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When carrying a baby, you want to do everything you can to make sure that your baby is healthy and happy inside you. One way that you can take care of the growing fetus is to adapt your lifestyle and diet.
Alcohol is definitely off the table when you’ve got a little bun in the oven, and if you are a smoker, you have to give that up, too. But when it comes to food, the lines are a little hazy. You’ve probably heard that some types of high-mercury fish should be avoided, and that raw meat is a no-no.
But did you know that there are also some types of cheese that are not good for your growing fetus? Some types of cheese can be very harmful to your baby if you ingest them whilst you are pregnant, but which cheeses are they? Why are they bad? Are there any cheeses that you can eat while pregnant?
For all you Greek salad lovers out there, you’re probably wondering whether you can eat feta cheese while you’re pregnant.
Below, you will find out everything you need to know about eating feta cheese while pregnant, and we explain which cheeses you can still tuck into when you’re getting that dairy craving!
What Is Feta?
When you’re pregnant, you can never be too careful. So, just in case you are not sure, let’s quickly take a look at what feta is. Feta is a Greek type of cheese that is made either from sheep’s milk, or from a mixture of goat and sheep’s milk.
It is a soft cheese that is quite crumbly, and it has a fairly strong and tangy flavor. A lot of the time these days, feta is made using pasteurized milk. This cheese can be found in a range of Greek dishes, including their salads and pastries, and goes really well in omelets.
Although it is a Greek cheese, it is now found in grocery stores and restaurants all over the globe.
Is It Safe To Eat Feta While Pregnant?
The short answer to this question is yes, and no. If the feta is pasteurized, then it is likely absolutely fine for you to eat. If a cheese has been made with pasteurized milk, it means that the milk used to make it has been at least partly sterilized, in order to make it safe for human consumption and to help it to last longer.
If feta has been made with unpasteurized milk, you should avoid it at all costs – especially when you are pregnant. Unpasteurized milk often contains dangerous bacteria that could be harmful to both you and your baby.
Examples of these dangerous bacteria include Salmonella, E. Coli, and Listeria. If you or your baby are exposed to one of these bacteria, you are both at risk of becoming very unwell.
Listeria, for example, can lead to listeriosis. Listeriosis is unpleasant for adults, but not necessarily life-threatening; whereas for growing fetuses, it can be – and often is – fatal. Listeriosis is often contracted from raw meats or deli meats, but is also commonly caused by eating unpasteurized dairy products.
Luckily, most of the milk and cheese available for us to buy in the United States is pasteurized, and thus completely safe for pregnant women to eat. However, if you are out at a restaurant, or are offered some feta cheese that you have not been able to verify yourself, it is probably not worth the risk.
In other words, if you are certain that it has been pasteurized, go for it; if you are not sure, don’t eat it!
Can Feta Cause A Miscarriage?
Unfortunately, miscarriage is a risk for pregnant women who have contracted listeriosis from any source – including feta cheese.
Feta itself is not going to cause miscarriage, but if it has been made from unpasteurized milk you could contract listeriosis, which in turn could cause you to miscarry. If you contract listeriosis late in your pregnancy, you are also at risk of experiencing other harmful complications.
For example, you could pass on the infection to your unborn and very immunocompromised baby, induce premature labor, or even experience a stillbirth.
Do remember, though, that these things will not happen if you eat feta that has been made from pasteurized milk! As most of the feta that is available to buy is pasteurized these days, you don’t have anything to worry about as long as you check the label before you eat!
How Is Milk Pasteurized?
In order to pasteurize milk, it needs to be sterilized. Milk is sterilized by being heated to incredibly high temperatures for around fifteen to twenty seconds.
The high heat kills any bacteria that exist in the milk, so that after the process it has no harmful bacteria in it. Once it is bacteria-free, the milk is safe for human consumption, and can thus be used to make other products, like feta.
Which Types Of Cheese Can I Eat While Pregnant?
Fortunately, being pregnant does not have to mean swearing off cheese completely! You can still partake in cheese and wine nights, as long as you have no wine and know which cheeses are safe!
In general, hard cheeses are safe to eat when you are pregnant. This is because they do not have a high enough moisture content to allow listeria to survive in them. Flavorful parmesan and pecorino, for example, are completely safe to eat while you’ve got a baby in your belly.
Gouda and edam are other cheeses that you can enjoy without worry. Other hard cheeses that are great to incorporate into a balanced diet when you are pregnant include cheddar, manchego, wensleydale, and gruyere.
As a rule of thumb, however, soft cheeses should be avoided when you are pregnant. Whether they are mold-ripened or blue cheeses, or whether they have a white coating, soft cheeses should usually be banned from your pregnancy diet.
This means that the following cheeses should not be consumed by pregnant women: brie, camembert, gorgonzola, roquefort, chevre, danish blue, and any unpasteurized cheese. This is because unpasteurized cheeses are not the only types that can harbor Listeria. Moist cheese that has a high water content can also be breeding grounds for the bacteria.
Because of this, you should try to stick to hard cheeses throughout your pregnancy.
Cheese is full of beneficial nutrients that you would have thought are great for you and your growing baby. Cheese is bursting with protein and calcium, both of which you need during your pregnancy.
However, not all cheeses are actually safe for you or your growing baby. Most hard cheeses are safe, while soft cheeses should be avoided. Any unpasteurized cheese is also a no-go.
So, can you eat feta cheese when you are pregnant? The answer is yes, as long as you know it is made from pasteurized milk. If it is not, or you are not sure, you should not eat feta during your pregnancy.
It is really easy to check whether feta has been pasteurized; it is almost always stated on the label, and if it is not, you know to avoid it!
As long as you are careful, you can carry on eating feta-filled Greek salads to your heart’s content!