Safe Dairy Products for Pregnant Women

By Sarah Collins
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When you're pregnant, your attention turns to getting the nutrients your baby needs to grow strong and healthy. Get the 1,000 milligrams of calcium you need daily to support growth of the baby's teeth and bones, along with normal blood clotting and muscle and nerve function, by consuming four servings of dairy a day, as recommended by the American Pregnancy Association. Take care when choosing dairy products, however -- some are safer than others when it comes to pregnancy.

Importance of Pasteurization

The No. 1 concern when it comes to dairy products and pregnancy is ensuring the product is pasteurized. This means it has been heat-processed to kill bacteria that could cause serious illness, the most notable being listeria. If a pregnant women is infected with listeria, she can be diagnosed with listeriosis, a disease with flulike symptoms that have serious health implications for the fetus, including miscarriage or stillbirth. Medical writer Anna McGrail on BabyCenter writes that listeriosis outbreaks have been linked to soft cheeses such as Brie, Camembert and blue cheese.

Safe Dairy Products

Before you buy a dairy product, read the label. If it's sold in a grocery store in the United States, chances are the product is pasteurized; however, it never hurts to double-check. The word "pasteurized" will appear on the product label. If you're unsure, ask the grocery store clerk. Generally, hard cheeses such as cheddar, feta, Gouda, Gruyere and Parmesan are safe for pregnant women, as are soft, processed cheeses such as cottage cheese, cream cheese, goat cheese, mascarpone, mozzarella and ricotta. Additionally, pasteurized yogurt -- even if it contains live bacteria -- sour cream and milk are all safe for consumption.

Unsafe Dairy Products

Dairy products sold at farms, farmers markets and farm stands risk being unpasteurized. Steer clear of mold-ripened soft cheeses such as Brie, blue, Camembert and chevre, along with raw milk or yogurt, pudding or ice cream made from raw milk. The Food and Drug Administration also warns against eating homemade ice cream, as raw or undercooked eggs could cause a salmonella infection.

Fat-Free Vs. Full-Fat Dairy

Pregnancy is a time to be less concerned about calories, fat grams and overall weight management -- but only to a point. Full-fat dairy products can provide a good chunk of calories during a time that you should only be eating 1,800 to 2,400 calories a day, depending on the trimester. Fat provides 9 calories per gram, so choosing low-fat milk, yogurt or cheese vs. full-fat options can help limit your caloric intake.

About the Author

Sarah Collins has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Penn State-University Park and formal education in fitness and nutrition. Collins is an experienced blogger, editor and designer, who specializes in nutrition, fitness, weddings, food and parenting topics. She has been published in Arizona Weddings, Virginia Bride and on Gin & Pork and