Salmon, along with shrimp, catfish, cod, and tuna, is a primary seafood item often craved by pregnant women. However, people are often dubious regarding its safety during this time. So, it is time to find out if salmon can harm you and your to-be-born baby.
Is salmon safe to eat during pregnancy?
According to the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), as well as Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2015-2020), pregnant women require approximately 8 to 12 ounces of seafood low in mercury every week. Being low in mercury, Salmon is considered safe for pregnant women.
How much salmon can you eat when pregnant?
You should not eat more than two to three servings of properly cooked salmon per week during pregnancy. This is equivalent to the upper limit of seafood intake mentioned above (8 to 12 ounces), so if you eat that much salmon, make sure not to eat any other mercury-containing fish in the same week.
Can pregnant women eat canned, raw, and smoked salmon?
Canned salmon: Being low in mercury levels, canned salmon is as safe and beneficial as cooked ones, while edible bones are high in calcium.
Raw salmon: Raw or undercooked preparations may be contaminated with bacteria and parasites, hence are not safe.
Smoked salmon: Like raw fish, it is not okay for pregnant women to eat smoked salmon due to the risk of listeria and other parasite poisonings. So, avoid smoked salmon preparations like lox, gravlax, and mousse. Caviar comprising cured salmon roe or eggs is also a no-no during pregnancy.
Pregnancy-safe varieties of salmon
Wild salmon varieties like Alaskan, King, Keta, Atlantic, Sockeye, and Coho are considered the safest. In contrast, the farmed ones should be avoided since they are high in PCBs (Polychlorinated biphenyls), a group of organic chemicals that can be harmful to the skin if eaten in excess. Low birth weight, weak immune system, and inappropriate motor skills are common problems in babies born to mothers who had fish contaminated with PCBs or were exposed to it in some other way when pregnant or breastfeeding.
Benefits of salmon during pregnancy
1. Rich source of omega-3 fatty acids
Salmon is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential in the baby’s neurological and visual development, as well as for the production of prostaglandins in a balanced way in the mother.
2. High in protein
Pregnant women need 40 to 70 grams of protein daily to ensure sound fetal growth, and a 3.5-ounce serving of salmon makes up for 20 to 25 grams of this daily requirement.
3. Loaded with vitamins
A powerful source of B vitamins, it is rich in B1 (helps with fetus’ brain development), B2 (maintains eye and skin health), B3 (helps digestion and betters nausea), B5 (relieves muscle cramps), B6 (fosters the growth of the baby’s nervous system, minimizing nausea and vomiting), B9 (lessens risks of neural tube defects) and B12 (good for the mother’s nervous system, also reduces birth defects on being combined with B9).
It also contains a significant amount of Vitamin D that contributes to the bone health of you and your baby, thus being an apt food choice, especially in the first trimester.
Salmon and pregnancy: How to eat it?
- Cooked and baked into rolls or made into dips, pastes, and curries
- Steamed into salads and rolls
- Grilled and seasoned with lemon pepper, salt, and garlic powder
Are there any side effects?
Eating properly cooked salmon during pregnancy has no side effects, as long as you do not overconsume. Even if you eat some raw or smoked salmon without knowing the risks, there should not be much to worry about, as a single serving may not cause any harm. However, contact your doctor if you experience any abnormal symptoms or discomfort after eating.
Dr. Mashiach has completed his MD at the Sackler School of Medicine, TAU; specialization in gynecology at the Lis Maternity and Women’s Hospital, Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center; fellowship in Endoscopy at the Polyclinique de I’Hotel-Dieu, Universite d’Auvergne, Clermont, France.
He is a Senior Physician, Director of the Department of Gynecology, which provides routine and preventative care services to its patients and a full range of gynecological surgical procedures for adequately managing its patients with benign gynecologic disorders.
He offers advanced care in all gynecological subspecialties such as Urogynecology, Colposcopy, Fetal Loss Clinic, and Post Menopausal Clinic.