Cravings during pregnancy can cause you to crave a wide variety of foods, but some foods may be dangerous during pregnancy. Soft serve ice cream is listed as one of the foods that you should avoid while pregnant, though not all doctors agree with this assessment.
Dangers to Pregnancy
The potential danger of soft serve ice cream comes from the possibility of contracting the bacteria listeria, which can live in the machines that hold and serve the ice cream. The bacteria can affect the placenta, amniotic fluid or fetus if the mother becomes infected, according to Baby Center. Approximately a third of the 2,500 cases of listeria infection each year occur in pregnant women. If you contract this infection, it can lead to complications, including premature birth, miscarriage, stillbirth and skin sores, respiratory infections or meningitis in your newborn.
Microorganisms in Soft Serve
The disease listeriosis is caused by the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. According to the FDA, between 1 percent and 10 percent of people are carriers of the bacteria naturally, and many other organisms harbor the bacteria, including dairy cows. Because the bacteria can tolerate freezing and drying, these are not sufficient to guarantee safety. Listeria bacteria can enter soft serve ice cream via the milk of an infected cow or from the hands of an infected individual who handles the machine, mixing and serving the ice cream. It takes less than 1,000 individual bacteria to give you a serious infection if you're pregnant.
Controversy Over Concerns
A promotion of Baskin Robbins in 2008 offered free soft serve ice cream to pregnant women showing up on a particular day, according to the website Bites. Promoted by pregnant celebrity Tori Spelling, this promotion set off a storm of controversy over whether the company should be promoting something that many health professionals recommend their pregnant clients avoid. However, the company claimed their modern pasteurization methods made the ice cream safe and free from contamination that could be harmful to you.
Alternatives to Soft Serve
While you and your doctor might consider soft serve ice cream off limits, you'll find plenty of other choices for your craving. Hard serve ice cream made from pasteurized milk is a completely safe way for you to enjoy ice cream. Hard cheeses, yogurt and milk that have undergone pasteurization are other acceptable ways to get dairy into your diet during pregnancy.
Recommendations for Pregnant Women
Proper sanitation and sterilization of soft serve equipment can help prevent instances of listeria contamination, and the risk of contracting the disease from soft serve ice cream is fairly low. However, because the consequences are so severe, it may be a good idea to just avoid soft serve ice cream throughout your pregnancy, just to be on the safe side.