Surviving the Festive Season during Pregnancy

PREGNANCY AND SURVIVING THE FESTIVE SEASON

It is the end of the year and that means the festive season is here.  Whilst this is a great time to celebrate it can be difficult for a pregnant woman with regards to what they can eat and drink.  At the beginning of your pregnancy, you would have been given a brochure about the foods to avoid due to listeria.  Listeriosis is a serious infection caused by eating foods that are contaminated with the listeria bacteria.  Symptoms can include flu and fever-like symptoms as well as nausea and vomiting.  Listeria can live in your system for up to 60 days before you develop any symptoms, although the average presentation of infection is around 21 days.  It is recommended to take precautions to avoid high risk foods during the festive season.  Many of the high risk foods at Christmas parties and functions are finger foods.  While the risk of contracting listeria is low, poor food handling can increase the likelihood of listeria being present.  This is complicated by the fact that during the festive season the food is often left out at room temperature for extended periods, giving bacteria the best chance to multiply.   

The foods that you should avoid are the following:

·         Cold deli meats such as sliced turkey, beef, salami, ham, chicken, poultry and other cold slices of meat.

·         Soft cheeses such as brie, camembert, fetta, ricotta and blue cheese.  These cheeses have a lower pH than hard cheeses which makes them an ideal environment for listeria to grow.  Whilst the risk is relatively low in Australia due to the requirement to use pasteurised milk you still need to be careful.

·         Chilled or smoked seafood.

·         Raw fish and seafood such as oysters or tuna and including sushi made with raw fish.

·         Chilled rice dishes such as salads or sushi. Rice can grow bacteria unless served very hot or very cold.

·         Pates and meat spreads and any dips made with soft cheeses.

·         Caution should be taken with premade salads. It is the mayonnaise that can be the issue. If you have made something yourself but watch out for buffets where you do not know how long food has been sitting out for. 

WHAT CAN I EAT? 

If you are at a function that serves a sit-down meal then the risk of being served high risk foods is low.  You can eat hot, cooked meats including deli meats and fish.  Hard cheeses are fine as well as pasta sauces, as long as they are eaten hot.  Baked cheese cake is fine but the soft refrigerated cheese cake is not.  Basically, if the food has been cooked and it is hot, then it is fine to eat. 

So, it is possible to survive the festive season without eating any high-risk foods or giving away the fact you are pregnant before you wish to announce it.  Taking precautions is wise but if you do accidentally eat a high-risk food there is no real reason to panic as listeria infection is rare.  There are only about 65 cases in Australia per year with seven of these being pregnant women.  However, if you do notice any of the symptoms that are mentioned above and you think you may have been exposed to listeria you should contact our office. 

ALCOHOL 

We all know that it is important to avoid alcohol during pregnancy.  If you have not announced your pregnancy and do not want people to know at this point, then the best thing is to tell them you are on a health kick, or you are the designated driver.  Just ensure you keep yourself well hydrated with lots of water or start enjoying mocktails. 

LONG DRIVES AND AIR TRAVEL

The festive season may require travelling long distances by car or plane.

You can be more likely to suffer from travel sickness, have swollen legs and feet and be bothered by a sore back or unstable pelvis. While travelling, plan for more frequent toilet breaks and get up and move around as much as you can. Take a comfortable pillow for you and your belly.

Check with your doctor and your airline that it is safe to travel and ensure that you have the appropriate medical certificate from your doctor as required by the airlines. 

REST

If you are nearing the end of your pregnancy or are in the first trimester, you will be most likely feeling tired. Try to pace yourself as far as celebrations and outings go. Take naps when required and accept offers of assistance. If you are sitting for long periods, elevate your feet and ensure you are cool and comfortable as well as well hydrated.

If you are spending the festive season with family and friends in Australia then you need to be prepared for the heat. You will most likely be feeling 10 degrees warmer than anyone. Make sure you are in a room where there is a fan or air conditioner. If you are outside, sit under an umbrella. 

Next year it will be all about the baby so make this festive season about you.

Here’s to a fun festive season.

Dr Len Kliman is one of Melbourne’s most experienced and respected obstetricians and gynaecologists.

With over 20,000 deliveries and still counting, Dr Kliman has been practicing obstetrics and gynaecology for more than three decades.

In 2017, Dr Kliman was awarded an Order of Australia for his services to obstetrics and gynaecology.