When you're pregnant, your immune system is suppressed because of hormone changes. Certain foods, such as coleslaw, can trigger food poisoning for everyone, but when you're pregnant you may suffer from more severe reactions to food poisoning. While a bout of food poisoning in a normal person might just mean a 48 hours of sickness, even mild food poisoning in a pregnant woman can put a child at risk. For that reason, avoid coleslaw when pregnant unless you're certain of the source and quality.
Coleslaw contains a mixture of shredded vegetables, usually cabbage and carrot, along with mayonnaise. Variations include added raisins, pineapple, additional sauces or apple chunks. But, the basic slaw remains the same. All of these vegetable and fruit ingredients are safe for a pregnant woman to eat if ingredients are fresh and properly washed and prepared. Mayonnaise, however, may present a problem if made from unpasteurized raw eggs. Coleslaw's general health risk when it comes to eating while pregnant is that it provides a perfect environment for bacterial growth.
Experts at the Colorado State University Extension list coleslaw as a food to avoid during pregnancy. In particular, they refer to the possibility of contracting listeriosis. Listeriosis comes from the Listeria monocytogenes bacteria. When you're pregnant, you're 14 times more likely to contract the infection. In serious cases, listeriosis can affect the placenta and trigger miscarriage. Foods such as coleslaw can harbor listeria. While cooking kills the bacteria, coleslaw is usually eaten cold, increasing the risk of contamination.
At supermarket deli counters, you may see large open tubs of coleslaw. Similarly, at a barbecue or buffet, coleslaw often sits in open bowls. This exposure to the air and heat increases the chance of contamination by listeria or other forms of harmful bacteria. Always avoid coleslaw that has been exposed to the air or has come from a larger container, according to advice from the government's MedlinePlus website.
Mayonnaise bought in jars from most supermarkets tends to contain safely pasteurized eggs. However, all pregnant women should avoid uncooked eggs in recipes such as homemade mayonnaise. If coleslaw contains homemade mayonnaise, then it may put you at risk of contracting bacterial infections such as Staphylococcus aureus and salmonella. In both cases, these infections risk harming you and your baby's health during pregnancy.