Raw eggs and pregnancy: is it all what it’s cracked up to be?


At first, I didn’t think anyone would care much about raw eggs. I mean, who really eats them that often except maybe Mr. Olympia wannabes?

Then a reader pointed out that cookie dough would have raw eggs in it. Sweet hammer of Thor, this one had to be addressed immediately! Raw eggs are in everything wonderful – brownie mix, Caesar salad (sometimes), homemade mayonnaise (if you’re Martha Stewart) and cookie dough.

So Salmonella, chillin’ like a villain in raw eggs, is the potential bacteria here.

Salmonella bacteria is everywhere and it spreads easily. The bacteria can be found in the intestinal tracts of animals, birds, reptiles, insects, and people. Eggs can become contaminated while being formed (meaning it can be inside the egg), or the outside can become contaminated from improper handling with unclean hands, pets, other foods and kitchen equipment. You can’t win!

If you eat an egg containing salmonella, you may experience abdominal cramps, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, chills, fever and/or headache within 6 to 72 hours after consuming it. You’re usually over it within 4 to 7 days and while it doesn’t affect your baby directly, there is a very low chance that it can escalate into sepsis which CAN affect your baby. Dehydration is the bigger concern so keep watch for that if you have a prolonged assplosion going on.

Scientists estimate that, on average across the U.S., only 1 of every 20,000 eggs might contain the bacteria so, if you’re an average consumer, you might encounter a contaminated egg once every 84 years. Furthermore, in the U.S., eggshells are washed and sanitized to remove possible hazards that could be deposited on the outside of an egg.

There are over 2,500 known types, but the three most common ones are Typhimurium, Enteritidis, and Typhi.  From what I can gather, the samonella that affects eggs is Salmonella enteritidis and Salmonella typhimurium. Salmonella typhi (from the folks that brought you Salmonella enterica enterica and Darryl and his other brother Darryl) is the type that causes typhoid fever and it’s relatively uncommon in developed countries.

Confusing, non?

Dear Science Nerds, OPI comes up with names for every single one of their nail polishes so maybe you could come up with a better distinction between a bacteria that give you the trots for two days and something that can kill you? Just sayin’.

As for our beloved cookie dough, it seems unlikely that you would come across a contaminated egg and it doesn’t sound like it’s all that awful if you did. Once again, I’m sure somebody somewhere has some horror story about an egg “incident” but I’m sure there’s somebody somewhere that knows somebody that died from a paper cut – perhaps from the cutalingus cutalingus bacteria. *snort*

search: raw eggs salmonella, raw egg dangers, salmonella pregnancy, s. typhimurium, s. enteritidis

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  • Oh thank sweet baby Jesus. I LOVE me a runny yolk, and I’ve been dejectedly ordering them over hard or scrambled and feeling like a fool and being pissed off because my eggs suck. Thank you for your service to the world! And sanity. And swearing. I love this blog, and I hated WTEYE because it was like "we don’t really know and can’t be bothered to research if this is a real danger, but you wouldn’t want to risk it, and it’s only nine months, and if you do risk it, well, you’re a bad mother, and did you see our miscarriage section, bad mother?"

  • Evidently chickens in some countries (the UK and New Zealand) have to be immunised against salmonella in order to produce eggs for commercial use. This means the risk in these countries is very low indeed and probably not something to worry about. Just an extra tidbit to add to the mix…

  • Actually, Salmonella does come from the inside of the egg. Hens that are exposed to the bacteria from the environment (dirt, water, feces, feed..) can then become carriers for the bacteria and they shed it into their eggs.

  • I was an unfortunate young lady who did get the typhoid salmonella variety while living in Mexico. I had a raw egg in a smoothie in a market. I know, I was being very careful… It was absolutely nasty – to sit or stand – that was the question. I eat eggs while pregnant that have soft yolks. My mother-in-law is a nutritionist and says many people misunderstand the composition of an egg where the yolk is protected. I make Caesar salad dressing but leave out the egg and just abstain from raw cookie dough to be safe but I would not be a freak about avoiding it. There are so many other worries you will have!

  • Salmonella doesn’t come from the inside of the egg, it comes from contaminated eggshells. So washing the eggshells and making sure you don’t get any shell in your food or batter will be plenty precaution.

  • I love runny egg yolks and cookie dough, my solution pasteurized eggs. Even with how slight the risk is being able to purchase pasteurized eggs has lifted any possibility of guilt from runny egg obsession and let me put my guilt firmly elsewhere – like my almost carnal desire for sushi.

  • FYI from a chicken doctor: there is seldom Salmonella present INSIDE the egg to present a problem. Contamination normally comes from the shell. If you are preparing a recipe that calls for raw egg (my favourite Caesar dressing for instance) you can scrub the egg shell with dish soap before you crack the egg open. The combination of detergent which lyses (pops) bacterial cells, and the slightly abrasive action of scrubbing with a cloth or scrubber sponge will scrape off and destroy bacteria. Rinse in clean water and you should be good to go.

  • I had salmonella poisoning when I was in my teens and it was the worst I have felt in my entire life. It was to the point that I had no distinction between day and night from being so sick on both ends, I couldn’t eat or drink anything, the abdominal cramps dropped me to the floor and I’m not a wuss my any means. I went to the Dr. on day three, was given a round of shots in the glutes to try and fight it. Then it was straight to the hospital for more testing, an upper GI and sent home with stool sample kits. I lost over ten pounds in less than a week. It was hell. I live in Texas and all I can say is I cook the HELL out of anything that could possibly have salmonella.

  • A study of eggs in the UK a few years back tested 250,000 eggs and found NO cases of Salmonella. I'm currently 26 weeks and still eat runny yolks. To each their own, but getting in a car or crossing the road is far more risky – perhaps we should ban pregnant women from leaving the house?

  • Just for women from outside the US. In most of Europe eggs are not sanitized. Having a salmonella infection is a propable risk. You risk a serious infection. Much worse than just influenza. Buy pasteurised eggs for anything with raw eggs in it. It´s safe and easy. Good for cooking with children who wants to teaste raw cookiedough.
    Good luck.
    Emma Midwife Denmark

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