FACT: You are 80 times more likely to get sick from chicken than raw fish.
Read on for more information about sushi during pregnancy
When I was pregnant with Clark, I abstained from sushi. It was probably – no, definitely – the hardest part of my pregnancy. Sushi is my absolute favorite food. Despite doing a ton of research on sushi during pregnancy, I was too scared to take a bite. I felt that if something went wrong, I would blame it on the sushi. And then I would never be able to eat sushi again, because I would associate it with gut wrenching guilt. But now I realize how silly that would be. A simple roll of rice and raw fish would cause birth defects? Meanwhile, as my mother likes to defend her heavy reliance on caffeine in her third and final pregnancy, “there are crack babies being born normal” (I don’t actually know if this is true. It’s just my mom’s mommism. So, please, do not do crack and cite me as your permissive resource. Again: DO NOT DO CRACK WHILE PREGNANT. I DO NOT ENDORSE CRACK WHILE PREGNANT. DO NOT HAVE A CRACK BABY.)
Back to sushi. Is it okay to eat sushi during pregnancy? Let’s look at the sources, and we’ll start with the United States.
The Mayo Clinic lists sushi as one of its “foods to avoid during pregnancy“, and WebMD’s list, “What Not To Eat When Pregnant“, agrees with this. LIVESTRONG’s guide to seafood goes as far as to suggest that “pregnant women [should] avoid uncooked fish and seafood entirely”.
In spite of all the medical warnings against sushi, many bloggers and newspaper contributors have called the research behind the guidelines into question. The New York Times published an op-ed piece titled, “Chicken of the Sea“, and author Steven A. Shaw defended the pregnant population’s sushi consumption. He wrote, “If you take raw and partly cooked shellfish out of the equation, the risk of falling ill from eating seafood is 1 in 2 million servings, the government calculated some years back; by comparison, the risk from eating chicken is 1 in 25,000. (Over all, 76 million cases of food poisoning are reported a year.)”
Shocking, yes, but absolutely true: you are more likely to get food poisoning/illness from chicken than sushi. About eighty times more likely, in fact.
Now we know what the U.S. camp says, what are the guidelines for women in other countries with equal health statuses?
According to health authorities in the United Kingdom, eating sushi during pregnancy is perfectly fine. In fact, according to the U.K. guidelines, you can add smoked fishes to your diet, too.
This article from The Guardian sparked a discussion about pregnancy guidelines around the world. The comments show just how different the advice can be from country to country. Commenter “FijiK”, who was pregnant in Japan, wrote, “As for food, Sushi is recommended by Japanese doctors, its not considered risky. As are meat, and raw eggs. If your admitted to hospital you will be given a diet which is very traditionally Japanese.” The comments on this article are fascinating. If you have time, I recommend reading some. You’ll start to think very differently about dietary guidelines during pregnancy.
If you do choose to eat sushi during pregnancy, AmericanPregnancy.org has a great list of fishes low in mercury. This way, you can make the healthiest choice on that sushi order!