It seems really unfair that you have to give up some of your favorite foods when you are at your hungriest, but chowing down on sushi while pregnant has reportedly been a big no-no. But how does eating sushi while pregnant affect the baby? Is your favorite spicy tuna roll going to give your baby eight eyes, or is the vessel for your wasabi addiction not as harmful as you may think?
According to the American Pregnancy Association (APA), it's not really fair to put a full-out ban on all sushi. The issue isn't necessarily sushi, but the mercury levels and bacteria in some uncooked fish. The APA actually noted that most fish has essential nutrients and vitamins that your baby needs in order to grow and develop and that some fish have less mercury levels than others if you're looking for really safe, cooked options.
But what happens if you eat some fish with a high level of mercury, like seabass or ahi? Well, it's really you that is at risk of becoming ill. According to Baby Center, your suppressed immune system during pregnancy means that eating raw fish with potential bacteria and/or high levels of mercury could lead to foodborne illnesses like listeriosis. ABC News also noted that eating raw fish, especially if it's not properly handled, could lead to parasitic infections.
As for your baby, there's not a whole lot of research on how sushi consumption during pregnancy can affect your baby. In a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers concluded that a higher level of maternal fish intake corresponded with higher child development scores, but doctors still advise a limited amount of fish and no raw sushi for pregnant women. There are just too many variables with raw sushi, like cross-contamination, to say for sure what happens to your baby when you eat it, if anything.
However, Baby Center noted that eating raw or undercooked fish or shellfish could make you so ill that you develop a blood infection, which could be life-threatening to you and your baby.
In short? Talk to your doctor. If you can live without sushi, it's probably a good choice to avoid it entirely so you aren't putting yourself or your baby at risk of getting sick. But if you're dying for your favorite nigiri, talk to your doctor about the risks and which fish is low in mercury so you can be as safe as possible.