Paging Dr. Grunebaum: Avoid and Treat Food Poisoning or the Stomach Flu When You’re Pregnant
Dr. Grunebaum of BabyMed.com, Director of Obstetrics and Chief of Labor & Delivery at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, gives us his advice on how to avoid – and deal with – food poisoning during pregnancy.
How to Avoid and Treat Food Poisoning or the Stomach Flu When You’re Pregnant
It is not unusual for a pregnant woman to experience diarrhea, stomach pain and vomiting in pregnancy, a condition some refer to as “stomach flu” or “food poisoning” but which is known with it’s medical term as gastroenteritis.
Pregnant women are just as susceptible to getting gastroenteritis as non-pregnant women.
There are many different causes of gastroenteritis or food poisoning including viruses or bacteria, and many times a pregnant woman may get it when exposed to harmful organisms through eating or swallowing contaminated food or water. Most cases of food poisoning in the United States are due to common bacteria such as Staphylococcus or Escherichia coli (E. coli) or Campylobacter, more serious cases include Listeria or Toxoplasmosis.
Bacteria may get into your food in different ways: Contaminated meat or poultry, improper food handling like food prepared by someone who did not wash their hands properly, food prepared using unclean cooking utensils, cutting boards, or other tools, dairy products or food containing mayonnaise (such as coleslaw or potato salad) that have been out of the refrigerator too long, frozen or refrigerated foods that are not stored at the proper temperature or are not reheated properly, contaminated raw fish or oysters, contaminated fruits or vegetables or fresh fruit juices that have not been washed well, undercooked meats or eggs, water from a well or stream, or city or town water that has not been treated.
Most instances of gastroenteritis last only a day or so two and the most important thing to do is to make sure to not get dehydrated and to drink plenty of liquids. Dehydration can cause premature contractions and fatigue and dizziness. Drink water, soda, tea or chicken soup. Take care of yourself the way you would if you weren’t pregnant. If the symptoms are very severe or they persist for over 2-3 days, talk to your doctor. Sometimes you may need to be observed in the hospital or get hydrated with an IV solution.
If your symptoms last longer or are more severe, you will be asked about the foods you have eaten recently.and tests may be done on your blood, stools, vomit, or the food you have eaten to determine the cause of your symptoms. However, tests may not be able to prove that you have food poisoning. In rare but possibly serious cases, your doctor may order a sigmoidoscopy or gastroscopy, a procedure in which a thin tube placed in your esophagus or the anus to look for the source of bleeding or infection.
Most women with gastroenteritis will usually recover from the most common types of food poisoning within a couple of days. The goal is to make you feel better and make sure your body maintains the proper amount of fluids. For the most common causes of food poisoning, your doctor would not prescribe antibiotics.
Most people fully recover from the most common types of food poisoning within 12 – 48 hours. Serious complications can arise, however, from certain types of food poisoning.
Call your doctor for any severe and lasting symptoms such as blood in your stools or black stools, persistent stomach pain, or symptoms of dehydration such as thirst, dizziness, light-headedness, diarrhea with a fever above 101°F or if the diarrhea gets worse or does not get better in 3-4 days.