If our healthcare industry promoted discussions about healthy eating and food with the same enthusiasm as pharmaceutical companies promote Viagra® and Cialis,® we might actually see real improvement regarding chronic health conditions as well as a reduction of stillbirths.
Each year, in the U.S. approximately 25,000 stillbirths occur or 1 out of 160 pregnancies and unfortunately for African American women, these numbers double. For expecting parents, the grief is indescribable. Maternal infection represents the 4th most common reason for stillbirth preceded by preterm birth, placenta and genetic problems.
The three most common infections that cause stillbirths are Group B Strep, E. Coli and Listeria Monocytogenes (aka “Listeria”). All pregnant women are tested for Group B Strep by 36 weeks during their prenatal visit and E Coli is a common cause of urinary tract infections. However, Listeria is associated with eating contaminated food and can also be found in cold delicatessen meat. Unfortunately there is no blood or urine test to forewarn patients that they might have this type of bacteria which enters the intestine and bloodstream after eating and crosses into the placenta. Once in the placenta, several small abscesses form that could be fatal to the unborn baby. Women infected with Listeria and experience flu-like symptoms, pneumonia, suspected food-poisoning, fever and chills.
Pregnant women can reduce their chances of getting Listeria by avoiding high-risk foods. According to medical studies and the American College of Obstetrician-Gynecologists, delicatessen meat is “considered one of the highest risk food vehicles for Listeria within the U.S. These bacteria can grow at low temperatures so refrigeration doesn’t always help. Although some deli meat is pasteurized, contamination can be related to the food processing.” ACOG recommends taking the following steps to reduce exposure to Listeria:
• Wash all fresh fruits and vegetables before eating
• Avoid eating unpasteurized milk or soft cheese, raw or undercooked meat, poultry or shellfish, prepared meats such as hot dogs or deli meats, unless they are heated until steaming hot
• Always be sure to wash your hands, utensils, counter tops or cutting boards that have been in contact with uncooked meats
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