When you’re pregnant, you suddenly become aware of a whole host of potential problems surrounding food. Should you, or shouldn’t you eat seafood? The messages out there can seem confusing, and contradictory. This article will give you some clarity about what to avoid and what to enjoy with seafood.
The Worries and Concerns of New Mothers
New mothers want the best for their babies and for their own bodies. You don’t want to get sick, and you don’t want to cause damage to your growing baby. Searching for reliable information about what to eat or not to eat can be very stressful. So, if in doubt, ask your doctor.
Note: This article doesn’t constitute medical advice. Instead, it garners advice from reliable medical sources, and presents the information to you in easily-digestible format. Again, if you’re unsure or have some medical condition, make sure you check with your doctor before taking the advice in this article.
Potential Problems with Seafood
New mothers are right to be concerned about fish or seafood for several reasons. There is seafood you can eat if you’re pregnant, but you do have the be cautious, for the following reasons:
- If you have an allergy to fish or seafood, then you can’t suddenly start eating fish, under any circumstances. It’s too big a risk.
- There are certain types of seafood which are harmful to the baby. They are high in mercury (see below).
- Seafood which isn’t properly cooked can contain harmful bacteria.
For these reasons, people believe that it’s better to stay away from seafood altogether. However, that’s simply not the case. Seafood has many beneficial properties for your baby, and for you, and can be consumed in moderation—just make sure you know which to eat.
Why is it Important to Eat Seafood?
The two people who can benefit from the correct type of seafood during pregnancy are mom AND baby. Let’s consider mom first.
The Benefits of Seafood for Mothers
There is one study that showed mothers became less depressed by adding seafood to their diets. The experts concluded that the mental health of mothers improves with eating moderate amounts of approved seafood.
The Benefits of Seafood for the Baby
The baby benefits when mom eats seafood in a number of ways:
- One study showed that children of mothers who ate a moderate amount of seafood had lower metabolic scores. This means that they are less likely to develop diabetes or have heart attacks later on in life.
- Another study has shown that children of mothers who eat fish 3 times a week show better scores on intelligence, behavior and development.
- A further study showed that children of mothers who ate fish a few times a week had better visual recognition at 6 months than other babies.
- Yet another study shows that babies of moms who eat seafood 2-3 times a week during pregnancy reach milestones earlier than their counterparts.
This means the benefits of eating seafood during pregnancy far outweigh the risks, provided you take the precautions described below.
What Nutrients Do Seafood Contain?
Seafood is one of the only foods that contains Omega-3DHA. This is needed for the development of the baby’s brain and eye.
It also contains calcium, protein, vitamin D and iron, all are required for building the bones and muscles.
You can see why it’s actually quite important to include seafood in your diet when pregnant (if you’re not allergic to it, of course).
What Seafood is Safe to Eat?
Seafood low in mercury is safe to eat. It includes foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, and low in mercury. The list below gives a list of the most common seafood consumed by Americans that are safe for pregnant ladies to eat:
- Canned/Pouched tuna
- Freshwater trout
- Pacific mackerel
- Cooked sushi
You can also eat canned or pouched versions of the above-mentioned fish.
Also Read: Is Seafood Good For You?
What Seafood isn’t Safe to Eat?
There are two categories of fish and seafood that aren’t safe for pregnant women.
Seafood that is uncooked, like uncooked sushi, is definitely not safe for pregnant moms. Sushi is acceptable if it’s cooked, but you still can’t have sushi that contains any of the fish listed below.
Fish That are High in Mercury
Avoid all fish that contain high levels of mercury. The list of seafood to avoid are:
- Uncooked seafood
- King Mackerel
- Bigeye tuna
- Orange roughey
The other issue about eating raw seafood (or raw meat) is that it causes the mother to get sick. So, just avoid raw flesh altogether.
Why is Seafood High in Mercury Dangerous to Eat?
The dangers of mercury in the human body are well known in adults. High levels of mercury damage the liver. If excess amounts of mercury get into your baby’s blood, it can damage your baby’s brain and nervous system.
Eating Out—What is Safe for the Pregnant Mom to Eat?
If you’re still learning to cook fish and seafood, it might be helpful to eat out. There is no need for anxiety opting for this as a meal while pregnant. As long as you avoid the above-mentioned seafood, you and your baby should be fine.
In addition to cooked sushi, you can try:
- Grilled fish kebabs
- Seafood tacos
- Fish burgers and sliders
- Macaroni and cheese with tuna, salmon or lobster
- Shrimp stir-fry
- Seafood pasta
If the seafood is frozen, you need to defrost it in the fridge overnight. If not able to do that, you need to put it in a sealed plastic bag and immerse in cold water for a short while.
Seafood is very beneficial for pregnant mothers, provided you don’t eat it raw, or eat any that contains high levels of mercury. The recommended consumption is 2-3 times a week.