But It's So Good
Is It Safe To Drink Eggnog While Pregnant?
You just need to take a few precautions.
If you’re pregnant during the holidays, chances are you'll be donning your holiday maternity best and dashing from one Christmas party to the next (or cozied up on the couch eating all the cookies you very much deserve). But before you take advantage of the plethora of amazing snacks and drinks this season has to offer, double check that they’re all safe for both you and your growing baby. Specifically, is it safe to drink eggnog while pregnant? Much like baked brie appetizers and yummy grazing boards, it’s one more holiday party staple you might find yourself second guessing this year. Here’s what the experts have to say about it.
Is it safe to drink eggnog while pregnant?
It depends. You definitely should not drink spiked eggnog while pregnant, or eggnog that you haven’t confirmed is nonalcoholic. There’s currently no safe or recommended amount of alcohol to drink while pregnant, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Then there’s the question of salmonella, the food-borne-illness-causing bacteria that can be found in uncooked eggs.
“With eggs we're definitely concerned about salmonella. That’s why pregnant women should not drink uncooked eggnog,” says Dr. Joanna Dalton Ayoung, M.D., an OB-GYN with Orlando Health Physician Associates. “Salmonella can actually cross the placenta and cause the baby to be unwell, and the mom to be unwell. When you’re not pregnant, salmonella can cause you to mount a very robust response and make you very ill. And it could even lead to death when you’re not pregnant. It’s the same thing in pregnancy, but in pregnancy you’re even more sensitive to it because your immune system is not working at 100%. So, the risk is elevated in pregnancy.”
Dishes that are homemade — eggnog included — are most likely prepared using unpasteurized eggs, which means they could contain salmonella. (You can buy pasteurized eggs at some grocery stores, but you have to find the ones that say so on their label.) Since pregnant women are especially vulnerable to food-borne infections, if the eggnog is homemade, you may want to steer clear, no matter how tempting it looks.
If you want to make eggnog yourself, there are ways to prepare it to ensure it’s safe. You should use pasteurized eggs. Or, if you use unpasteurized eggs, heat the egg mixture for your recipe to 160 degrees Fahrenheit and cool the eggnog immediately after preparing it.
“I’m from Trinidad, and there’s a version of eggnog that we make where we boil it on the stove. So, if somebody boils the eggnog mix on the stove, then yes, that one is safe. But if it’s not cooked on the stove, then it’s not safe,” Ayoung says.
Is all eggnog pasteurized?
Most commercial brands of eggnog are required to use pasteurized eggs, cutting out the risk of salmonella bacteria for all the pregnant eggnog lovers of the world. So, you should be able to buy your favorite store-bought brand of eggnog to enjoy — just double check the label before you plunk it into your cart.
“If you are using store-bought eggnog that's pasteurized, then you should be OK,” says Ayoung. “Most store-bought eggnog is pasteurized because it's not going to have a very long shelf life if it's not.”
Is eggnog safe while breastfeeding?
It’s best to stick to the same precautions as you would in pregnancy, Ayoung says. “Everything that you have in your body can potentially pass through breast milk. So, I would say if you're breastfeeding, while the risk is a little bit decreased, it's probably not the best thing to have while you're breastfeeding. If a mom gets sick with salmonella and it happens to pass through breast milk, then the baby's going to get sick as well.”
If you’re looking for a milk-based holiday drink that’s safer, Ayoung says to try a virgin Coquito, a coconut-flavored drink from Puerto Rico that’s very popular around Christmastime. It’s traditionally made without eggs, so as long as it isn’t spiked, it’s a great alternative to sip during this season.
Dr. Joanna Dalton Ayoung, M.D., an OB-GYN with Orlando Health Physician Associates
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