What to eat during pregnancy is a serious concern for women, especially when it comes to seafood. While there are some types of seafood you should avoid eating while pregnant, not all seafood is bad. If you stay away from fish with high mercury levels and prepare it properly before eating it, this food can be a nutritious addition to your diet.
Health Benefits of Seafood During Pregnancy
Seafood is a rich source of protein, iron and omega-3 fatty acids. These nutrients are important for the healthy development of your unborn baby. The amino acids found in protein aids in the development of muscles, organs, fingers, toes and hair.
Protein is especially important during the second trimester of pregnancy when your baby is growing at an accelerated rate. Iron is essential to produce hemoglobin, carry oxygen to the cells, and regulate the body temperature. Iron deficiency during pregnancy can cause weakness, fatigue and cold hands and feet.
Omega-3 fatty acids are important for the development of your baby’s brain, retinas and nervous system. Omega-3 fatty acids also reduce your risk of preeclampsia, preterm labor and postpartum depression.
When you don’t get enough of the iron, omega-3 and protein found in seafood, you put your baby at risk for being born with a number of health and developmental issues.
Safe and Unsafe Seafood Choices for Pregnant Women
Mercury exposure is the biggest concern for women when they eat seafood during pregnancy. Overexposure to this dangerous substance can cause damage to your unborn baby’s brain and nervous system.
Large predatory fish such as shark, swordfish, tilefish and king mackerel have the highest levels of mercury, so avoid these types of fish while you are pregnant.
Halibut, bluefish, sea trout, saltwater bass, canned albacore tuna, fresh bluefin tuna and American lobster also contain high levels of mercury, so don’t eat more than three 6 oz servings of these types of seafood each month.
While you are pregnant you can safely enjoy up to six 6 oz servings of the following seafood per month:
• mahi mahi
• blue crab
• dungeness crab
• snow crab
• canned chunk light tuna
• fresh pacific albacore tuna
During pregnancy, you can safely eat up to two 6 oz servings per week of the following seafood:
• king crab
• ocean perch
• spiny lobster
Proper Preparation of Seafood
When you are pregnant, anything you eat passes on to your baby, so you want to avoid eating any type of raw or seared seafood.
This includes sushi and uncooked oysters. Raw seafood puts you at risk for bacteria and parasites that can impact the health of your fetus.
Preparing your seafood properly can minimize the risk of illness. Cook fish to an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit. You can tell if the seafood is completely cooked by the way it looks.
When fish is thoroughly cooked it will be opaque throughout, and it will easily separate into flakes. Shrimp will be milky white when it is cooked. And the shells on oysters, mussels and clams will pop open.
Not all types of seafood are appropriate to eat while you are pregnant. However, there are many safe seafood selections available.
If you avoid fish with high mercury levels and prepare the seafood properly, you can safely reap the nutritional benefits this delicious food has to offer.