In the past 20 years, it seems that doctors have flip-flopped a dozen times on whether or not it is safe for a pregnant mother to eat fish and seafood while she is pregnant. In fact, one of the most common questions that women still have early in their pregnancies centers on is it safe to eat fish while pregnant. Fortunately, medical science has diligently tried to answer this question once and for all, giving you the peace of mind you need to go forward and plan out your pregnancy diet confidently. By following this advice, you can rest assured that you reap all of the benefits of eating seafood without ingesting anything that could harm you and your baby.
The primary reason that scientists have been suspect about pregnant women eating fish centers on the amount of mercury that is found in seafood today. Mercury, if ingested in large quantities or if a woman is exposed to it, can cause birth defects. Scientists were unsure of whether or not commercially harvested or grown fish contained harmful levels of mercury. With testing they determined that many varieties of fish and seafood contain only minimal amounts of mercury and in levels that pose no harm to a pregnant woman or her unborn child. Doctors have given the all-clear for women to eat many types of fish and seafood while pregnant.
It bears noting that other types of fish should be avoided during pregnancy because they contain too much mercury. Primarily, predator fish like sharks, swordfish, king mackerel, and tile fish, should not be consumed because these fish contain high levels of mercury that could be dangerous to ingest during pregnancy. Instead, doctors recommend that women eat fish like tuna and anchovies, or seafood like crab and lobster. This seafood is safe to eat and does not contain toxic levels of mercury that could cause birth defects in an unborn baby.
Seafood can be an ideal food for a women to eat while she is pregnant. It contains many healthy nutrients that benefit her and her unborn child. In particular, seafood contains Omega-3 fatty acids that are extremely beneficial to an unborn baby’s developing brain. This fatty acid promotes healthy brain growth and has been linked to higher intelligence in infants. Moreover, seafood is high in zinc, protein, and iron, all of which are vital to a healthy pregnancy. Women who eat seafood often suffer from anemia less often than pregnant women who eschew seafood at all.
Still, a woman may wonder if she should eat seafood or if she should avoid it until after she has delivered. The USDA recommends that pregnant women eat between eight to 12 ounces of seafood per week in order to sustain a healthy pregnancy and to help their babies develop properly in the womb. As one may suspect, eight to 12 ounces may not seem like very large serving sizes for seafood. However, they are large enough to provide a woman with all of the nutrients she needs from this food source without causing her to gain weight or develop high blood pressure because of the salt content found in some types of seafood.
Interestingly, some women develop food allergies when they are pregnant. A woman who wants to add seafood to her diet should watch for signs of allergies after she eats crab, tuna, and other types of fish. A food allergy may present itself as a rash, hives, itchy and watery eyes, facial swelling, or even difficulties breathing. If she develops any of these symptoms after eating seafood, she would do well to stop eating it and tell her doctor about her physical reactions to whatever she was eating. Her doctor can perform tests to determine if she has developed a food allergy to seafood during her pregnancy. In many cases, food allergies subside or disappear entirely after a woman has delivered her baby.
By all means, a woman should eat crab, tuna, and other seafood while she is pregnant, albeit in the recommended amounts as prescribed by the USDA. These foods are high in fatty acids, protein, iron, and other nutrients that benefit her and her unborn baby. However, it should be noted that a pregnant woman should ensure that she is preparing the seafood properly before eating it. If she eats raw seafood, she could cause her and her unborn baby to become ill with salmonella poisoning.
Ensuring that seafood is cooked all the way through can be a challenge because many types of seafood do not change appearance while it cooks. It looks the same cooked as it does raw. To ensure that it is cooked all the way through, a pregnant woman may do well to invest in a food thermometer. Cooked seafood should reach an internal temperature of at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the type of food being prepared. When preparing crab or lobster, a pregnant woman should wait for the crab or lobster to develop a pink or red exterior color. The meat inside the shell should be firm and very hot to the touch. If it is cold, slimy, or flimsy, the meat is not done and should continue cooking.
When it comes to eating canned or frozen seafood that one can buy at a grocery store, it is important to follow the preparation instructions on the can or packaging. Most tuna varieties have already been cooked before being canned, making them safe to eat directly out of the can itself. Frozen seafood, however, should be baked or boiled until it reaches the stipulated temperature on the packaging. When prepared correctly, seafood can be a very healthful food choice for a woman to enjoy during pregnancy. She will reap the benefits of getting plenty of iron, protein, Omega-3 fatty acids, and other nutrients that are needed for a healthy pregnancy.