Listeriosis in pregnant women: how to avoid it?

Listeriosis in pregnant women: how to avoid it?

What are the symptoms and risks of listeriosis in pregnant women? What foods should be avoided to limit the risks? We take stock.

The listeriosis is a disease caused by bacteria Listeria monocytogenes. This bacterium resists cold well and once present in a food, it continues to multiply even if it is kept in the fridge. Contamination is almost always from food. Most often, the food contaminated by the bacteria is digested and the bacteria neutralized by the immune system, without consequence.

This disease mainly affects the elderly or weakened by diabetes, alcoholism or cancer, etc. However, the pregnant woman being weakened on the immune plan, she is 12 times more likely to develop the disease after consuming infected food, compared to a woman who is not pregnant. Severe forms are rare, but can cause miscarriage or premature delivery. Unlike toxoplasmosis, listeriosis is a reportable disease since 1998, the number of cases in France has therefore been known precisely and in the event of a problem, lots of meat can be withdrawn from sale, for example. However, there is no mandatory screening protocol for pregnant women, listeriosis being much rarer. In total, listeriosis represents only 2% of infections in pregnant women.

Three categories of food to avoid during pregnancy to limit the risk of Listeria contamination.


Avoid consuming raw milk preparations. Make sure that the cheeses have been pasteurized before consuming them. Prefer pressed and cooked cheeses (emmental, Comté) or spreads. The milk necessary for their preparation has been heated to a high temperature which destroys the Listeria bacteria. You should also avoid eating the cheese crusts, which are full of bacteria of all kinds.

The products of cooked charcuterie

Rillettes, pâtés, foie gras, jelly products are to be avoided during pregnancy to prevent the risks of listeriosis. Indeed, the meat has been processed and bacteria may have contaminated the meat. If you choose ham, take it pre-packaged because it will not have been on the same delicatessen stand as other raw products, likely to be contaminated. The best is to consume the well cooked meat to the core and avoid eating it raw (no tartare, etc.).

Raw fish and seafood

Similarly, there is no question of consuming Pisces, raw shellfish or even surimi or sea rillettes. These products can be dangerous for pregnant women. Raw and cooked products should not be mixed, keep them at a distance and do not consume leftover food and cooked dishes until they have been sufficiently heated (at least 65 ° C for several minutes to kill the parasite). You should also regularly clean your refrigerator by throwing out expired food and disinfect it with bleach.

Listeriosis is a disease difficult to diagnose on symptoms alone. Indeed, the pregnant woman can present only an unexplained cough and fever. Flu symptoms may also be present or abdominal pain reminiscent of gastroenteritis. But in 30% of cases, listeriosis causes no symptoms and is only detected by the consequences it has on the fetus. In addition, the blood test is rarely conclusive to confirm the presence or not of the bacteria in the body. The best detection technique for listeriosis is to take a sample from a normally sterile site (blood, cervix and vagina, sometimes urine or others) and isolate the bacteria after culturing. However, all of these sites are not necessarily affected by the bacteria and therefore will not necessarily be positive for detection tests.

The bacteria responsible for listeriosis is resistant to cephalosporins, antibiotics commonly used to fight bacterial infections. On the other hand, other antibiotics are very effective such as amoxicillin, aminoglycosides, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (contraindicated during pregnancy), macrolides or even vancomycin. In all cases, antibiotic treatment if listeriosis is suspected in pregnant women is put in place before the results of bacteriological examinations are obtained. This is amoxicillin which is given as first line, for 10 days. When listeriosis is proven, the treatment is increased and can be modified if necessary. Treatment is all the more effective when it is prescribed quickly after the start of the infection. Any unexplained fever in pregnant women must therefore be subject to great precautions.

Wash your hands regularly

Hands are the primary carriers of germs in food. It is therefore essential to wash your hands regularly, especially after using the toilet and before preparing a meal or eating. The refrigerator must also be the object of all the attentions: its temperature must be regulated on 5 degrees and the food bought must be quickly installed there? also remember to clean it several times a month.

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