Pregnancy Articles

Playing it Safe: Soft Cheeses

Cream Cheese is OK, But Some Others are Not

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It's true that pregnant women shouldn't eat soft cheeses, but that doesn't mean that every soft dairy product is out of bounds for 40 weeks.
Your morning bagel with cream cheese is a safe choice (just be sure to choose a low-fat variety), as is your yogurt smoothie. If you're craving cottage cheese and tomatoes, dig in.

However, because of your pregnancy, you should probably avoid some other foods in your refrigerator. Pregnant women shouldn't eat soft cheeses that are unpasteurized, mold-ripened cheeses like Brie or Camembert, or blue-veined cheeses such as Stilton and Gorgonzola (the blue veins are mold). Unpasteurized (also called raw) cheeses can carry a harmful bacteria called listeria.

Listeria is a type of bacteria found everywhere. Listeria can cause a food-borne illness called listeriosis, which is extremely dangerous for a pregnant women and her unborn baby. Listeriosis can cause premature delivery, miscarriage, and fetal death. A pregnant woman is more susceptible to Listeriosis because of the normal pregnancy changes that affect your immune system.

Listeria are unusual because they can grow at refrigeration temperatures of 40 degrees or below. Only cooking kills them.

Look for the term "pasteurized" on the label of any cheese you buy. Any cheese (including the soft cheeses mentioned in this article) that is pasteurized is safe to eat during pregnancy. If a label is not available, the cheese is made from unpasteurized milk, you are dining out, or you are traveling overseas, take these precautions.
Follow these food safety tips:
  • Do not eat soft cheeses such as feta (goat cheese), Brie, Camembert, blue-veined cheese, Roquefort, Mexican soft cheese, queso blanco, queso fresco, queso do hoja, queso de crea, and asadero. If you do use these soft cheeses they should be cooked until boiling.
  • Use hard cheese, such as cheddar, Swiss, and Colby. Also, soft cheeses like mozzarella, pasteurized processed cheese slices and spread, cream cheese, and cottage cheese are safe to eat.
  • Be sure to use dairy products that are pasteurized and labeled.
  • Clean your refrigerator regularly.
  • Use perishable, ready-to-eat, and precooked items as soon as possible.
  • Make sure your refrigerator always stays at 40 degrees or below.
Listeriosis may cause flulike symptoms with fever, chills, muscle aches, diarrhea, and upset stomach. It can take a few days or even weeks to appear. Consult your healthcare provider if you have these symptoms or believe you have eaten a contaminated product.

Here's a list of common cheeses that are safe to eat while pregnant:
  • American
  • Boursin
  • Cheddar
  • cream cheese
  • cottage cheese
  • Edam
  • Emmental
  • Gouda
  • Gruyere
  • Halloumi
  • Havarti
  • Jarlsberg
  • manchego
  • mascarpone
  • mozzarella
  • paneer
  • parmesan
  • pecorino
  • provolone
  • sour cream
  • ricotta
  • yogurt
  • any cheese that says "processed"
  • any cheese that says "pasteurized"

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    About The Author

    Becky Hand
    Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. She teaches prenatal classes and counsels individuals, helping women eat right and stay fit before, during and after their pregnancies.
    Becky Hand

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