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My pregnancy and listeria

Updated on March 9, 2013

listeria monocytogenes

Nothing prepares a mother for a medical diagnosis of her newborn that could result in death. My husband and I were ignorant to the fact that our daughter, Hannah, had about a 30% survival rate and the medication given her could result in hearing loss if she survived. We also were unaware of the fact that we dodged the miscarriage and stillbirth bullet until after all was said and done and I did my own research on the subject.

When my third child, Hannah, came down with a fever at 2 weeks old I was not prepared for what the next couple of weeks would hold. Hannah was born 9/27/07. Her assessment at the hospital was a healthy baby girl but two weeks later, after waking her early in the morning, Hannah had a fever. Not something a veteran mother would be too concerned about but I was a little anxious because she was newborn. I monitored her temperature every hour for four hours and waited as Hannah's fever continued to climb, so I phoned her pediatrician. I was advised to change her formula to soy-based instead of milk based. If her fever did not go down or increased anymore I was to call back. I did as I was instructed.

A few short hours later, Hannah's fever continued its climb. I phoned the pediatrician again and took her in for an exam. My husband and I were told that the typical reasons for a fever in a baby were not the problem and we had to take her immediately to a local children's hospital for further tests and treatment.

When we arrived at the children's hospital the staff was amazing. Hannah was rushed into an exam room and the resident pediatrician examined our baby. She was at a loss as to the cause but wanted to perform a lumbar puncture to test for meningitis.

lumbar puncture-a needle is inserted at the base of the baby's spine to extract spinal fluid.

Panic hit us like a brick thrown upside our heads. I knew what the lumbar puncture involved. Afterall, I gave birth to three children by ceserean section and each one involved the same procedure but instead of extracting spinal fluid a painkiller is injected into the spine to numb your body from the chest down to prepare you for surgery. The other difference is that in adults you are given a local anesthetic to make the spinal not as painful but with newborns no local is given. To my heartache, Hannah would feel every bit of her lumbar puncture.

My husband and I chose to stay in the room during the procedure and faced each other with tears flowing and hearts acheing. I still get teary-eyed thinking about it. No child should have to endure that and no parent should have to either.

Hannah was started on antibiotics(gentamicin and ampicillin) immediately as a precaution. When the results came in she had tested positive for bacterial meningitis. The type of bacterial menigitis would not be accurately diagnosed for three days, so Hannah was put on a couple of different antibiotics until then.

Why didn't the hospital I gave birth at catch her illness when she was born? Unfortunately, the syptoms in a ceserean section delivery do not appear until two weeks after birth. A vaginal delivery would have resulted in Hannah's illness being found before we left the hospital.

The CDC (Center for Disease Control) assigned Dr. John Venglarcik to Hannah's case and he oversaw her future tests and treatment. I found Dr. Venglarcik to be quite personable and very knowledgeable about Hannah's illness. He was the one who ordered her spinal fluid to be tested for listeria monocytogenes.

Hannah spent 2 1/2 weeks in the hospital with an IV for her antibiotics. At one point a specialist came in to insert a PICC line so the IV could be removed. This venture was unsuccessful due to the fact that Hannah's veins were too tiny. The nurses and I managed to keep Hannah's IV in until she was released.

PICC line-A Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter, or "PICC line," is a thin, soft plastic tube — like an intravenous (IV) line — that allows you to receive medicines and fluids. A PICC line stays in place for as long as needed.

A nurse places a PICC line into a large vein in your arm and guides the catheter up into the main vein near your heart where blood flows quickly. The nurse sutures (stitches) the PICC line in place and covers the site with a sterile bandage. An x-ray is done to make sure that the catheter is in the right place. It takes 1 - 1 ½ hours to place the PICC line. Most patients feel little or no discomfort during this procedure. A local anesthetic may be used.


Before Hannah was released her hearing was tested. Thank goodness she had no hearing loss due to her antibiotics. Dr. Venglarcik kept track of Hannah and her growth for her first year and a half. I am very happy to say that Hannah is a healthy child who sustained no side effects of her illness or the treatment but it will be a long time before her ordeal will be a distant memory.

Please find below some tips and links to information to aid you in avoiding our family's nightmare and I hope this page serves you well.

Foods to Avoid to Prevent Listeria When Pregnant (copied from Pritzer law firm website located in the link area of my Hub page)


A Listeria infection (listeriosis) during pregnancy can cause miscarriage, stillbirth or premature birth. If the baby survives, it may have severe health problems.

To prevent Listeria infections (listeriosis) during pregnancy, expectant mothers should follow these guidelines:

  • Do not eat hot dogs, luncheon meats, or deli meats unless they are reheated until steaming hot.
  • Do not eat soft cheeses such as feta, Brie, Camembert, blue-veined cheeses, and Mexican-style cheeses such as "queso blanco fresco." Hard cheeses, semi-soft cheeses such as mozzarella, pasteurized processed cheese slices and spreads, cream cheese, and cottage cheese can be safely consumed.
  • Do not eat refrigerated pâté or meat spreads. Canned or shelf-stable pâté and meat spreads can be eaten.
  • Do not eat refrigerated smoked seafood unless it is an ingredient in a cooked dish such as a casserole. Examples of refrigerated smoked seafood include salmon, trout, whitefish, cod, tuna, and mackerel which are most often labeled as "nova-style," "lox," "kippered," "smoked," or "jerky." This fish is found in the refrigerated section or sold at deli counters of grocery stores and delicatessens. Canned fish such as salmon and tuna or shelf-stable smoked seafood may be safely eaten.
  • Do not drink raw (unpasteurized) milk or eat foods that contain unpasteurized milk.

I also learned that picnic foods like potatoe salad, watermelon, pasta salad and unwashed salad should be avoided as well. I was a regular eater of restaurant salad while pregnant and found out, after the fact, that restaurants do not wash their salad. This, I believe, was the cause of my ingesting the bacteria because I was very carefull with the list above.

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