Can Pregnant Women Eat Salmon

Salmon, along with shrimp, catfish, cod, and tuna, is a primary seafood item often craved by pregnant women [1, 4]. However, people are often dubious regarding its safety during this time. So, it is time to find out if salmon can actually be harmful to you and your to-be-born baby.

Can Pregnant Women Eat Salmon

Is salmon safe to eat during pregnancy

According to the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) as well as the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2015-2020), pregnant women require approximately 8 to 12 ounces of seafood low in mercury on a weekly basis [1, 3]. Salmon, being low in mercury, is considered safe for pregnant women [1, 2, 4].

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 [4]. 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 the cooked ones, while the edible bones present in them are high in calcium [14,15].

Raw salmon: Raw or undercooked preparations may be contaminated with bacteria and parasites, hence are not safe [7].

Smoked salmon: Like the raw fish, it is not okay for pregnant women to eat smoked salmon due to the risk of listeria and other parasite poisonings [ 8, 9, 20].  So make sure to stay away from smoked salmon preparations like lox, gravlax, and mousse [18]. Caviar comprising of cured salmon roe or eggs is also a no-no during pregnancy [27].

Pregnancy-safe varieties of salmon

Wild salmon varieties like Alaskan [24], King, Keta, Atlantic, Sockeye and Coho [25, 26] are considered to be the safest, while the farmed ones should be avoided since they are high in PCBs (Polychlorinated biphenyls), a group of organic chemicals that can be harmful for the skin if eaten in excess [5, 6, 23] .  Low birth weight, weak immune system, and inappropriate motor skills are some of the common problems seen in babies born to mothers who had fish contaminated with PCBs or were exposed to it in some other way when pregnant or even during breastfeeding [23].

Benefits of salmon during pregnancy

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 [28].

High in protein

Pregnant women need 40 to 70 grams of protein every day to ensure a sound fetal growth, and a 3.5 ounce serving of salmon makes up for 20 to 25 grams of this daily requirement [11, 12].

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) [11, 13].

It also contains a significant amount of Vitamin D that contributes towards the bone health of you and your baby, thus being an apt food choice, especially in the first trimester [21, 22].

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, garlic powder [17]

Are there any side effects

There are no side effects of eating properly cooked salmon during pregnancy, 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, be sure to contact your doctor if you experience any abnormal symptoms, or discomfort after eating.



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