pregnancy. (By the way, these cheeses are safe for breastfeeding moms to enjoy.)

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