INFORMATION FOR WOMEN WHO HAVE SALMONELLA DURING PREGNANCY OR BREASTFEEDING
What is Salmonella?
Salmonella infection is a type of food poisoning that is caused by eating food that is contaminated with either of two species of bacteria. One species is called Salmonella enterica and other is called Salmonella bongori. Typically, Salmonella food poisoning shows up as diarrhea, tummy cramps, and fever, beginning 12 to 72 hours after you eat the contaminated food. Many people also experience nausea and vomiting. The condition usually lasts from 4 to 7 days. The foods most likely to be contaminated with Salmonella are eggs that are undercooked, and seafood (especially shellfish) that is raw or undercooked.
How common is Salmonella during pregnancy?
The condition affects pregnant women as often as it affects anyone else. Today, Salmonella poisoning is fairly rare in developed countries compared with many years ago, because public health surveillance of eggs and other high-risk foods has improved greatly. That said, surveillance of food is not foolproof. In the United States, an estimated 1-3 in 30,000 eggs are contaminated. Cooking eggs well can compensate for this, and thus the most common reason for Salmonella food poisoning today is the consumption of foods with raw or undercooked eggs.
How is Salmonella diagnosed?
Diagnosis of Salmonella is based on your gastrointestinal symptoms, abdominal pain, and fever developing 12-72 hours after you consume food that is suspected of being contaminated. In some cases, public health authorities will be able to link various cases of Salmonella together, tracking them to a specific restaurant, or other source, and in doing so provide information that can be used in in the diagnosis of other people.
Does Salmonella cause problems during pregnancy?
The diarrhea from Salmonella poisoning can lead to dehydration, which can lead to low blood pressure, fainting, and problems with the heartbeat. In 4 percent of cases, the womb can become infected. If you vomit more than just once or twice, this can increase the pH of your body (metabolic alkalosis) and throw off the balance of electrolytes in your blood. This can affect your heart rhythm, and, if it becomes very severe, your level of consciousness.
Does Salmonella during pregnancy cause problems for the baby?
There is some concern that dehydration from diarrhea and disturbances in pH and electrolytes can affect the developing baby in negative ways, but studies of Salmonella during pregnancy have been too limited to investigate this possibility. One thing that is clear, however, is that fever (which is a main symptom of Salmonella poisoning) can cause problems for the baby. Studies have suggested that fever during pregnancy can increase a babys risk of having congenital defects involving the heart and other organs. Also, a recent study identified maternal fever as a possible risk for the baby developing autism spectrum disorder.
What to consider about taking medications when you are pregnant or breastfeeding:
- The risks to yourself and your baby if you do not treat the Salmonella.
- The risks and benefits of each medication you use when you are pregnant
- The risks and benefits of each medication you use when you are breastfeeding
What should I know about using medication to treat Salmonella during pregnancy?
Salmonella usually resolves by itself within 4 to 7 days, and so treatment is what doctors call supportive. You need to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of liquids and obtain some nourishment though bland foods and broth. If you are unable to stay hydrated through drinking, you can be hospitalized and hydrated through fluids given intravenously. Usually, the only needed medication is acetaminophen or paracetamol to bring down your fever.
Who should NOT stop taking medication for Salmonella during pregnancy?
Usually, the only needed medication is acetaminophen or paracetamol to bring down your fever. If you are unable to take one of these drugs because of a liver problem, there are other categories of fever medication that you can be given. Nobody should suffer through a fever to avoid medication, because fever itself can be harmful to the developing baby.
What should I know about choosing a medication for my Salmonella food poisoning during pregnancy?
Usually, the only needed medication is acetaminophen or paracetamol to bring down your fever.
You may find Pregistrys expert reports about the individual medications used to treat Salmonella here. Additional information can also be found in the sources listed at the end of this report.
What should I know about taking a medication for my Salmonella when I am breastfeeding?
Usually, the only needed medication is acetaminophen or paracetamol to bring down your fever. These drugs, as well as another category of medications called NSAIDs, are thought to be relatively safe in mothers who breastfeed.
What alternative therapies besides medications can I use to treat my Salmonella during pregnancy?
Most of the treatment for Salmonella food poisoning is supportive, consisting of fluids, either by mouth or intravenously. Prevention is the best measure when it comes to Salmonella and other food-borne illnesses. As noted earlier, the most common reason for Salmonella food poisoning today is the consumption of foods with raw or undercooked eggs. One possible reason for this may be a false sense of security among people who seek organically-farmed eggs, believing a common myth that such eggs cannot be contaminated, and thus prepare recipes calling for raw or undercooked eggs. Keep in mind that the risk of contamination is small, both for conventional and organic eggs, but the risk is present in both. In recent years, incidents of repeated food poisoning have occurred specifically at fast food chains that market themselves as responsibly sourced; this means that they adhere to certain farming philosophies in order to attract like-minded customers, but not that their food is safer or healthier than any other fast food.
What can I do for myself and my baby when I have Salmonella during pregnancy?
Take care of yourself by staying hydrated and taking fever medication. Stay in contact with your doctors and be ready to accept help through hospitalization, if you are unable to stay hydrated, or if your condition otherwise worsens.
Resources for Salmonella in pregnancy:
For more information about Salmonella during and after pregnancy, contact http://www.womenshealth.gov/ (800-994-9662 [TDD: 888-220-5446]) or visit the following links:
- March of Dimes: Salmonellosis
- US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Salmonella Questions and Answers