Cheese is an important source of protein and calcium for pregnant women but certain kinds do need to be avoided. This is because some cheeses are more inclined to allow growth of bacteria, such as listeria , which can harm your unborn child.

Pregnant women are advised not to eat:

soft, mould-ripened cheeses, such as Brie or Camembert
blue-veined cheeses, such as Danish Blue and Stilton

These cheeses are moister and less acidic than other cheeses, providing a perfect environment for bacteria to grow. However, thorough cooking should kill any listeria, so it should be safe to eat these cheeses in cooked food. Before you eat it, though, make sure it has been properly cooked and is piping hot all the way through.

In healthy adults, infection with listeria can cause a short-lived flu-like illness. Pregnant women, however, can be hit harder by listeria, for the same reason you are more susceptible to everything during pregnancy: your immune system isn't working as well.

Symptoms usually develop several weeks after exposure to the bacteria, which can make it hard to pinpoint exactly which food made you sick. Symptoms may include fever, chills, muscle aches and back pain. Doctors diagnose listeria infection by testing your blood. Antibiotics will treat the infection. Newborns can also be tested and treated.

Listeria infection in pregnant women is very rare in the UAE. Provided you avoid foods with a high risk, you are very unlikely to be affected.

All hard cheeses are generally considered safe to eat. It has been stated that listeria is present in these cheeses in extremely low numbers and they are therefore not considered a risk during pregnancy.

Cheeses which are SAFE to eat in pregnancy

Hard cheeses:
Babybel, Cheddar, Cheshire, Derby, Double Gloucester, Edam, Emmental, goat's cheddar, feta, Gouda, Gruyere, Halloumi, Havarti, Jarlsberg, Parmesan, Pecorino (hard), Provolone, Red Leicester.

Soft and processed cheeses:
Boursin, cottage cheese, cream cheese, feta, goat's cheese without a white rind, mascarpone, mozzarella, Philadelphia, processed cheese (such as cheese spread), Quark, ricotta.

Yoghurts (all varieties), probiotic drinks, fromage frais, soured cream and crème fraîche - any variety, including natural, flavoured and biologically active - are all safe to eat.

Cheeses to AVOID in pregnancy

Mould-ripened soft cheeses:
Brie, Blue Brie, Cambozola, Camembert, Chaumes, chèvre (goats cheese with a white rind), Pont L'Eveque, Taleggio, Vacherin-Fribourgeois

Blue-veined cheeses:
Bergader, Bleu d'Auvergne, Blue Wensleydale, Shropshire Blue, Danish Blue, Dolcelatte, Gorgonzola, Roncal, Roquefort, Stilton, tomme, Wensleydale (blue).

Soft, unpasteurised cheese, including goat and sheep's cheeses:
Chabichou, Pyramide, Torta del Cesar.

Approved for BabyCenter Arabia by Dr Nafissa El Serafi

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