Seafood and fish are both delicious and nutritious. They also contain some great nutrients — proteins, vitamins, iron, zinc, phosphorus, iodine, Omega-3 — that can boost the health of a pregnant woman and her baby. However, due to the risk of contamination, it is necessary to take some precautions during the 9 months of pregnancy to protect your health and that of your baby-.

The risks of seafood during pregnancy

Seafood, whether fresh or frozen, if improperly stored or served raw or undercooked, is potentially dangerous.

They can indeed transmit listeriosis, a disease caused by a bacterium, listeria, which can have serious consequences on the fetus if it is contracted during pregnancy. Toxoplasmosis, in case you are not immune as well as hepatitis A are also infections that can be contracted by eating poorly preserved, contaminated, or raw seafood or fish. Anisakis worms and salmonellosis are also to be feared.

These infections have irreversible consequences on the fetus: heart, eye, and neurological malformations, intrauterine growth retardation, premature childbirth, even death in utero in the case of toxoplasmosis contracted between the 10th and 24th week of pregnancy. With regard to seafood, the greatest vigilance is therefore essential!

Fish and seafood, which are highly exposed to bacteria and parasites, can also be the cause of food poisoning. However, in the event of food poisoning, an appropriate antibiotic treatment prescribed by your doctor will prevent the transmission of germs to your baby.

Is all Seafood Good During Pregnancy?

Rich in vitamins, minerals, very good quality fatty acids (Omega-3) and proteins, the vast majority of fish and seafood can be consumed during pregnancy. However, two conditions must absolutely be met in order not to incur any risk for you and for your baby: they must have been stored in good conditions (kept refrigerated at all times before cooking) and be well cooked.

If these conditions are met, you can perfectly opt for shrimp, langoustines, crab, whelks, lobsters, or fish. However, be careful with the sauces, especially mayonnaise, which often comes with these dishes, because they usually contain eggs which present the risk of salmonella. Avoid homemade mayonnaise and opt for industrial mayonnaise, during your pregnancy.

Should you eat oysters during pregnancy?

Regarding oysters, if you are pregnant, it is advised not to consume them raw because they are often a source of contamination that can lead to food poisoning. But if you still crave them, it is possible to eat cooked oysters. There are delicious recipes for cooked oysters that you can find online. Ultimately, do not deprive yourself of this seafood rich in essential minerals, but pay close attention to their cooking! Ask your doctor for a more customized recommendation.

Mussels during pregnancy

Here again, it is quite possible to consume mussels, provided that they have been well preserved — without breaking the cold chain — and that they are well cooked. To fill up with calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron, vitamins, and proteins without any risk for your baby, opt for cooking them in the oven or in a casserole dish.

Remember that in general, shellfish are cooked when their shell is fully open. Avoid shellfish whose shell is broken or does not open during cooking.

Smoked salmon during pregnancy

Regarding salmon, whether raw or smoked, it is best to avoid it because of the high risk of contamination.

That said, if you want to consume smoked salmon during your pregnancy, always choose it vacuum-packed and pasteurized. These commercial products are in fact safer from a bacteriological point of view than salmon bought from the supermarket or from a restaurant, however good and reputable the latter may be.

Sushi during pregnancy

Sushi, sashimi, makis, and chirashis, as well as tartars and ceviches, should be avoided during pregnancy to avoid any risk of intoxication because all these products are made from raw fish, possibly marinated. Indeed, raw fish can harbor a food parasite known as anisakiasis, which is responsible for anisakidosis commonly called “herring worm disease”.

The fatty fish to favor to fill up with omega-3

Fish are precious foods that contain all these substances whose needs are increased during pregnancy and which are absolutely essential for the baby’s proper development: iodine, iron, selenium, phosphorus, vitamin D, vitamin B12, and especially Omega-3.

The fattest fish are the richest in Omega-3s and greatly participate in the development of the cells of the eyes and the brain of the fetus.

During your pregnancy, therefore opt for fatty fish, and to avoid the accumulation of mercury, prefer small or medium-sized fish – those which are at the beginning or in the middle of the food chain – such as herring, mackerel, fresh sardines or anchovies, for example, but also trout, eel, sole, sea bass, turbot, pollack, cod, perch, mullet, sea bream, red mullet, hake, whiting, dab, salmon, etc.

However, avoid large predators, which are at the top of the food chain, such as tuna, sharks, and swordfish for example, which are too rich in mercury.

Ideally: eat fish twice a week, including fatty fish once.

Tips for eating fish and seafood safely

To enjoy fish and seafood without incurring the slightest risk, neither for you nor for your baby, be sure to respect these few rules:

  • At the restaurant always state that you want well cooked fish, possibly notify the chef that you are pregnant. Do not hesitate to check the cooking and ask if necessary that your dish be cooked again if you judge that the cooking is not sufficient. Better to be far-sighted!
  • If you eat shrimp, crab, langoustines or periwinkles, watch out for the mayonnaise that often accompanies these dishes: ask for industrial mayonnaise and not homemade. Again, possibly specify the reasons for your request!
  • When you buy fish or seafood, whether it is from the fishmonger, or from the seafood department at your local supermarket, always ask for an insulated bag and blocks of ice to ensure the good conservation of your food. When you get home, store them in the coldest part of your refrigerator and consume them within 1-3 days from the date of purchase.
  • If you are cooking whole fish or fillets, whether in a pan, oven, steamer or grill, always check doneness by sticking a knife into the flesh and spreading it lightly. The flesh should be opaque and start to crumble.
  • If you cook seafood in the microwave, always check that the cooking is even before eating it.

For shellfish and mollusks (clams, mussels, and oysters), make sure they split open before you stop cooking them. Do not consume those which have not opened or whose shell is damaged.

Joseph Mandell

Mandell is currently working towards a medical degree from the University of Central Florida. His main passions include kayaking, playing soccer and tasting good food. He covers mostly science, health and environmental stories for the Scientific Origin.