Listeriosis during pregnancy
Reviewed by the BabyCenter Medical Advisory Board
Listeriosis is a serious infection that you can get by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. Pregnant women and their developing babies – as well as newborns, people with weakened immune systems, and the elderly– are particularly susceptible to Listeria, which can cause a blood infection, meningitis, and other serious and potentially life-threatening complications. The primary threat for a pregnant woman is the devastating effect this disease may have on her pregnancy and her baby.
Fortunately, the illness is relatively rare: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that about 2,500 people contract listeriosis in the United States every year. About a third of reported cases occur in pregnant women.
How could listeriosis affect me and my baby?
Unless you have some underlying disease that affects your immune system, it’s unlikely – though possible – for listeriosis to seriously affect your health. But even if it doesn’t make you seriously ill, the infection can have grave consequences for your developing baby, especially if you’re not treated promptly.
Listeria can infect the placenta, the amniotic fluid, and the baby, and can cause miscarriage or stillbirth. Infected babies who survive are likely to be born prematurely. Many will be born severely ill or get sick soon after birth, with problems that can include blood infection, difficulty breathing, fever, skin sores, lesions on multiple organs, and central nervous system infections such as meningitis.
Some newborns of infected mothers appear healthy at birth and first have signs of infection, usually meningitis, a week or even several weeks after delivery. This so-called “late-onset listeriosis” may be the result of a baby becoming infected during labor and birth (an infected woman may harbor the bacteria in her cervix, vagina, or gastrointestinal tract), or, more rarely, from transmission from a source other than the mother.
Unfortunately, many infected babies will die or suffer long-term consequences.
- Meatball products sold at Hannaford recalled due to possible Listeria contamination (bangordailynews.com)
- Listeriosis in New Zealand (GIDEONonline.com)
- Listeria monocytogenes (slideshare.net)