Can I Eat Oysters While Pregnant?

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Oysters are one of those unique-tasting foods that you either love or hate. If you are an oyster enthusiast, you might wonder whether you can continue eating them now that you are pregnant. After all, there are many mixed messages about whether certain types of seafood are considered safe during pregnancy.

The good news is that oysters are safe and considered very healthy for you to indulge in during pregnancy. "Oysters are a low-mercury, very nutrient-dense option for pregnancy," says Ryann Kipping, MPH, RDN, CLEC, author of "The Feel-Good Pregnancy Cookbook," founder of The Prenatal Nutrition Library, and owner of The Prenatal Nutritionist.

However, depending on how you like your oysters, there may be a downside: Raw oysters don't make the cut when it comes to foods that are safe for pregnancy. That being said, oysters have so many benefits that it may be worth learning to enjoy them fully cooked, even if you don't normally prefer their taste.

Eating Oysters During Pregnancy

Oysters are a healthy food choice during pregnancy. They are a rich source of many essential pregnancy nutrients. Oysters contain plenty of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for fetal brain development.

Just make sure to stick to oysters that are fully cooked, because as mentioned previously, raw or smoked oysters are not safe to eat while pregnant.

Every pregnancy is different. Be sure to consult with a healthcare provider about your circumstances if you have any questions about eating oysters while pregnant.

Is It Safe for Baby?

Oysters are safe and beneficial for your developing baby, as long as they are properly cooked. Cooked oysters boost fetal brain and eye development and they decrease your baby's chance of suffering complications.

When it comes to raw oysters, however, the risks outweigh the benefits. Uncooked seafood puts you at risk of contracting bacterial vibrio infection, which can be dangerous for your baby.

"Immune system changes make pregnant people more susceptible to food-borne illness," notes Rachelle LaCroix Mallik, MA, RD, LDN, a dietitian specializing in reproductive nutrition for fertility, pregnancy, postpartum, and breastfeeding, and the owner of The Food Therapist, a virtual nutrition counseling practice specializing in reproductive health. "Foodborne illness is also risky for the baby during pregnancy because their immune system is still developing."

Benefits of Oysters During Pregnancy

Eating oysters while pregnant offers many benefits to both you and your baby. Let's take a look at a few.

Good Source of Zinc

Oysters contain more zinc per serving than any other food. This is never more important than when you are pregnant because you need to consume more zinc than usual. The recommended dietary allowance for zinc, an essential mineral that supports growth and development, jumps from 8 milligrams to 11 milligrams per day during pregnancy. "This is an increase of over 35 percent," notes LaCroix Mallik.

Low in Mercury

Mercury contamination is a concern with almost all seafood. However, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), the omega-3 fatty acid found in seafood, is so beneficial during pregnancy that refraining from eating it is not recommended.

Instead, pregnant people are advised to consume a limited amount of low-mercury fish and seafood. Oysters have a low mercury content, making them a safer choice during pregnancy.

Rich in Vitamin B12

Getting enough vitamin B12 is very important during pregnancy. Low levels of vitamin B12, also called cobalamin, can lead to problems with development, including fetal growth restriction. Eating oysters is a good way to make sure you consume enough vitamin B12.

Safety Precautions

There are some safety precautions to keep in mind when enjoying oysters during pregnancy.

Cook Oysters Completely

Prior to getting pregnant, you may have enjoyed your oysters raw in the shell with a splash of lemon juice and a dash of pepper. If so, you may need to get used to a new way of preparing this nutrient-packed food.

Eating oysters that are raw or partially cooked (such as smoked oysters) is not safe during pregnancy due to the risk of vibrio bacteria. "While getting ill from this bacteria is relatively rare in the United States, the infection is serious and can be life-threatening, especially to a growing fetus," notes Kipping.

If you are not used to eating cooked oysters, try fried or baked oysters dipped in horseradish sauce. You can also grill, broil, or roast them. Experimenting with different sauces can help you find your preferred way to enjoy cooked oysters.

Follow Food Preparation Safety

If you cook your oysters at home, make sure to avoid cross-contamination by following basic safety rules. Wrap the oysters well so that they don't come into contact with any other foods during your shopping process. Store them in the refrigerator away from other food before cooking. When you do pull them out, prepare them on a clean cutting board or counter and sanitize surfaces afterward.

Mercury Contamination

Seafood is healthy and has unique benefits during pregnancy, but it comes with a dark side as well. Nearly all fish and seafood have some level of mercury contamination, which is dangerous for a fetus. Exposure to high amounts of mercury in utero can lead to brain damage or problems with hearing and vision.

You don't want to refrain from eating seafood while pregnant, though, because you would miss out on its important benefits. Instead, choose low-mercury seafood, such as oysters, salmon, skipjack tuna, or shrimp, and limit your total servings of fish to two to three a week.

A Word From Verywell

Eating oysters is a good way to get many of the important nutrients you need during pregnancy. Oysters are a rich source of DHA, vitamin B12, and zinc. These nutrients support your baby's development and keep you healthy throughout pregnancy.

If expecting, you should only consume oysters when they are fully cooked. Skip any raw, smoked, or partially cooked oysters until after you have your baby. If you have any questions or concerns about eating oysters while pregnant, reach out to your healthcare provider to learn more.

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9 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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