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Eating eggs while pregnant
Eggs during pregnancy
Eggs contain many vitamins and minerals such as iron , choline, folic acid and vitamins B2, B12 , E, and D. These are sorely needed during pregnancy for the growth and development of your baby. Folic acid wil contribute to the construction of the nervous system, and reduces the risk of birth defects like spina bifida, cleft lip and limb defects. Vitamin D ensures a good intake of calcium and helps with the bone growth en construction. Eggs are healthy to eat during pregnancy. Eating raw eggs is more complicated. It is often unclear whether a Sunny side up is or is not possible during pregnancy. And what about a soft boiled egg, mayonnaise or mousse ? To estimate the risk of raw eggs for pregnant women, some background information about eggs and bacteria is crucial.
The chicken egg
A chicken egg is in fact a growth medium for the embryos of chickens. An egg consists of about 60 percent protein, 30 percent egg yolk and 10 percent shell. The egg yolk is already present at the birth of the chicken, a chicken has about 2000 yolks on stock. If the egg yolks are large enough, the egg white will be created in the fallopian tube. If the egg white is formed around the yolk, a film will be cover the egg. After this, the shell will be made, which consists of calcium and serves for strength of the egg. If this process is done, which takes about 25 hours , the egg will come out of the cloaca of the chicken. A cloaca is a combination between an anus and vagina. This means that the feces and eggs from the chicken are coming from the same hole.
Bacteria in eggs
The eggshell is porous, but does not allow bacteria. The secret behind this is the film underneath the shell and the cuticle. The cuticle is a kind of protective layer around the shell. Both protect the egg against external bacteria. Due to this natural protection an egg can be stored for a month. If an egg is immersed into water, it even can be stored for a long time up to a half year.
It is almost impossible for bacteria to infect the egg whithout breaking the shell, but the shell itself may be contaminated for the logical reason that the egg is coming from the same hole as the feces of the chicken. Most of the contaminated eggs are infected wit Salmonella. Therefor it is always highly recommendable to work clean by processing raw eggs. Eggs should be properly washed before preparation. However, eggs never should be washed before storing for the reason that the cuticle will be removed during washing. This will allow bacteria to penetrate the shell.
Eggs can also be infected from the inside. The bacteria Salmonella enteritidis can occur in the ovaries and fallopian tubes of the chicken. At this stage the egg is not protected by the shell, which makes it possible for bacteria to infect the egg. In this case, the laying hen is infected with Salmonella. Research shows that this only occurs in 1 in 20,000 eggs. This number is still decreasing because of the increasingly better prevention of Salmonella in laying hens.
Bacteria during pregnancy
Pregnant women are often more susceptible to pathogenic bacteria. Therefore it is advised for pregnant women to be careful with raw food. Often, the bacteria can not cross the placenta, so the baby is protected against the bacteria.In most cases it will only affect the pregnant woman who will be sick of it. However, there are a few exceptions. This includes the Listeria monocytogenes. This bacteria may enter the baby through the placenta, which can lead to spontaneous abortion and a stillborn baby. Listeria is mainly found in raw milk and products of raw milk, raw vegetables, especially if they are not washed, mushrooms and prepacked meat and fish products, including pate, chicken products and fish such as boiled shellfish, cooked shrimp and smoked fish. Although the minimum infectious dose of Listeria is unknown, you may assume that the bacteria must first be grown enough before it can have a pathogenic effect. This makes that prepacked raw foods that can be stored a long time, will be a risk for Listeria.
Can I eat raw eggs during pregnancy?
Eggs, especially fresh eggs, are no risk for Listeria. In the past, there has never been an incident caused by Listeria in eggs. However, there is a chance that the eggs are infected with Salmonella. If the eggs are heated through, the Salmonella will die and cannot cause food poisoning anymore. This makes it save to eat omelettes, hard-boiled eggs or egg dishes that are still heated like cake and quiche. If the eggs are not heated it is recommended to wash the eggs before using it. This will clean up a potentially Salmonella contamination. The Salmonella risk will also be reduced if you use only fresh eggs. Finally. by storing the eggs in the fridge, you will reduce the chance of bacterial growth. If all these tips are followed, there is still a chance that the egg is infected from the inside. These Salmonella contamination is no immediate danger to the unborn baby, but can make the pregnant woman seriously ill. The chance of an infection in one Sunny side up or soft boiled egg is 1 in 20,000, which is equal to 0.005%. The risk of Salmonella infection when eating a Bavarian cream with raw eggs is higher, because more eggs are processed in it. In a bavarois with 20 eggs, the risk of salmonella contamination will increase up to 20 x 0.005% = 0.1%. It is a personal choice whether or not take the risk of eating raw eggs during pregnancy. In any case, eating raw eggs during pregnancy is not advised because of possible salmonella contamination.