Is Parma Ham Safe for Pregnant Women or Should You Avoid It?

parma ham in pregnancy
parma ham in pregnancy

As an obstetrician, one of the most common questions I receive from expecting mothers is whether foods like Parma ham are safe to eat during pregnancy. My patients are often worried about contracting illnesses from cured meats that could potentially harm their baby. According to recommendations from health organizations like the NHS, cold cured meats such as Parma ham should be consumed with caution during pregnancy. Cooking the ham thoroughly prior to consumption can help eliminate any risk of toxoplasmosis, which is a parasitic infection that can on rare occasions be found in raw pork products and lead to miscarriage. While properly cured prosciutto is unlikely to cause illness, pregnant women should be aware that meats like these may potentially harbor other concerning bacteria like Listeria or Salmonella. However, the chances of becoming infected are very low, especially if food safety guidelines are followed. If you accidentally consumed some Parma ham during your pregnancy, try not to panic – just monitor for any symptoms like fever or flu-like illness and speak to your doctor if you have any concerns. With a few simple precautions, Parma ham can likely be enjoyed safely during pregnancy.

Is Parma Ham Safe During Pregnancy?

The short answer is yes, Parma ham is generally considered safe to eat during pregnancy. However, there are a few things you need to keep in mind.

Cooking your Parma ham is a super easy way to make it totally safe for pregnant ladies! According to CDC , getting meat hotter than 63°C (or 145°F) kills off any toxoplasmosis parasites. So if you don’t have one of those meat thermometer thingies, just cook the ham until it’s piping hot and steaming

Parma ham is a type of cured ham made in the Parma region of Italy. It’s cured with just sea salt – no dangerous chemicals added. It’s also air-dried for at least 12 months, which makes it pretty safe from harmful bacteria.

So eating a little bit of Parma ham as part of a healthy, balanced diet during pregnancy should be just fine. But, there are some potential risks to be aware of which I’ll explain next.

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What is Parma Ham?

Let me give you a quick rundown on what exactly Parma ham is before we dive into the pregnancy stuff.

Parma ham is a type of dry-cured ham made in the Parma region of Italy. It has a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) certification which means it can only be called Parma ham if it’s made there using traditional methods.

The ham comes from pigs raised in that region. The pork legs are trimmed, salted with just sea salt, and then air-dried slowly for at least 12 months – sometimes up to 36 months!

This long drying time concentrates the pork flavor and gives Parma ham its signature sweet, nutty taste. The ham ends up losing about 25-35% of its original weight during the curing process.

True Parma ham will have the distinct Parma ham logo branded on the skin which looks like a 5-point crown. This indicates it’s an authentic, approved Parma ham.

Now that you know what it is, let’s look at the nutrition facts.

Nutrition Facts of Parma Ham

Here are some key nutrients found in a typical serving of Parma ham (around 55g or 2 thin slices):

  • Protein – 15g
  • Fat – 4.4g
  • Sodium – around 800mg
  • Iron – 1mg
  • Zinc – 1.2mg
  • Vitamin B6 – 0.1mg
  • Vitamin B12 – 0.6mcg

As you can see, Parma ham is high in protein which is great for pregnancy. The iron, zinc, B6 and B12 are also important nutrients for expecting moms and growing babies.

However, you’ll also notice Parma ham is high in sodium due to the salt curing method. This is one potential risk for pregnant women.

Potential Risks of Eating Parma Ham When Pregnant

While Parma ham is generally safe in pregnancy, there are a few potential risks to be aware of:

  • Sodium content – Too much sodium can increase blood pressure and lead to swelling which is already common in pregnancy.
  • Listeria risk – Cured meats like Parma ham can harbor Listeria bacteria which can be harmful in pregnancy. Proper storage and heating helps reduce this risk.
  • Nitrates/nitrites – Some cured meats contain these preservatives which may be linked to miscarriage or birth defects. Authentic Parma ham does NOT contain added nitrates/nitrites.
  • Contaminants – Like any food, Parma ham could become contaminated with bacteria, toxins or parasites during processing, though proper drying and curing reduces this risk.
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So while these risks are low, it’s still smart to take precautions when eating Parma ham while pregnant. Let’s go over some food safety tips.

