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Pregnant women are given different types of advice regarding what to eat and what not to eat during pregnancy. One such advice is about the consumption of cheese. While they are pregnant, many women are told to avoid eating cheese, especially soft cheeses like Brie, Camembert and Danish Blue Cheese.

You might assume that this is because of bloating, gas during pregnancy and indigestion during pregnancy. Cheese might make these symptoms of pregnancy worse, especially during the third trimester.

This is just a myth. There is no problem with cheese consumption during pregnancy, as long as you eat hard cheeses and avoid the soft ones.

  1. Why you should avoid soft cheese during pregnancy
  2. Types of cheese to avoid during pregnancy
  3. Types of cheese that are considered safe during pregnancy
  4. Takeaway
  5. Doctors for Is it safe to eat cheese during pregnancy?

Listeria monocytogenes is a type of bacteria found in uncooked meats, uncooked vegetables, unpasteurized milk and foods cooked with unpasteurized milk - this includes cheese. Listeria can be killed through pasteurization and cooking, but if it’s not and you ingest it, it can cause listeriosis.

Listeriosis might be rare, but pregnant women are particularly susceptible to it. Symptoms of listeriosis can show up within two to 30 days after exposure. They include headaches, stiff neck, fever, nausea and vomiting.

The American Pregnancy Association says that listeriosis can happen any time during pregnancy, but it is most likely to happen in the third semester, when your immune system is suppressed. Listeriosis can cause miscarriage, premature labour, stillbirth and infection in the newborn. If detected, listeriosis is treated through antibiotics to reduce the risks to the health of the baby.

Because listeria is found in unpasteurized milk, cheeses made with this type of milk should not be consumed during pregnancy. These cheese varieties include the following:

  • Brie
  • Camembert
  • Mould-ripened soft goat’s cheese
  • Danish blue cheese
  • Gorgonzola
  • Roquefort 
  • Queso fresco
  • Queso Blanco
  • Panela

Hard cheese varieties, and cheeses made with pasteurized milk, are safe for consumption during pregnancy. These cheese varieties include:

  • Cheddar
  • Edam
  • Emmental
  • Gouda
  • Gruyere
  • Jarlsberg
  • Parmesan
  • Stilton

There are a few more types of cheese which are safe for consumption during pregnancy, but you must make sure that they are prepared with pasteurized milk. Reading labels or making cheese at home to ensure safety becomes more important in during pregnancy. The following cheese varieties are considered safe if made with pasteurized milk:

  • Paneer
  • Mozzarella
  • Cream cheese
  • Feta cheese
  • Quark
  • Ricotta
  • Halloumi
  • Processed cheese

If you like eating cheese and want to continue eating it while you’re pregnant, there are a few steps you can take to ensure your safety and that of your baby:

  • Make sure that you buy only hard cheese varieties or ones that are made with pasteurized milk. Hard cheeses are ripened or aged, and will feel hard compared with soft cheeses that can be creamy or squishy to the touch.
  • Making some cheeses at home, like paneer, is very easy - so you might want to stick to these if you don’t trust store-bought varieties.  
  • Avoid eating cheesy foods at restaurants, cafes, etc., while pregnant in case they use cheeses made with unpasteurized milk.
  • If you’re attending a party or feast, steer clear of cheese.
  • If you see any symptoms of listeriosis, contact your doctor immediately.
Dr. Kavita Singh

Dr. Kavita Singh

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Dr. Nidhi Bothaju

Dr. Nidhi Bothaju

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Dr K Supriya

Dr K Supriya

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References

  1. National Health Service [Internet]. UK; Why can't I eat soft cheeses during pregnancy?
  2. National Health Service [Internet]. UK; Are hard cheeses safe to eat during pregnancy?
  3. American Pregnancy Association [Internet]. Irving, Texas, USA; Listeria And Pregnancy
  4. Nemours Children’s Health System [Internet]. Jacksonville (FL): The Nemours Foundation; c2017. Why Are Pregnant Women Told to Avoid Feta Cheese?
  5. Tam, Carolyn. et al. Food-borne illnesses during pregnancy: Prevention and treatment. Can Fam Physician. 2010 Apr; 56(4): 341–343. PMID: 20393091
  6. Taylor, Marsha and Galanis, Eleni. Food safety during pregnancy. Can Fam Physician. 2010 Aug; 56(8): 750–751. PMID: 20705876
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