Campylobactor and pregnancy

After the recent report by the Food Standards Agency into the Campylobacter bug in supermarket chicken we’ve had lots of people calling us asking whether it’s OK to eat chicken in pregnancy.

A woman washing her hands with soap

By Tommy's midwife Emma Laing

Is it safe for pregnant women to eat chicken? The short answer to that question is yes, provided you take care to:

  • cook it thoroughly – follow the instructions on the packaging
  • don’t wash it before cooking – it’s not necessary and could end up splashing germs further
  • thoroughly wash all the utensils and surfaces that touch the raw chicken during preparation
  • wash your hands with soap and water after handling raw chicken
  • Cover raw chicken and store it at the bottom of the fridge where it won’t drip onto other foods.

What is campylobacter?

Campylobacter are a group of bacteria that are commonly found on raw meat, particularly poultry, such as chicken, turkey and so on. They are a common cause of food poisoning.

What are the symptoms of campylobacter poisoning?

If you get food poisoning through eating campylobacter, you are likely to have the following symptoms:

  • stomach pain
  • nausea
  • diarrhoea
  • vomiting.

The symptoms can come on up to five days of your contact with the bacteria. In most people the symptoms are mild and they improve within 2-3 days.

Will my baby be affected?

Although the bacteria can cross the placenta it is very unlikely that your baby will be affected but it is advisable to take special care in handling and preparing chicken.

What do I do if I get campylobacter poisoning?

  • Rest.
  • Drink plenty of fluid (water, fruit juice and soups).
  • Wait until you feel hungry to eat solid food – your stomach may tolerate smaller meals better and it may be best to avoid fatty, spicy food until you feel fully recovered.
  • Avoid spreading the infection by washing hands, clothes and bed clothes thoroughly.

When should I talk to the doctor or midwife?

Talk to your doctor if:

  • you don’t start feeling better within 48 hours.
  • your symptoms are getting worse
  • you have ongoing severe vomiting
  • you have symptoms of severe dehydration such as sunken eyes and passing small quantities of dark, strong smelling urine.
Read more about the foods you should avoid in pregnancy here

Read more

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    Foods to avoid

    Now you're pregnant, there are some foods and drinks that are best avoided or limited because of small risks to the safety of your baby.

Sources

  1. Food Standards Agency (2014) Retail survey on levels of campylobacter in chicken published, www.food.gov.uk/news-updates/news/2014/13251/campylobacter-survey
  2. NICE Clinical Knowledge Sumaries (Aug 2014) Gastoenteritis, http://cks.nice.org.uk/gastroenteritis#!scenario:2 [accessed 28/11/14]
  3. NHS Choices (March 2013) Food poisoning, http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Food-poisoning/Pages/Introduction.aspx [accessed 28/11/14]
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Last reviewed on August 1st, 2016. Next review date August 1st, 2019.

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