There’s probably nothing more frustrating during pregnancy than having a craving for something you’re advised not to eat. Pregnancy seems to be filled with rules and you will probably spend nine months being told what you should and shouldn’t be doing.
The unsolicited advice can seem neverending at times. Post a photo of yourself enjoying a soft serve, for example, and you’ll attract comments criticising your choice.
But heaven help the stranger who attempts to stop a pregnant woman from eating soft ice cream on a hot day!
If you really want to eat ice cream, you might be wondering whether or not it’s safe to eat it during pregnancy. It depends on where you purchase it.
In the end, it’s up to you whether you choose to enjoy ice cream while pregnant, but keep reading to learn more.
Eating Ice Cream While Pregnant
The fact is, soft-serve ice cream is made with pasteurized milk, which is safe for pregnant women. Soft serve continues to be safe but only if it is hygienically stored. This is the key to being able to enjoy soft-serve ice cream.
Women’s Health and Reproductive Specialist, Doctor Andrew Orr says: ‘Fast food chains like McDonald’s have a strict hygiene policy where the machines are washed and cleaned every day. However, it’s best to avoid ice-cream trucks because they aren’t regularly inspected for maintaining food standards’.
Why is soft ice cream not recommended during pregnancy?
The reason why pregnant women are told to avoid soft serve is due to the risk of contracting an infection called listeriosis.
Listeriosis during pregnancy
Listeriosis is an illness that can be contracted by eating food contaminated with bacteria known as Listeria monocytogenes.
During pregnancy, women are more susceptible to listeriosis infection and complications can be serious; it is, however, very rare. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, pregnant women are ten times more like to contract listeriosis than the general population.
Risks of listeriosis during pregnancy
Listeriosis is one of the most serious types of food poisoning. Although it is rare, it could be very serious for your unborn baby if you contract listeriosis during pregnancy. In serious cases, listeriosis during pregnancy can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, and preterm labor.
How to avoid listeriosis during pregnancy
Cooking and pasteurization are the only ways to kill listeria bacteria, which is why many people choose to avoid unpasteurized foods during pregnancy.
To find out more about listeriosis during pregnancy and how to avoid it, please read Listeria and Pregnancy – What You Need To Know About Listeria.
How common is listeriosis during pregnancy?
According to the New South Wales Food Authority, since 2001 there have been between 1 and 14 confirmed cases during pregnancy each year. Considering there are over 300,000 births per year, you can see how rare it actually is.
Doctor Orr says: ‘We only see about five cases of listeriosis per million people in Australia. Basically, there’s about 0.3-0.4% chance of getting it, yet we make such a big deal about it. This is not to discount it; the fact is, however, far more people get food poisoning from other bacteria or poor food handling compared with listeria’.
Doctor Orr continues, ‘If a health issue, such as listeria poisoning, is so rare, why do we make such a fuss about it? Why do we not warn women of other potentially worse issues, which cause more cases per year, can also be potentially fatal?’
A perfect example of this is gestational diabetes. It affects over 15,000 pregnant women each year, with an annual increase of around 5%. Uncontrolled diabetes significantly increases the risk of perinatal death – by around 30% compared with non-diabetic mothers – according to recent studies.
You can find out more in BellyBelly’s article Gestational Diabetes | Diet And Symptoms.
Women are regularly told to eat balanced diets but are not educated about what a healthy diet consists of. Pregnant women can eat as much junk food as they want and nobody says a thing. But mention the word ‘brie’, and everyone chimes in with disgust.
Find out more in our article What Foods Can You Eat During Pregnancy?
Soft serve ice cream from ice cream trucks – it is safe during pregnancy?
If you see an ice cream truck or a store that looks unclean or unhygienic, give it a miss. Ask management for information about their soft serve ice cream machine cleaning schedule.
If they have machines that self-pasteurize overnight, the ice cream should be safe for you to eat. These machines heat up overnight to kill any bacteria lurking inside. If machines are not regularly and properly cleaned, however, there is still a risk of listeria contamination.
Whether or not you choose to eat soft serve ice cream while pregnant, there are other factors to consider. You might decide to eat a soft-serve cone or regular ice cream, but it’s also important to be mindful of sugar consumption while pregnant.
A healthy, balanced diet that’s rich in nutrients is essential during pregnancy. You should make sure you eat fresh vegetables, greens and fruits to give your body a good mix of vitamins and nutrients.
Sugar consumption during pregnancy
Nutrition is of extra importance during pregnancy as your body is working extra hard. You should pay close attention to your pregnancy diet to ensure you are getting the right vitamins and nutrients. Bear in mind there are around 17 grams (just over 4 teaspoons) of sugar in a single serving of ice cream. That’s quite a sugar hit.
How much sugar can I eat per day?
One teaspoon is just under four grams, which means one serving of ice cream quickly eats into your daily recommended intake of 6 teaspoons of sugar from the foods and drinks you consume. Sugary foods are high in calories, too, so it’s important to consider the number of calories you are eating each day.
It is important to be just as mindful of your sugar consumption during pregnancy as you are of your caffeine intake. Sugar consumption during pregnancy is likely to become a hot topic in the coming years as experts focus on health problems linked with diet.
Sugar is inflammatory in the body. Excess consumption during pregnancy can lead to excess weight gain and insulin resistance, which puts you at risk of complications like gestational diabetes, which then increases your risk of interventions at birth.
It’s ok to eat to satisfy your cravings, but it’s important to ensure you eat a healthy, balanced diet overall. Having the occasional ice cream is nothing to worry about, but you should be mindful of your sugar consumption and make sure you are getting enough vitamins and nutrients from your diet.
The verdict: can I eat soft serve ice cream during pregnancy?
The truth is, you can do whatever you like during pregnancy. Some women choose to eat hard ice cream to satisfy their cravings, whereas others decide to eat soft serve ice cream for the duration of their pregnancy. If you decide to consume soft serve ice cream, just make sure it is made using a pasteurizing machine to reduce the risk to you and your baby.
Make an informed decision
We have outlined the advice and facts above but it’s up to you to decide what you will do. BellyBelly supports informed decision-making, which is why we provide articles that give the facts so you can make a decision that’s right for you.
Contact your midwife or obstetrician for further advice if you are still undecided.