Is It Safe to Eat Ham During Pregnancy?

Eating ham during pregnancy is possible as long as it has undergone an extensive curing or freezing process beforehand. Learn more.
Is It Safe to Eat Ham During Pregnancy?
Saúl Sánchez Arias

Reviewed and approved by the nutritionist Saúl Sánchez Arias.

Last update: 19 June, 2023

During pregnancy, the consumption of certain foods should be limited because of their microbiological risk or because they present a danger to the fetus. It’s important to be more careful with your diet than ever at this time, as the future health of the baby may depend on it. For this reason, we’re going to tell you if you should eat ham during pregnancy.

The first thing you have to be clear about is that there are many bacteria that don’t pose any risk to adults, but can cause great damage to the fetus if they reach it through the placenta. An infection during this stage could negatively condition development and cause neurological problems or delays in later growth and even miscarriages.

Some types of ham can be consumed during pregnancy

Sausages may contain a bacterium known as toxoplasma. This causes a disease that’s not dangerous for the mother but is dangerous for the baby growing inside her. For this reason, as a general rule, it’s best to avoid its consumption. However, with ham, it could be different because if the curing process exceeds 18 months, the bacteria would be destroyed, according to the information provided by the Centro Tecnológico Agroalimentario.

In any case, there’s the possibility that the woman has already developed and overcome toxoplasmosis at some point prior to gestation. In this case, there would be no risk, as the necessary antibodies would exist to face the disease with solvency. Otherwise, the life of the fetus could be endangered, according to a study published in the European Journal of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Biology.

At the same time, it should be taken into account that Iberian ham has been cured for at least 24 months, so it’s allowed to be consumed under any circumstances. For other ham products, the curing period must be checked to determine whether it’s safe to include the food in a pregnant woman’s diet.

A pregnant woman preparing to make with dough, ham, vegetables and other ingredients.
The consumption of ham isn’t forbidden for pregnant women, but certain precautions should be taken. Ideally, the curing process of the food should be longer than 18 months.

Ham consumption isn’t forbidden during pregnancy

Health experts have stopped prohibiting ham consumption during pregnancy, although with certain nuances. However, the Spanish Society of Gynecology and Obstetrics recommends caution and warns that more trials are needed. What has been demonstrated is that the development of toxoplasmosis is very harmful to the fetus and causes cardiovascular and neurological damage.

Eating ham safely

In any case, there’s an alternative to include ham in the diet during pregnancy in a safe way. It consists of subjecting the food to a previous freezing process. In this case, the cold eliminates the infective capacity of toxoplasma, as long as the food is kept for more than 48 hours at temperatures below -4 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s important to note that many domestic freezers don’t reach this point.

At the same time, you have the option of testing for toxoplasma antibodies. In the event that they’ve been generated during previous stages, it’ll be possible to eat ham during pregnancy without any type of problem. In all other cases, it’s best to respect the precautionary principle and freeze the food first.

Keep in mind that if you have any doubts, you can always consult a nutritionist for individual advice. There are more dietary precautions to be taken during this period to ensure that everything goes well.

A pregnant woman preparing a ham and cheese pizza.
If the curing process or prior freezing of the food is guaranteed, then you can enjoy a good sandwich or pizza with ham without risk.

It’s possible to eat ham during pregnancy

As you’ve seen, it’s possible to eat ham during pregnancy, although it’s important to wait for more studies to confirm whether the curing process really eliminates the risks completely. For the time being, it’s better to be conservative and ensure a previous freezing process or check if the disease has already passed before introducing this food into the diet. Although it’s a good quality food, there are other alternatives with a good nutritional profile.

Finally, keep in mind that during gestation, it’ll be necessary to optimize the diet in order to ensure the proper development of the fetus. Certain vitamin and nutritional requirements are increased, so certain modifications and adjustments may be necessary in order to meet the demands. Otherwise, growth delays or problems in the future metabolic health of the baby may be experienced.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Ahmed, M., Sood, A., & Gupta, J. (2020). Toxoplasmosis in pregnancy. European journal of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive biology255, 44–50.
  • Paquet, C., & Yudin, M. H. (2018). No. 285-Toxoplasmosis in Pregnancy: Prevention, Screening, and Treatment. Journal of obstetrics and gynaecology Canada : JOGC = Journal d’obstetrique et gynecologie du Canada : JOGC40(8), e687–e693.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.