Food Safety Tips for Pregnant Women

To enjoy Parma ham more safely during pregnancy, follow these food safety guidelines:

  • Limit portion size – Stick to 2-3 thin slices (around 55g) at a time to limit sodium intake.
  • Double check labels – Make sure any cured meat product is authentic Parma ham with just pork and sea salt on the ingredients list.
  • Heat it up – Cooking Parma ham, like in pastas, sandwiches or pizzas helps kill any potential bacteria present.
  • Avoid deli meats – Opt for whole, dry-cured Parma ham instead of deli-style packaged ham which has more risks.
  • Practice good hygiene – Wash hands before and after handling Parma ham to prevent any cross contamination.
  • Use caution at restaurants – Be cautious with cold deli meat sandwiches from restaurants and cafes where food handling practices may be questionable.

Following these tips will help you minimize risks and indulge in yummy Parma ham safely during pregnancy! But of course, when in doubt, check with your doctor.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Get Toxoplasmosis From Parma Ham?

No, Parma ham cured for 12+ months does not pose a toxoplasmosis risk. The long curing time eliminates any toxoplasmosis parasites.

Is Parma Ham Considered A Deli Meat To Avoid In Pregnancy?

Technically yes, but unlike pre-packaged deli meats, Parma ham is dry cured for over a year, making it much lower risk. Portion control and heating it are still recommended.

Is Parma Ham Safe To Eat Cold During Pregnancy?

Cold Parma ham is safe if consumed promptly after opening. But refrigerate leftovers and eat within 3-5 days. Reheating is ideal. Avoid meat left unrefrigerated for more than 2 hours.[18]

Can Too Much Parma Ham Raise Blood Pressure In Pregnancy?
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Yes, excess sodium from Parma ham or any source can contribute to high blood pressure in pregnancy. Stick to recommended serving sizes and balance with low sodium foods.

Is Parma Ham Worth The Risk During Pregnancy?

The risks of properly cured Parma ham are very low. But as with any food, proper handling is key. Check with your doctor about your specific pregnancy risks and follow the safety guidelines outlined above.

What Happens If I Get Listeria From Parma Ham While Pregnant?

Listeria infection in pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth or other complications. But the risk of listeria in properly cured Parma ham is very low. Cooked ham has no listeria risk. Seek medical care if you have any listeria symptoms.

Is authentic Parma ham better than regular deli ham when pregnant?

Yes, authentic Parma ham is a safer choice. It contains no added preservatives like nitrates or nitrites. Plus the long curing kills more bacteria. But both should be consumed in moderation.

Can The Salt In Parma Ham Harm My Baby?

Consuming too much sodium from any source can increase pregnancy complications. Stick to recommended serving sizes of Parma ham, drink plenty of water, and balance it with lower sodium foods.


Alright moms and moms-to-be, we’ve covered a lot of ground here! Here are the key takeaways:

  • Parma ham is generally safe in pregnancy when consumed in moderation as part of a healthy diet. The curing process makes it much lower risk than other deli meats.
  • Stick to recommended serving sizes and pair it with low sodium foods to limit your sodium intake.
  • Heat up Parma ham when possible and check labels for additives to further reduce risks.
  • Practice good food safety like handwashing, proper storage and heating leftovers. And check with your doctor if ever unsure!

The most important thing is to get plenty of healthy, balanced nutrition for you and your growing baby! Parma ham in moderation can be part of that.

Hope this gave you the answers you were looking for on Parma ham and pregnancy! Let me know if you have any other pregnancy nutrition topics you want me to cover. Wishing you a happy and healthy 9 months! 🤰

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