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Soft cheese can be a difficult thing for many mothers to give up during pregnancy. Especially if their Friday night ritual involves a get together and cheese snacks with the girls.

Cheese is a great source of essential nutrients for pregnant women, but certain kinds can be dangerous for an unborn baby. Cheese will supply you and your baby with necessary calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and vitamin B12. Bone growth and tooth formation are just some of the benefits. But it needs to be the right kind of cheese to be safe.

The problem with soft cheese during pregnancy

Soft cheeses are considered too risky for pregnant women and you should avoid them. Even those made with pasteurised milk. This is because during the manufacturing process, soft cheeses may be exposed to and contaminated by a dangerous bacterium called listeria.

Listeria can cause a rare but dangerous infection called listeriosis. This infection can be especially serious for pregnant women if it is transmitted to their unborn baby. It can unfortunately lead to complications including, blood poisoning, miscarriage, premature labour, or stillbirth. Pregnant women are more at risk from listeria because hormonal changes lower their immunity.

Luckily, in Australia and New Zealand, listeriosis in pregnant women is very rare. If you avoid foods at risk of being contaminated it’s very unlikely that you will be affected.

You should avoid these types of cheese and foods during pregnancy:

  • Brie
  • Camembert
  • Blue-veined cheese
  • Fetta
  • Ricotta
  • Danish Blue
  • Gorgonzola
  • Roquefort
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Any cheese made from un-pasteurised milk
  • Soft serve ice cream

It’s important to avoid other types of food that may be at high risk of contamination with listeria. Processed, ready-to-eat luncheon meats, salads and chilled or cold-smoked seafood are the most risky types of food.

Some common examples include:

  • Prosciutto
  • Devon
  • Processed chicken and turkey
  • Ham
  • Salami
  • Pâté and other meat spreads
  • Pre-made and refrigerated salads
  • Pre-cut fruit salads
  • Seed sprouts
  • Cooked and chilled prawns
  • Smoked salmon or trout
  • Smoked oysters
  • Chilled crab meat
  • Pre-prepared sushi
  • Raw fish, including sashimi and salmon
  • Fresh oysters
  • Raw eggs
  • Unpasteurised milk and dairy products

Cheese that is safe to eat during pregnancy

All types of hard cheese are mostly considered safe to eat during pregnancy. The levels of listeria found present in hard cheeses are extremely low and are therefore not considered a risk for pregnant women.

Some of the hard cheeses that are safe to eat during pregnancy include:

  • Cheddar
  • Edam
  • Parmesan
  • Gouda
  • Jarslberg
  • Emmental
  • Gruyere
  • Cooked haloumi
  • Havarti
  • Manchego
  • Paneer
  • Pecorino (hard)
  • Provolone

Enjoy the above cheeses as a snack with whole-grain crackers or fresh fruit; grated and sprinkled over soups and salads or in a sandwich or omelette.

Soft cheese also becomes safe to eat when it is fully cooked. So, products made with soft cheeses that are fully cooked, like pizza or baked cheese, are safe to eat when you are pregnant.

Cooking food at risk of contamination with listeria kills off the bacteria and makes it safe to eat. To ensure all the bacteria have been killed in the cooking process, make sure that any cheese is cooked until it's steaming hot the entire way through.

Soft cheese that is warm and just melted could still contain listeria and harm your unborn baby.

It is also important to wash all fruits and vegetables before eating them. And be careful too about kitchen hygiene.

For more information check: