Why can’t pregnant women eat sushi?

In this brief blog, we will answer the question, “Why can’t pregnant women eat sushi?” We will as well discuss various foods that pregnant foods should avoid and the reasons why.

Why can’t pregnant women eat sushi?

Pregnant women are advised to stay away from sushi which has raw or undercooked seafood. This is because consumption of any raw or undercooked fish can result in exposure of the growing baby to harmful bacteria, mercury and other parasites. 

During pregnancy, pregnant women usually experience changes in their immune systems and this can make them more vulnerable to getting infections. This can exercabate the risks of getting miscarriages, uterine infections, stillbirths and preterm delivery.

Additionally, growing babies are usually more susceptible to mercury which can result in neurological disorders because methylmercury has toxic effects on the nervous system when the bay is developing in the womb.

Which other foods should pregnant women avoid?

Pregnant women should avoid seafood with high amounts of mercury.

Seafood is an excellent source of high quality protein and omega 3 fatty acids which helps in the brain development of the bay and eyes. However, there are some shellfish and fish that have very high levels of mercury which can harm the nervous system as earlier mentioned.

Generally big and old fish have high amounts of mercury. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) encourages pregnant women to avoid the below types of fish:

  • Swordfish
  • King mackerel
  • Marlin
  • Bigeye tuna
  • Tilefish
  • Shark
  • Orange roughy

The American Dietary guidelines for 2020-2025 recommend consumption of 8 to 12 ounces equivalent to 224 to 336 grams or just 2 to 3 servings of seafood in a week during pregnancy. Some good sources are;

  • Light canned tuna
  • Catfish
  • Anchovies
  • Shad
  • Pacific oysters
  • Tilapia
  • Salmon
  • Sardines
  • Pollock
  • Shrimp
  • Cod
  • Herring
  • Trout

Pregnant women should avoid raw, undercooked or contaminated seafood

In order to avoid any pathogenic bacteria and/ or viruses in seafood pregnant women can:

Avoid raw fish and shellfish

Some types of raw and undercooked fish that pregnant women should avoid are sashimi, sushi, ceviche and raw oysters, clams and scallops.

Avoid any refrigerated and uncooked seafood

Such foods include seafood that is tagged as nova style, kippered, lox, smoked or jerky. Shelf stable and canned seafood are safe to consume as well as smoked seafood if it’s part of an ingredient in a cooked sih or in a casserole.

Cook seafood properly

Ensure that you cook fish to temperatures that destroy harmful bacteria. Ideally, cook seafood to internal temperatures of 145 degrees Fahrenheit (63 degrees Celsius). Fish is properly cooked when it flakes and turns opaque.

Lobsters, scallops and shrimp should be fully cooked until they turn milky white. Mussels, clams and oysters should be thoroughly cooked until their shells open. Throw away any of them that do not open.

Pregnant women should avoid unwashed fruits and vegetables

To reduce the risk of consuming raw fruits and veggies that may have any harmful bacteria ensure that they are thoroughly washed. Also steer clear of raw sprouts of any kind such as clover, radish, alfalfa and mung bean as they may contain pathogenic bacteria.

Pregnant women should avoid excess caffeine

The effects of caffeine on the baby are still not well studied although it is known to cross the placenta. To be on the safe side, most doctors usually recommend limiting caffeine consumption to less than 200 milligrams (mg) a  day when pregnant.

Pregnant women should avoid alcohol

There is no amount of alcohol that has been proved to be safe to be drunk when pregnant. So, it’s therefore safe just to steer clear of alcohol during pregnancy. There are a ton of risks associated with drinking alcohol when pregnant.

Alcohol consumption can increase the risk of miscarriage and stillbirth. It can also lead to fetal alcohol syndrome which can result in intellectual disabilities and facial deformities.

Pregnant women should avoid unpasteurized foods

Foods that contain unpasteurized milk should be avoided at all costs by pregnant women as they can result in foodborne illnesses. Pasteurized and fat dairy products such as skim milk, cottage cheese and mozzarella cheese can be included.

Pregnant women should avoid soft cheeses such as feta, brie and blue cheese unless they have been made from milk that has been pasteurized. The same applies for any unpasteurized juice.

You can read more foods and beverages to avoid during pregnancy here.


In this brief blog, we have answered the question, “Why can’t pregnant women eat sushi?” We have as well discussed various foods that pregnant foods should avoid and the reasons why.



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