Can You Eat Ham When You're Pregnant? Decoding And Advice

When you're pregnant, you often have questions about your diet. One of these questions is whether it's safe to eat ham during pregnancy. To answer this question, we need to look at the different types of ham and their risks for both mother and baby during pregnancy.

Types of ham and their characteristics

There are two main types of ham on the market: cured ham and white ham. It's important to know the difference between these two types of ham, so you can make an informed choice when you're pregnant.

  • White ham

White ham is also known as cooked ham. It is obtained after being salted, then steamed or baked. This type of ham is generally considered safe for pregnant women, as it has undergone a cooking process that destroys most potentially harmful bacteria.

  • Cured ham

Cured ham, on the other hand, is a dried, salted ham that has not been cooked. It can be found under different names depending on its origin (Serrano ham, country ham, etc.). As it is uncooked, it can present risks for pregnant women, due to the possible presence of bacteria such as listeria.

Risks of eating raw ham during pregnancy

close-up pregnant woman holding belly

The main risk associated with eating raw ham during pregnancy is listeriosis. This infection is caused by the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes, which can develop in certain raw or undercooked foods, as well as in unpasteurized dairy products. Listeriosis can lead to serious complications for the fetus, such as miscarriage, premature delivery or neurological sequelae in the baby.

To avoid these risks, pregnant women are advised not to eat raw ham during pregnancy, unless it has been cooked for a few minutes at a temperature of at least 70°C.

Precautions to take with ham and other cooked meats

Although cured ham is generally safe for pregnant women, it is important to take certain precautions to avoid the risk of bacterial contamination:

  • Buy vacuum-packed ham and check the use-by date on the packaging.
  • Store ham in the refrigerator in its original packaging, and consume as soon as possible after opening.
  • Avoid eating sliced ham, as it is more exposed to bacteria.

As for other cooked meats (cooked sausage, mortadella, etc.), it's best to heat them up before eating to ensure that any bacteria present are destroyed.

What about other types of cold cuts during pregnancy?

In addition to cured ham, certain other cold cuts can also present risks for pregnant women:

  • Terrines and pâtés: these may contain listeria, especially if homemade. It's best to avoid them during pregnancy.
  • Foie gras: although generally cooked, foie gras can carry toxoplasmosis if the animal has not been properly treated before slaughter. Women who are not immune to this disease are advised not to eat foie gras during pregnancy.
  • Rillettes and confits: as with terrines and pâtés, these products may contain listeria. We therefore recommend avoiding them during pregnancy.

Finally, for pregnant women who wish to consume cold meat without risk, it is possible to turn to alternatives such as cold chicken or turkey, provided they are well cooked and kept in a cool place.

Adapting your diet during pregnancy

While certain dietary restrictions are necessary during pregnancy, they should not lead to total deprivation. On the contrary, it's important to adapt your diet to provide all the nutrients your baby needs for healthy development. So, if you have to avoid certain types of ham, consider compensating with other sources of protein such as poultry, eggs, legumes or pasteurized dairy products.

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