As a general rule of thumb, it is not safe to eat feta in pregnancy. There are, however, exceptions to this rule. For example, if the feta is pasteurized, then the deadly bacteria called listeria monocytogenes that is often found in soft cheese, will be killed if it is present. Additionally, some people believe that if the feta is thoroughly cooked to 165°F (about 73.9°C), it will be safe to eat as well. If a woman eats feta in pregnancy that contains listeria monocytogenes, it could lead to a disease called listeriosis. Listeriosis can be fatal to both the mother and the unborn baby.
By looking at the label on the cheese, a woman can decide whether she can eat feta in pregnancy. In some cases, the cheese will be pasteurized and is thus safe to consume. In the alternative, if the label states that the cheese is not pasteurized or if it states that the milk used to make the cheese is raw, then the woman should not eat that particular brand of feta in pregnancy. If a pregnant woman is unsure whether the feta is pasteurized or whether raw milk was used, it is best to be cautious and avoid consuming the cheese.
If a woman eats feta in pregnancy and it is contaminated with the listeria monocytogenes bacteria, a round of antibiotics will usually be prescribed to treat both the mother and the unborn baby. Unfortunately, the bacteria can live in the body for nearly a month without causing the person to show any symptoms. As a result, during that period of time, the person may consume quite a bit of the contaminated cheese, incorrectly thinking it is safe.
The listeria monocytogenes bacteria can cause complications during pregnancy if the mother is not treated in time. These complications can include early labor or delivery, miscarriage, or neonatal fatality. The unborn baby is usually affected when the bacteria break through the placenta, infecting the baby. In addition, if the mother has a weak immune system, she may be affected by the bacteria as well. In some cases, both the mother and the baby may die.
There are other types of food that should be avoided during pregnancy as well. For example, deli meats, fish with high levels of mercury, seafood that was smoked, and raw shellfish and meats should be consumed with the utmost caution. Pregnant women with questions about which foods are safe to eat should consult a medical doctor.