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Does Listeria Always Cause Miscarriage?

If you’re pregnant or trying to conceive, just keeping up with the news can be enough to make you want to run away screaming. It seems like eating, sleeping, or breathing can endanger your unborn child. Right now, you’re probably concerned about listeria and the affect it has on your fetus. Mainly, does listeria always cause miscarriage, or can you seek treatment for it?

Listeria, a bacteria that occurs in soil, water, and certain animals, can be found in everything from deli meats to raw milk to soft cheeses, as explained on Foodsafety.gov. It’s especially dangerous for women who are expecting. According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, its incidence among pregnant women is around 13 times higher than the general population, and listeria can cause all sorts of complications including stillbirth, preterm labor, and miscarriage. Scary, right?

Well, there’s no need to panic just yet. Although pregnant women are more likely to contract listeria than the general population, the “incidence of listeriosis in pregnancy is 12 per 100,000,” according to a 2008 piece in Reviews in Obstetrics & Gynecology. So it’s still a pretty rare disease. According to IVF1, “there is actually very little data linking listeriosis to miscarriage in human beings.” Although it may contribute to miscarriage, it does not appear that miscarriage is inevitable if you contract listeria.

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Of course, when you’re expecting, even the slightest risk of miscarriage can feel too high. To cut down on your risk, the American Pregnancy Association suggests women avoid eating soft cheeses, hot dogs, and luncheon meats, and follow safe food practices by washing all fruits and vegetables, cleaning your refrigerator, and properly heating all meats that you cook. Because pasteurization and cooking will kill listeria, avoiding raw milk and undercooked meat is a good call. And if you are concerned about possible listeria infection, don’t hesitate to contact your physician.