The real reason you shouldn’t drink raw milk when pregnant

Maybe you’ve gone most of your life without really questioning what you’re eating. You have friends who talk about non-GMO this and gluten-free that, and you’ve shrugged it off and kept eating your Cocoa Puffs. But all of that can change when you’re pregnant, and you become intensely aware that whatever you put into your mouth is also feeding your baby. Suddenly, you crave free-range chicken and apples picked off the trees of a local orchard. You make yourself a salad from lettuce and carrots that still had a little dirt on them when you bought them at the farmer’s market.

And what about milk? Should you keep on buying that half-gallon at the grocery store — which has been pasteurized to remove bacteria — or does your imagination send you to a barnyard, where a pink-cheeked milkmaid hands you a rustic metal pail, filled with the frothy, raw, unpasteurized milk from that morning’s session with Bessie? According to Nourished Kitchen, raw milk indeed has many health benefits, ranging from enzymes that allow you to better absorb the calcium to beneficial bacteria that support gut health.

But experts warn that it’s extremely dangerous for pregnant women to drink raw milk. Here’s why.

Drinking raw milk when pregnant can cause serious complications

The biggest risk of drinking raw, unpasteurized milk when you’re pregnant is that you could develop Listeria, which causes a miscarriage or stillbirth in 20% of women who contract the pathogen. The American Academy of Pediatrics noted that higher rates of pre-term delivery, as well as sepsis and meningitis in newborns, have all been linked to a Listeria infection due to the mother’s consumption of raw milk (per Live Science). If you’re wondering whether milk from cows that are grass-fed is safe to drink — or if a farmer says the milk is tested to confirm lack of bacteria — the CDC says there’s still a risk that the milk will be unsafe to drink, noting that even healthy animals from clean farms may pass on harmful microorganisms.

What about if you’re not pregnant? Raw milk enthusiasts chug the stuff because they believe in its health benefits and are outraged by government regulations restricting its sale. “Legally, I can feed my children fast food three meals a day. But then to get this incredible, nutrient-dense, fresh local food, the farmer in my state is criminalized for selling that to me,” stay-at-home mom Liz Reitzig told NPR. However, the bottom line comes from Mary Glode, a professor of pediatric infectious disease at Children’s Hospital Colorado: “Pasteurization is one of the major public-health advances of the century. It’s a shame not to take advantage of that.” (via WebMD)

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