Oysters are delicious and are rich in nutrients. If you love eating oysters, then your craving for them might increase during pregnancy or at least you would not want to miss them for nine months. But being seafood, can it be eaten during pregnancy or does it have a risk of contamination?
MomJunction tells you if it is safe to eat oysters, and things to consider while eating them.
Is It Safe To Eat Oysters When Pregnant?
You can consume oysters only if they are fresh and thoroughly cooked. Oysters are mostly served in raw form but that could be dangerous to pregnant women (1). Therefore, you should make sure that they are thoroughly cooked.
Side Effects Of Consuming Raw Oysters
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends against having raw seafood during pregnancy. Raw and undercooked meat products have a high chance of carrying harmful bacteria.
- When you ingest raw or undercooked oysters that contain bacteria, including listeria, it could infect your digestive tract and make you ill (2).
- Due to a weak immune system during pregnancy, you could be susceptible to foodborne illnesses, which have the potential to cause a miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, or death of a newborn (3).
Therefore, avoid raw oysters. However, you can enjoy cooked oysters and get benefitted too.
[ Read: Eating Prawns During Pregnancy ]
Ways Oysters Might Be Beneficial During Pregnancy
Oysters are nutritious foods. When you eat them properly cooked, they can contribute to your daily nutrient supplies. The nutrients available in oysters include (4):
- Protein: Helps in fetal tissue growth and also plays a role in protecting breast and uterine tissue (5).
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Crucial for the baby’s brain development. The omega 3s lower the risk of preeclampsia, preterm birth, and improve birth weight in babies (6).
- Selenium, zinc, and iodine: Support the endocrine system and fetal growth and development (7). The micronutrients are needed in only small amounts.
- Iron: Improves your blood volume and prevents anemia.
- Sodium and potassium: Essential electrolytes needed for the general functioning of the body and maintaining blood and fluid volumes (8).
- Vitamin D: Works with calcium in strengthening the bones (9). However, vitamin D is mostly made by the body with the use of sunlight and does not require any external food sources.
The nutrients available in oysters are present in other food sources as well. You do not have to eat oysters for their health benefits if you are getting the daily recommended allowance of these nutrients from other food sources. However, if you love to eat oysters then you may do so but with some caution.
Measures To Take While Consuming Oysters
Here are some things to consider before you consume oysters:
- Buy closed shell varieties and not opened shells. Closed ones are fresh and carry that smell of saltwater.
- Cook them immediately after buying rather than storing in the refrigerator for a later date (10).
- Brush the shells to clean them and remove the bacteria and contamination. Oysters are generally cooked with the shell intact.
- If you want to fry or sauté the oysters, you can first boil the oysters by adding some herbs. It eliminates any bad odor and also cooks the inner meat perfectly.
- Cook the oysters completely. Half-cooked oysters might still contain bacteria and parasites. According to the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the FDA, you should cook shellfish (that also includes oysters) to 145°F to kill the harmful bacteria and parasites.
- Eat occasionally and in limited portions. Overeating could have you consume more electrolytes (that may again cause dehydration) and mercury (that is toxic) (11). You can have 8 to 12 ounces of fish and shellfish containing the lowest level of mercury, per week (12).
[ Read: Consuming Seafood During Pregnancy ]
Oyster is healthy provided you cook it thoroughly and eat in moderation. Also, eat freshly-cooked seafood to avoid any risk of bacterial contamination. Do not eat canned and steamed oysters as they may not be safe. If you are eating oysters in a restaurant or ordering from outside, make sure that they are cooking the seafood for you.
Did you eat oysters during your pregnancy? Share your experience with us in the comments section below.
2. People at risk: Pregnant women; Food Safety Information (2019)
3. Food safety: Importance for at-risk groups; U.S. FDA
4. Elizabeth Reames; Nutritional benefits of seafood; Southern Regional Aquaculture Center (2012)
5. Trina V Stephens et al.; Protein requirements of healthy pregnant women during early and late gestation are higher than current recommendations; The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 145, Issue 1, January 2015
6. Maternal intake of seafood omega-3 fatty acids and infant health: A review of the evidence; U.S. Department of Agriculture Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (2012)
7. Samira Khayat, Hamed Fanaei and Abdolhakim Ghanbarzehi; Minerals in pregnancy and lactation: A review article; Journal of Clinical & Diagnostic Research (2017)
8. Leeah Whittier et al.; 26.3 Electrolyte balance; Open Oregon State – Open Textbooks Sites
9. Prenatal nutrition-preparing your baby for lifelong health; University of Michigan Medical Center
10. Fish and shellfish; NHS (2018)
11. What you need to know about mercury in fish and shellfish; U.S. FDA (2004)
12. ACOG practice advisory: Update on seafood consumption during pregnancy; American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (2017)
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