There are many old wives tales about what a pregnant woman should or shouldn't eat. The warning against eggs, though, is not without merit. While eggs are, for the most part, very safe to consume, they are known to carry bacteria such as Listeria and Salmonella. While pregnant, your immune system changes to accommodate the baby, making you more susceptible to diseases. It's not necessary to cut out eggs altogether, but educate yourself and use a bit of caution and common sense to enjoy the healthy benefits of eggs.
Yolk vs. White
While it is true that bacteria tend to grow in the egg yolk, it doesn't mean the white is completely safe. Some bacteria, such as Salmonella, can actually grow in the egg white. Eating foods infected with Salmonella can cause diarrhea, vomiting, fever and a stomach ache lasting several days. There are also concerns around fluoroquinolones, one of the most common antibiotics used to treat Salmonella infection, which is linked to birth defects. The best way to kill the bacteria is by heat. Always cook the egg completely.
You're not completely safe even if you've restricted yourself to eating only fully cooked egg whites. Restaurant and store-made foods, such as egg salads, sandwiches and Hollandaise sauce, may contain a bacteria called Listeria, which is particularly dangerous to pregnant women. Listeriosis can cause miscarriage, early delivery and even death of a newborn baby. The United Sates Department of Agriculture advises pregnant women not to eat store-bought salads, even if they're made only with egg whites.
Pregnant women should avoid eating unpasteurized dairy products in general. This rule applies to eggs and egg products. Under the 1970 Egg Products Inspection Act, all egg products, including pancake mixes and mayonnaise, distributed in the US are required to use pasteurized eggs. If you are traveling abroad, remember to check the label of eggs products to ensure they are made with pasteurized ingredients.
Safe Food Handling
Always purchase eggs and egg whites from the refrigerated section of the store. Keep the eggs chilled in the refrigerator after coming home. Wash your hands and cook the eggs thoroughly. Eggs are typically good for four to five weeks after the date of packaging. Always check the smell, color and consistency of the egg white. Discard it if it appears green or pink.