Sushi has become a very popular healthy meal option over recent years. I am often asked by a pregnant patient can she still eat sushi while pregnant?
It depends on what is in the sushi.
Any sushi with raw or undercooked seafood should be avoided. Eating raw or undercooked fish can expose your growing baby to mercury, bacteria, and other harmful parasites. Some consider sushi with raw or undercooked seafood increases the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, uterine infection, and preterm delivery.
Fish used in some sushi is at risk of containing high mercury levels. You certainly want to avoid any food with increased risk of a high mercury level. Ingesting foods with high mercury is of risk to both the mother and her unborn baby. Methylmercury has toxic effects on baby’s nervous system during development. Exposure to high levels of mercury is also a risk when eating shark (flake), ray, broadbill, swordfish, marlin, gemfish, sea perch and catfish, Australian bass, Murray cod, eel and golden perch.
During pregnancy a woman’s your immune system is depressed. This is physiological response to so her body does not ‘reject’ her baby. But it means she is more susceptible to bacteria or parasites that could be present in raw or improperly handled fish.
Listeria, a bacteria that causes listeriosis, is a type of food poisoning that can pose a serious health risk for a pregnant woman and her baby. There is increased risk of listeria infection when eating raw or undercooked seafood in sushi. As well there is increased risk when eating deli meat and ready-to-eat meat products (such as cooked, cured and/or fermented meats and sausages), soft cheeses and cold smoked fishery products.
But there are other sushi options that don’t contain raw or undercooked seafood and so are safe to eat in pregnancy.
Sushi is a Japanese dish that features medium-grained rice cooked in vinegar, and traditionally served with raw or cooked seafood and a variety of toppings or fillings. Contrary to popular belief, rice is the main component of sushi, not raw fish. But now fish can be replaced by non-fish fill options which are safe to eat while pregnant. There is vegetarian sushi which can contain cucumber, carrot, avocado, etc. Sushi containing chicken is another option if the chicken is well cooked. Sushi containing tuna is another option. There is some risk of increased mercury ingestion with some tuna but is this risk is less with canned tuna because tuna used for canning are smaller species that are caught when less than 1 year old. So, check what tuna is in the sushi first.