Evidence Based

What Cheeses Are Safe to Eat During Pregnancy?

Susan Adeosun, Dr.

Published at 00:04

Kathy Shattler, MS, RDN

Medical reviewer

You can have certain types of cheese during pregnancy. Photo: VGstockstudio/shutterstock

Pregnancy is a transformative time in a woman’s life, marked by numerous changes in the body. The things you also do during this period affect your health, including dietary choices. Gone are the days of eating with reckless abandon. 

Pregnancy dietary guidelines suggest that there are many healthy carbohydrates, proteins, and fruits to eat during pregnancy to support the growth and development of the little human you’re nurturing. For example, if you used to eat elderberries before getting pregnant, you may wonder if elderberries are safe during pregnancy

In this case, cheese is a good source of calcium and protein, but not all of them are good for pregnant women. Understanding which cheeses are safe to eat becomes crucial for expectant mothers to safeguard their health and that of their developing baby. In this article, we will see if it is safe to eat cheese during pregnancy.

Can pregnant women eat cheese?

  • Pregnant women should eat cheeses made from pasteurized milk as this helps reduce the risk of harmful bacteria like Listeria.
  • Hard cheeses like cheddar, Parmesan, and Gouda are generally safe as they have a low moisture content, which inhibits bacterial growth.
  • Soft cheeses like mozzarella and cream cheese are safe options as long as they are made from pasteurized milk.
  • Always check labels to ensure that the cheese is made from pasteurized milk and has been properly stored to maintain freshness and safety.

Are Cheeses Safe to Eat During Pregnancy?

Are Cheeses Safe to Eat During Pregnancy
Are Cheeses Safe to Eat During Pregnancy? Photo: ME Image/shutterstock

Cheese is a dairy product made from milk, typically from cows, goats, or sheep. The process of making it involves curdling the milk, separating the curds from the whey, and then pressing and aging the curds to develop its flavor and texture. 

Sometimes, this cheese is not exactly safe for consumption. They are called unpasteurized cheeses[1], also known as raw milk cheeses. They are made from milk that hasn’t been heat-treated to kill bacteria. While it preserves more of the milk’s natural flavors, it also carries a higher risk of bacterial contamination, including Listeria, which can be dangerous for pregnant women. 

For pregnant women, listeriosis can be particularly concerning because it can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, or serious illness in newborns[2]. Soft cheeses like Brie, Camembert, feta, and blue cheese often fall into this category when made with unpasteurized milk. So, it’s best to steer clear of these varieties during pregnancy to avoid any potential health risks.

Now, what cheese is actually safe during pregnancy? Cheeses made from pasteurized milk are better suited. Pasteurization is a process of heating milk to kill harmful bacteria, making it safer to consume. Milk that undergoes this heat treatment significantly reduces the risk of bacterial contamination. 

These cheeses are generally considered safe to eat during pregnancy because the risk of foodborne illness is low. Think of your everyday cheddar, Swiss, or mozzarella — they’re typically made with pasteurized milk and are totally pregnancy-friendly[3]

So, as a pregnant woman, it is advised to stick to the pasteurized options. Always remember to chat with your healthcare provider for personalized advice.

What Cheeses Are Safe To Eat During Pregnancy?

During pregnancy, you need to be cautious about the types of cheese you consume to minimize the risk of foodborne illnesses. However, there are many generally safe options:

Hard Cheeses

Most common cheeses, such as Cheddar, Gouda, Swiss, and Parmesan, are fantastic choices during pregnancy, especially around month four or five, when cravings might be kicking in. They are good options because they’re usually made from pasteurized milk and have low moisture content. This means they’re less likely to harbor harmful bacteria, which can be a big concern during pregnancy.

Think of cheddar with its sharp flavor or Gouda with its smooth, creamy texture. Swiss cheese brings its distinctive nutty taste, while Parmesan adds a bold, savory kick to any dish. These cheeses can be enjoyed in various ways — sliced on crackers, melted in sandwiches, or grated over pasta dishes.

Processed Cheeses

Processed cheeses, such as spreads and slices, are often a convenient and safe option during pregnancy. They are also typically made from pasteurized milk and undergo extensive processing, which helps eliminate any potentially harmful bacteria.

Whether you’re craving a creamy cheese spread for your morning bagel or some easy-to-melt cheese slices for a grilled cheese sandwich, processed cheeses can be a reliable choice. They come in various flavors and textures, making them versatile for snacking, cooking, or adding to your favorite recipes.

What Cheese Should You Avoid During Pregnancy?

There are also many cheese options you should not have while pregnant. Some of them include:


Brie is a soft, creamy cheese with a white rind. It’s made from cow’s milk and has a rich, buttery flavor. However, it’s typically made with unpasteurized milk, which can pose a risk during pregnancy due to the potential presence of harmful bacteria like listeria.


Similar to Brie, Camembert is a soft cheese with a creamy texture and a bloomy white rind. It is also commonly made from unpasteurized milk, so it’s best avoided during pregnancy to reduce the risk of foodborne illness.

Blue Cheese

Blue cheese varieties such as Roquefort, Gorgonzola, and Stilton are known for their distinctive blue veins and strong flavor. These cheeses are often made with unpasteurized milk and can harbor listeria bacteria, which is why they’re not recommended for pregnant women.


Feta is a crumbly, salty cheese that is traditionally made from sheep’s milk or a mixture of sheep’s and goat’s milk. While some feta cheese sold in stores is made from pasteurized milk, traditional varieties may not be, so it’s important to check the label. If it’s made from unpasteurized milk, it’s best to avoid it during pregnancy.

