Are you in the process of becoming a surrogate or already expecting? If so, the coming months will likely be a whirlwind for you, though you’ll undoubtedly pause at least once or twice to engage in one of America’s favorite pastimes—picnicking. Interestingly, the month of May is actually National Barbecue Month (Yes, it’s a real thing!), but there are some safety concerns pregnant women should be aware of before partaking. Here’s what to be on the lookout for…

1) Make Sure Food is Cooked Thoroughly

“If you don’t cook meat or fish thoroughly, harmful bacteria can grow and multiply. This could cause you to have food poisoning from bacteria such as salmonella, E. coli or campylobacter,” says dietician Sasha Watkins. The common concern with these is the digestive upset that can come along with them, such as vomiting and diarrhea, which results in dehydration and can cause pregnancy trouble including premature labor. Listeria, sometimes found in deli meats like hot dogs, is also responsible for miscarriages, birth defects, and stillbirths, but is killed off if the food hits 165°F.

Toxoplasmosis, which is a less common concern, may also arise after eating undercooked meats, especially pork and lamb. It’s associated with eye problems and brain damage in developing babies, and can even result in losing the pregnancy, so verifying meat hits the proper temperature is paramount. If you’re friends with the chef, ask him or her to use a thermometer to check temperatures before you eat. If you’re worried about etiquette or causing undue stress to the host, it’s best to keep meat off your plate.

2) Make Sure Fish and Shellfish are Fresh

Here in California, we’re relatively spoiled when it comes to having a fresh supply of seafood, but location is no guarantee of freshness. Older fish and shellfish can be particularly problematic, so if you’re unsure when it was caught or if it was brought to a high enough temperature to kill bacteria and viruses, it’s best to skip it.

3) Be Wary of Mercury-Laden Catches

Most women have heard of the health dangers of consuming tuna while pregnant. Though fish can be incredibly good for surrogate and baby, certain types with high levels of mercury can damage the little one’s developing brain and nervous system. Watkins says varieties such as marlin, swordfish, and shark have particularly high levels, so they should be avoided altogether.

4) Indulge in Moderation

Eating barbecued foods from time to time is generally not cause for concern. However, research has shown that foods cooked at high temperatures creates lots of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which experts say can be carcinogenic. In addition to this, newer research suggests that consuming barbecued foods more often is linked low birth weights, though they haven’t identified how big of a risk they pose yet.

5) Skip the Creamy Salads

People often worry about the mayo included in certain dishes, like potato salad, but that’s rarely the issue if the cook used commercial may instead of homemade. However, these kinds of dishes can become breeding grounds for bacteria, which usually gets added into the mix inadvertently due to poor hygiene during prep while people are dishing up. As the food sits out for hours, it warms up and bacteria multiplies. Listeria is the common worry, though there are lots of dangerous pathogens that can lurk, so it’ generally best to avoid any type of creamy salad unless you know it has been held at the right temperature, was prepared in good conditions, and has not had the opportunity to be contaminated by other picnic goers yet.

By following these five main tips, you should have a healthier and happier barbeque season. Enjoy!

Contact SPS if You’re Interested in Becoming a Surrogate

Although we can’t make sure the potato salad you’re eyeing is safe and we can’t guarantee your chef cooked your burger thoroughly, we can help you through the surrogacy process and ensure you’re well taken care of if you’re considering becoming a surrogate. At SPS, we match up surrogates with intended parents who share their values, assist with things like contract negotiations, and serve as a safeguard against potential issues, so your journey is smooth. If you are interested in becoming a surrogate, view our guidelines for surrogate mothers to find out if you’re a candidate.