Pregnant woman dies after eating pickled cockles
A woman, who was seven months pregnant, died after eating pickled mussels. Her doctor has issued a warning: pregnant mummies must abstain from eating raw vegetables and pickled food due to the risk of infection
Becoming pregnant is an exciting period in your life. You now have a living human being growing inside of you. But that also brings its own pantangs – like what to eat and not to eat. It may not be the leading cause of death during pregnancy, but eating the wrong things while you are pregnant can rarely be fatal – as one pregnant woman in Thailand found out too late.
The very real risk of eating contaminated seafood while pregnant
Recently, a Thai woman who was seven months pregnant died after eating seemingly undercooked cockles. She rented a room on her own. Her neighbour from the apartment stated that the mum had bought these cockles for a meal.
However, after finishing the meal, the expecting mum began experiencing abdominal pain and severe diarrhoea. Her symptoms were so bad that the mum couldn’t work. Instead, on Monday, 1 October she went to the doctor and applied for sick leave.
However, a few days later, neighbours didn’t see her leave her room. It was only when a neighbour’s child looked through the window that they discovered she did not make it. The mum passed away. her body was found on the 3rd of October, Wednesday. Police and authorities found her uninjured, clothed in a white dress in her single room, without any signs of a struggle.
Local media haven’t released the cause of death, but it’s been suspected that the mum died due to severe diarrhoea from food poisoning.
Cockles are a popular food in Thailand and can be eaten cooked rare, medium or well done, depending on how long it’s boiled. It’s a popular side dish in countryside Thailand and is usually eaten with home-made sauce or part of salads.
Teerapong Chareewit, an Associate Professor from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology in Chulalongkorn University cautioned all public — not just pregnant women — to be extra careful when eating cockles.
“If pregnant women die [sic] due to eating pickled mussels, then it isn’t just pregnant women who should avoid eating mussels. Everyone else should be cautious about eating pickled mussels and whether it is sourced hygienically or not. Severe diarrhoea is dangerous and can be fatal,” says Chareewit.
For pregnant women, food hygiene is of the utmost importance
What happened to the Thai mum is a grim reminder to all pregnant mothers to avoid eating raw food including pickled raw food and raw fish.
Remember, mums, even uncooked food that appear clean might not actually be clean, especially if commercially produced. You wouldn’t know how well the produce has been washed prior to further processing. The same applies to the utensils used for the food. And what about those who handle and prepare the food? How can you be sure that they follow optimum hygiene practices?
The risks of eating raw food
We reiterate: pregnant mums should without a doubt avoid eating raw foods. That’s because potentially unhygienic sources of raw food can lead to diarrhoea – which we can’t gauge the severity of. Furthermore, raw foods present other risks, too:
Raw fish and particularly shellfish harbour tons of baddies that can lead to infections. While some pathogens only leave the mum dehydrate and weak, others can travel and infect your unborn child, with severe health issues – or even death.
One bacteria that pregnant women are vulnerable to is Listeria. It’s normally found in soil, dirty water or plants, but Listeria can be transferred to raw fish while it’s processed (even smoking and drying). Listeria is capable of travelling to the unborn baby via the placenta – and the mum can appear perfectly fine. Listeria infections in an unborn child can result in premature birth, a miscarriage, stillbirth and severe health issues.
Raw and undercooked meat also contains a lot of pathogens on their surface and sometimes within their fibres. Eating uncooked meat can risk infections from pathogens which can cross the placenta and into your unborn baby. There can be serious consequences of that, such as stillbirth or negative neurological effects, like mental retardation.
Eggs that haven’t been cooked may contain Salmonella, a bacteria responsible for vomiting, diarrhoea and fever. Rarely, Salmonella can also lead to cramps in the uterus, which can progress into premature birth or stillbirth.
Food tips for expecting mums
Plant and animal food
- Raw foods should be excluded from your diet. That includes:
- food products made from raw eggs, like mayonnaise, hollandaise sauce, ice cream, poached eggs, scrambled eggs and cake icings. If you’re shopping in the supermarket, check the ingredient labels to be sure that they’re using pasteurised eggs.
- any form of meat, like poultry, beef, fish and shellfish, including sushi. Ensure that all raw meats are fully cooked through and clean enough to eat.
- Steer clear of:
- raw sprouts, unless they are fully cooked through. The same goes for cut or minced meat (poultry, pork, beef) like burger patties, sausages and deli meats.
- unpasterurised food products, like milk, cheese, egg or juice. These foods can have bacteria that can prove deadly to your unborn child. Do eat only eggs that have been fully cooked through.
- Junk food, cheese that is matured via mold, pates, and smoked salmon.
- Fruits and vegetables should be thoroughly cleaned to remove soil and dirt particles. To be safe, stick to vegetables prepped at home.
- Stick to eating offal rich in Vitamin A, like liver, once every seven days, at maximum.
- Avoid large fish meat like shark, swordfish, mackerel and tuna, as they can contain high amounts of mercury. Fatty fish and small fish are good to eat, but limit to eating them twice a week.
Caffeine and alcohol
- Caffeine can travel into the placenta and baby – but they can’t digest it properly, which can lead to problems later on. Expecting mums shouldn’t have too much caffeine and restrict it no more than 200 mg each day. which is roughly two cups of coffee.
