Sunday, March 23, 2008

Pregnant Latinas at Risk?

¡Ay, la comida! As a Latina, much of my life has centered around food. My great-grandmother, mi 'buelita, actually owned her own restaurant in Dallas. Granted, that was before I was born, but probably 80% or more of my childhood meals were made by her. I was spoiled with strong, rich dishes that cannot be replicated now that she has passed away. I have spent many of my adult years prowling through suspect hole-in-the-walls and fine, uppity restaurants trying to find the same culinary masterpieces she used to create. I have not been successful.

Now that I am so far from my hometown, I have distinct moments of withdrawl in which I feel like I'd give my youngest child for a plate of gallina y fiambre (just kidding, y'all.) Sadly, I never developed the patience and love for cooking that my 'buelita had. Even if I had, I know that I could never have figured out her secret recipes. (I am told that my grandmother actually has all of them written down and stored in a secret hiding spot that she refuses to share with the rest of us.)

I know that I am not the only Latina who indulges in family recipes or seeks out traditional dishes. And, unfortunately, this propensity can have a negative impact for pregnant Latinas.

I enjoy reading the newsletter that the North Carolina Healthy Start Foundation publishes. It's called Maternidad Latina: Promoting Child and Maternal Health. Their Jan/Feb issue focused on the topic of listeriosis, a serious infection caused by eating foods contaminated with the listeria bacteria. This bacteria can be found in foods like deli meats, soft cheeses and anything made with unprocessed milk. Pregnant women and their unborn children are one of the main groups of people affected.

Unfortunately, pregnant Latinas (especially first generationers) are at very high risk for contracting the bacteria, because soft cheeses - like the quesos frescos pictured above - are a popular and traditional ingredient for many of our Latin American dishes. Some Latinas even think that these homemade quesos and raw milks are healthier. And many Latinas haven't ever heard of listeriosis - Hey! To be honest, I hadn't either until I was pregnant with my kids. And even then, my OB/Gyn only told me to stay away from deli meats.

Sadly, this lack of knowledge can have some really bad consequences. The bacteria can cause some very serious complications for pregnant women, including premature delivery, miscarriage, stillbirth, and severe health problems for newborns.

The best thing you can do if you are pregnant, is to avoid unpasteurized dairy products and deli meats. And, of course, cooking food thoroughly and maintaining a clean area for food preparation are important as well.

So if you have a sister, cousin, daughter or amiga that is expecting un bebé, help spread the message and tell her about this post.

If you'd like read more Maternidad Latina issues, click here.

For more information on listeriosis and pregnancy, click here.

Para información en Español, click aqui.

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