Can You Eat Venison When Pregnant?

Eating a healthy and well-balanced diet is essential for helping you support a pregnancy and is crucial for your unborn baby because it provides her with the nutrients she needs to grow normally. In addition to eating healthy foods, you also need to pay attention to how you cook and serve foods while you're pregnant. Venison is one example. Venison supplies key nutrients, but it must be cooked properly to be safe to eat while pregnant.

Venison contains about 2.6 grams of fat per 3.5-ounce serving. Credit: keko64/iStock/Getty Images

Valuable Venison

Venison is a good source of protein, a nutrient necessary for the entire growth and development process. A 3.5-ounce serving of venison supplies 21.5 milligrams of protein, which is about 30 percent of the 71 grams of protein you need each day during pregnancy. That same serving of venison supplies 2.9 milligrams of iron, which is 11 percent of the 27 milligrams of iron you need as part of your daily diet during pregnancy. Getting plenty of iron reduces your risk of premature delivery and your baby's risk of low birth weight. (See Reference 2) A 3.5-ounce serving of venison supplies 6.6 milligrams of niacin, a nutrient that promotes normal development of the skin and nerves. Those 6.6 milligrams translate to 37 percent of the 18 milligrams of niacin you need as part of your diet each day during pregnancy.

Proper Preparation

According to the Pregnancy.org website, venison is completely safe during pregnancy, as long as it's cooked properly. Eating raw or undercooked venison can lead to food-borne illnesses, which can make you quite sick and put your unborn baby in danger. Freezing venison doesn't kill harmful bacteria, and cooking the meat to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit is the only way to destroy the bacteria and ensure that the venison is safe to eat, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Be cautious with the raw venison, as well. Cross-contamination of other foods can occur if they come into contact with raw venison juice or blood. Use separate cutting boards and utensils when preparing ingredients other than the venison to help prevent this.

Dangers and Risks

Eating raw or undercooked venison can lead to certain illnesses that are potentially harmful to an unborn baby. Toxoplasmosis is one example, according to Pregnancy.org. A parasite called toxoplasma gondii causes toxoplasmosis, which is an infection of the blood that can cause premature delivery, low birth weight, fever, jaundice, eye disorders, mental retardation and convulsions. Improperly cooked venison can also cause salmonellosis, which can be life threatening for an unborn baby, according to the March of Dimes. E.coli is another dangerous infection that can, in serious cases, cause cell damage and kidney failure, the U.S. Department of Agriculture notes.

A Few More Considerations

Don't thaw venison meat at room temperature, such as on the kitchen counter, because the warm air temperature encourages bacteria to grow on the meat. Thaw venison meat in the refrigerator, in a bowl of cold water or in the microwave using the defrost setting, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends. Unless you've thawed the venison in the refrigerator, do not refreeze the meat because this can also encourage bacteria to grow. Another safety consideration is venison sausage or jerky, which isn't always safe for pregnancy, according to Pregnancy.org. The U.S. Department of Agriculture suggests sticking to commercially produced jerky because it's heated to bacteria-destroying temperatures before it's dried. Don't eat jerky that has been made at someone's home or farm because there is no way of knowing without a doubt that the venison was heated properly.

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