Queso Fresco

Queso fresco is a soft, mild cheese commonly used in Mexican cuisine. It’s often made from unpasteurized milk and has a high moisture content, making it susceptible to bacterial contamination. Pregnant women should steer clear of queso fresco to reduce the risk of foodborne illness.

Queso Blanco

Similar to queso fresco, queso blanco is a fresh, soft cheese used in Latin American cooking. It’s typically made from unpasteurized milk and has a mild, slightly tangy flavor. As with other soft cheeses, it’s safest to avoid queso blanco during pregnancy.

Risks Of Eating Unsafe Cheeses During Pregnancy

Eating unsafe cheeses during pregnancy, particularly those made from unpasteurized milk, can pose several risks to both the mother and the baby due to the potential for foodborne illnesses. 

Here are some risks associated with consuming unsafe cheeses during pregnancy:


Listeriosis is a serious infection caused by the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes, which can be found in unpasteurized dairy products like certain soft cheeses. Pregnant women are at an increased risk of listeriosis[4], and the infection can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, or severe illness or death of the newborn.

Premature Birth And Low Birth Weight

Good cheese helps to improve the weight of the baby[5]. However, infections like listeriosis can increase the risk of premature birth (delivering the baby before 37 weeks of pregnancy) and low birth weight (babies born weighing less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces), both of which can lead to various health complications for the baby.

Neonatal Infections

If a pregnant woman contracts listeriosis, the infection can be transmitted to the baby during pregnancy or childbirth, leading to neonatal infections that can be life-threatening.

Maternal Illness

Listeriosis can cause severe illness in pregnant women, including symptoms such as fever, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. In severe cases, it can lead to meningitis or septicemia (blood poisoning), which can be fatal.

Long-Term Effects On The Baby

In some cases, babies born to mothers who have had listeriosis may experience long-term health problems, including developmental delays, intellectual disabilities, and neurological issues.

To minimize these risks, pregnant women should avoid consuming cheeses made from unpasteurized milk and opt for safe alternatives made from pasteurized milk. Also, try to practice good food safety measures, such as proper storage, handling, and preparation of food. 

If there’s any uncertainty about the safety of a particular cheese or food product, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare provider for guidance.


Cheese is a versatile food option, and luckily, pregnant women can enjoy it after sorting out the good from the bad. However, pregnant women should be cautious about their cheese choices to avoid potential risks like listeriosis. Having cheeses made from pasteurized milk reduces these risks. 

Overall, your key takeaway is always to prioritize food safety and consult healthcare providers when in doubt.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I eat cheddar cheese while pregnant?

Yes, cheddar cheese made from pasteurized milk is generally safe during pregnancy due to its low moisture content and reduced risk of bacterial contamination.

Is it safe to eat processed cheese slices during pregnancy?

Yes, processed cheese slices are usually made from pasteurized milk and undergo extensive processing, making them a safe option for pregnant women.

Why should I avoid soft cheeses like Brie during pregnancy?

Soft cheeses like Brie are often made with unpasteurized milk, which increases the risk of bacterial contamination, including Listeria, posing a potential threat to pregnancy.

How can I minimize the risk of listeriosis from cheese during pregnancy?

To minimize the risk of listeriosis, opt for cheeses made from pasteurized milk, ensure proper storage and handling of cheese, and consult healthcare providers for personalized advice.

Dr Susan Adeosun (MPH, MD) is a Medical Doctor and Public Health enthusiast. She has over five years’ worth of experience in public health and preventive medicine and is a firm believer in the famous phrase by Dutch philosopher Desiderius Erasmus, “prevention is better than cure.” Her journey through public health, combined with her love for writing, has resulted in the publication of several health articles on various blogs, websites, and peer review journals.


MANA adheres to strict sourcing guidelines, avoids most tertiary sources, and uses only professional resources updated to contain accurate and current information. We majorly rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research from reputable medical associations. For more information regarding our editorial process, please refer to the provided resources.

  1. Center (2024). Unpasteurized Milk Can Pose a Serious Health Risk. [online] U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Available at: https://www.fda.gov/food/buy-store-serve-safe-food/dangers-raw-milk-unpasteurized-milk-can-pose-serious-health-risk [Accessed 15 May 2024].
  2. Craig, A.M., Dotters-Katz, S., Kuller, J.A. and Thompson, J.L. (2019). Listeriosis in Pregnancy: A Review. Obstetrical & gynecological survey, [online] 74(6), pp.362–368. doi:https://doi.org/10.1097/ogx.0000000000000683.
  3. Huang, D., Wu, Q., Xu, X., Ji, C., Xia, Y., Zhao, Z., Dai, H., Li, H., Gao, S., Chang, Q. and Zhao, Y. (2022). Maternal Consumption of Milk or Dairy Products During Pregnancy and Birth Outcomes: A Systematic Review and Dose-Response Meta-Analysis. Frontiers in nutrition, [online] 9. doi:https://doi.org/10.3389/fnut.2022.900529.
  4. Valenti, M., Ranganathan, N., Luke Sp Moore and Hughes, S. (2021). Listeria monocytogenes infections: presentation, diagnosis and treatment. British journal of hospital medicine, [online] 82(10), pp.1–6. doi:https://doi.org/10.12968/hmed.2021.0107.
  5. Starling, A.P., Sauder, K.A., Kaar, J.L., Allison L.B. Shapiro, Anna Maria Siega-Riz and Dabelea, D. (2017). Maternal Dietary Patterns during Pregnancy Are Associated with Newborn Body Composition. ˜The œjournal of nutrition/˜The œJournal of nutrition, [online] 147(7), pp.1334–1339. doi:https://doi.org/10.3945/jn.117.248948.

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