Is it true that some cheese is off limits while you're pregnant?

Our experts answer your pregnancy questions.

Pregnant women used to be told to stay away from all soft cheeses. But it’s just the cheeses made with raw or unpasteurized milk that you need to avoid. 

When milk is pasteurized, high heat kills the bacteria in it. The big ones we know are salmonella and listeria. 

If you get exposed to those bacteria from raw milk cheese, you could get severe food poisoning with nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. That’s worse during pregnancy, because you dehydrate faster. You might need to get IV fluids in the hospital, because just drinking fluids at home might not be enough to rehydrate you. 

With listeria in particular, pregnant women are 20 times more likely to get sick from it than the general population, because your immune system is weaker while you’re pregnant. 

Unpasteurized cheese can be made from the milk of cows, goats or sheep. They’re usually soft, rich and strong smelling. Here are some of the cheeses to stay away from because they’re usually unpasteurized:

  • Brie and Camembert: two of the many French cheeses made with raw milk  
  • Roquefort, gorgonzola, Danish blue: some of the blue cheeses to avoid
  • Mexican cheeses: queso fresco, blanco, panela and asadero 
  • Manchego: a Spanish cheese traditionally made from raw milk

Mozzarella, ricotta and feta are soft cheeses generally made with pasteurized milk, so you don’t have to worry much about those. Chevre could be unpasteurized or pasteurized.

At the grocery store, just check the label. At Italian restaurants or Mexican restaurants that use a lot of cheese, ask if the cheese is made from pasteurized milk or stay away from dishes with cheese to be on the safe side.  

Melissa Kitzman, certified nurse-midwife 
Fairview Clinics – Bloomington, Oxboro
Fairview Center for Women – Edina 

To learn more:

Make an appointment with a midwife or OB doctor or book a tour at The Birthplace.

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