- Dr. Ekachai Kovavisrak, MD, Ph.D., an Associate Professor of the Obstetrics & Gynecology Department in Rajavithi Hospital assures expectant mums to be cautious about how clean their food actually is. One thing he stresses out, though, mums-to-be, is that you should completely steer clear from alcohol.
The most important to point to note is to be cautious how clean something is when you’re eating it and maintaining a healthy diet. Consider eating food as they naturally come, fully cooked through, and not relying on supplements. Be careful with adding too much sugar and salt, and, if you’re worried about food outdoors, consider cooking more at home. Do ensure that you drink clean water and maintain good kitchen hygiene by not mixing cooked and raw food together and cleaning kitchen tools.
If you have any concerns about your diet while pregnant, please consult your obstetrician or gynecologist for further advice.
Is experiencing diarrhoea during pregnancy dangerous?
Diarrhoea during pregnancy can be a dangerous health hazard. If you experience over three bouts of diarrhoea in a day, that’s a red flag for ensuing dehydration. Do consult a doctor as soon as you can – and don’t delay.
Here are some tips on how to care for your body should you experience diarrhoea while pregnant:
- Drink plenty of fluids to keep yourself hydrated.
- If you aren’t fatigued, have a light meal.
- If you are fatigued and are unable to eat, do drink electrolyte-rich beverages to replace the water and mineral loss from diarrhoea.
- Avoid drinking fresh milk, caffeinated food and drinks, food rich in fats, food that is difficult to digest and seafood.
- When an expecting mum suffers from diarrhoea, it isn’t necessary to bombard your body with medication.The reason for that is diarrhoea flushes out the faecal matter, toxins and other pathogens from the body. Some medications do help to halt excretion instantly – but that isn’t good. The result is that the pathogens remain trapped in the body, leading to health consequences such as slowing down symptom recovery.
- If diarrhoea has been diagnosed to be due to an infection, consult a doctor immediately. Remember to take the medicine as prescribed. If you’re given antibiotics, please don’t forget to finish the whole course.
- Don’t panic – everything will be all right. Try to relax as much as you can.
Other leading cause of death during pregnancy
In many developed countries similar to Singapore, serious issues which come from pregnancy and maternal death don’t happen often. In fact, according to webMD, the leading cause of death during pregnancy is murder – potentially from abusive partners.
However, notwithstanding that, it is possible for pregnant women to suffer complications while pregnant. A pregnancy-associated death means that:
- a woman has died while pregnant, or
- 12 months after giving birth from post-birth complications, or
- a series of conditions that could have been triggered due to pregnancy, or
- when a pre-existing condition worsens from the biological effects of pregnancy.
With appropriate medical attention, many of the issues from being pregnant, giving birth and the postpartum period are curable or totally avoided. Singapore is developed enough and blessed with enough resources to help prevent one among many of the leading cause of death during pregnancy from claiming the lives of expecting mums.
In other countries though, such conditions can be life threatening to the pregnant mum. Here are other leading cause of death during pregnancy:
Postpartum hemorrhage (PPH) occurs when the mum begins to lose too much blood after giving birth. Normally, an experienced medical professional would be able to halt the bleeding. However, if a medical professional isn’t there to treat the bleeding, the pregnant mum can pass away due to excessive blood loss. Of all leading cause of death during pregnancy, PPH accounts for roughly 27 percent of them.
High Blood Pressure and Eclampsia
Most of the time, prenatal care and other tests can diagnose high blood pressure and protein that leaks into urine. Provided that there are enough resources, medical professionals are able to cure and oversee pre-eclampsia. However, without it, both high blood pressure and eclampsia are serious conditions that might be fatal. Hypertension alone accounts for 14% of deaths linked to pregnancy.
Becoming infected with a pathogen
There are several causes of infection, such as an unsafe abortion, giving birth in unhygienic conditions or going through labour much longer than usual. Not knowing how to clean oneself and tend to the body after giving birth may also risk contracting an infection. Infections cause about 11% of all cases of maternal death.
Other Indirect Causes
“Indirect causes” refers to pre-existing conditions before pregnancy that begins to become worse throughout the course of pregnancy. Such conditions can be totall separate – like HIV, diabetes, anemia or heart disease – but can worsen from pregnancy. Much of the causes of death during pregnancy come from indirect causes – roughly 28%.
How can pregnancy related deaths be prevented?
There are a few ways you can ensure that your pregnancy will receive optimal outcomes and avoid the leading cause of death during pregnancy:
- practise healthy lifestyle habits, including:
- eating a diet with healthy food and continuing a healthy weight
- avoiding drugs or other toxic substances
- preventing yourself from getting injured
- resolving any health issues prior to pregnancy
- consulting with a medical professional in certain periods of time whether you should become pregnant or not. Talking to a doctor is crucial in ensuring that you’ll obtain quality medical advice and care for your pregnancy.
Ensuring that you have the best pregnancy results should happen well before you’re pregnant and lead into prenatal care. Consulting with your doctor regularly will also help to understand any additional issues that could come up and ways to manage these the. Both the pregnant woman and medical professionals alike are key to stop and manage serious pregnancy-associated issues.
This article about leading cause of death during pregnancy and food tips was translated by Kevin Wijaya Oey and republished with the permission of the theAsianparent Thailand.