Is It Safe To Eat Ham During Pregnancy?

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Nutritious food plays an important role in ensuring a healthy and risk-free pregnancy. However, many women are apprehensive about consuming meat, such as ham during pregnancy. Pregnant women should be cautious about eating undercooked or raw meat as it risks infections. When such infections are transferred to the fetus, they might cause several adverse effects. Although the risk of infection remains low, it is important to consult a doctor before consuming ham. Read the post to know more about the safety and risks associated with the consumption of ham during pregnancy and the important tips to follow.

Risks Of Meat Consumption During Pregnancy

Eating undercooked meat may cause health risks during pregnancy.

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Meat is a good source of protein, and is an important part of the diet too. However, consumption of undercooked meats including clams, raw oysters, sushi, unpasteurized eggs and even raw cookie or cake dough could pose several health risks. This is because these undercooked foods tend to contain large amounts of bacteria, parasites and viruses, which may raise your risk of being affected by several health conditions, and possibly even affect you adversely during pregnancy (1).

Other foods like hot dogs and luncheon meats also tend to contain bacteria known as Listeria monocytogenes, which causes a condition known as listeriosis. Listeriosis, if allowed to progress, may also lead to stillbirth, miscarriage and other serious health problems (2).

While the risk of being affected by this infection is relatively low, it is still a concerning factor. In addition, it is important to note that your body is relatively vulnerable during pregnancy, which is why, it is best to stick to the consumption of foods that have little or no risk of any health concern associated with their consumption.

Is it Safe to Eat Ham While Pregnant?

Listeriosis may increase the risk of premature delivery.

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According to the NHS, pregnant women can consume cold cured meats like salami and Parma ham safely during pregnancy with a very low risk of being affected by food poisoning or infections (2) (3). But remember risk is still there. However, it is important to note that while these infections may be mild for your body, they may turn out to be serious for your baby. In fact, having listeriosis during pregnancy could increase your chances of transferring the infection to your baby, which could also lead to premature delivery or neonatal death.

Basically, consuming ham during pregnancy could be risky.

Eating Ham During Pregnancy – The Healthy Way

While it is best to avoid consuming ham and other undercooked meats during pregnancy, there are certain ways to reduce your risk of being affected by the harmful effects associated with its consumption (1).

  • The best way to eat safely during pregnancy is to wash everything that you eat thoroughly, including fruits and vegetables.
  • Make sure all your meats are completely cooked before you consume them- raw foods, particularly meats, are more likely to transmit live bacteria and viruses.
Ensure you consume completely cooked meat.

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  • Re-heat all foods until they are steaming hot before you consume them- using a thermometer to check the temperature of the foods is a good idea.
  • Ideally, raw ham should be cooked at 160F and precooked ham must be cooked at 140F for it to be healthy and safe for consumption among pregnant women. (4)
  • While eating out at restaurants, avoid choosing foods that contain deli meats since they do not reheat their deli meat.
  • Ask for hard cheese options as opposed to soft cheese.
Consume hard cheese as opposed to soft cheese.

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  • Avoid choosing refrigerated meat spreads and smoked seafood that is refrigerated. Make sure you heat everything well before consumption, preferably until it is steaming hot.
  • Choose home cooked ham as opposed to store-bought versions. Make sure you cook it thoroughly before consuming it.

Meat is a good source of protein and other nutrition; however, it might not be completely safe during pregnancy. Raw or undercooked meat may raise the risk of infections. Although eating some varieties of ham during pregnancy causes little risk, you should be cautious about its consumption. They may lead to infections such as listeriosis, resulting in miscarriage, stillbirth, and other pregnancy-related complications. Therefore, if you wish to include ham in your diet, you should reduce its risks by washing it thoroughly before consumption, cooking it completely, and avoiding eating it at restaurants. If you have any questions about the safety of eating ham during pregnancy, consult a doctor for the best advice.

References:

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Ria Saha

Ria is a techie-turned-writer and writes articles on health, with special emphasis on nutrition. She did her B.Tech from West Bengal University of Technology and was previously associated with IBM as SAP ABAP technical consultant. She moved into freelance content writing in 2013 and worked for various websites including MomJunction, Brainpulse Technologies, and Emarketz India.

Shivani Sikri

(Public health and Clinical Nutrition & Dietetics)
Shivani Sikri is the chief nutritionist and co-founder of Nutri4Verve. After completing her Masters, Shivani Sikri did a postgraduate in nutrition and health education, a postgraduate diploma in public health and nutrition (PGDPHN), and a postgraduate diploma in nutrition and clinical dietetics. She has also completed her certification in Nutrigenomics from the US.   Shivani recommends a well-balanced, holistic lifestyle...
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