Pregnancy tends to put the kibosh on lots of things moms love, like turkey sandwiches, unpasteurized brie and that glass of pinot. But is eating sushi while pregnant also off-limits?
Yes, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and other leading medical authorities. That’s because uncooked fish is more likely to contain parasites and bacteria—including listeria—that can lead to infections and foodborne illnesses and potentially harm your growing baby. “Since pregnant women have weakened immune systems, they’re more susceptible to bacteria and parasites that can be present in raw fish if the fish isn’t handled properly,” explains Candice Wood, MD, an ob-gyn at Banner–University Medical Center Phoenix.
The question of whether eating sushi while pregnant is safe has elicited differing opinions in the past, and some believe consuming raw fish from reputable establishments is low-risk. But most doctors (and official guidelines) encourage moms-to-be to steer clear of uncooked sushi. “Of course the quality of a restaurant should ensure proper handling of the fish, but it can’t guarantee that it’s safe to eat,” Wood says. “The safest thing for you and your baby is to avoid raw fish while pregnant.”
In addition to concerns about bacteria and parasites, some types of fish used in sushi—such as bigeye and yellowfin tuna, swordfish and marlin—contain high levels of mercury, a toxic metal that can cause serious birth defects, including brain damage, blindness and deafness.
That doesn’t mean all sushi is off the table, though. Adding certain fish to your pregnancy diet is actually very healthy, thanks to all those omega 3 fatty acids—as long as the seafood is cooked, Wood says. In fact, the FDA encourages moms-to-be to eat 8 to 12 ounces of low-mercury fish every week. So those cooked sushi rolls, like tempura? Perfectly fine to eat while pregnant, as long as the fish is low in mercury and has been heated to 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
Check out our fish safety infographic:
Updated January 2018
Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.
Candice Wood, MD, is an OB-GYN at Banner Health in Phoenix, Arizona. She earned her medical degree from University of Colorado Health Sciences Center and completed her residency at Banner’s University Medical Center Phoenix.
American Pregnancy Association, Eating Deli Meats During Your Pregnancy: Is it Safe?
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Check the Cheese, Avoid Listeria
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Alcohol Use During Pregnancy, October 2023
U.S. Food & Drug Administration, Food Safety for Pregnant Women and Their Unborn Babies
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Listeria and Pregnancy, August 2022
FoodSafety.gov, People at Risk: Pregnant Women, September 2020
American Pregnancy Association, Mercury Levels in Fish
Arizona State University Embryo Project Encyclopedia, Methylmercury and Human Embryonic Development, April 2018
American Pregnancy Association, Omega-3 Fish Oil and Pregnancy
U.S. Food & Drug Administration, Advice About Eating Fish, October 2021
Mayo Clinic, Pregnancy and Fish: What’s Safe to Eat?, August 2023
Learn how we ensure the accuracy of our content through our editorial and medical review process.
Navigate forward to interact with the calendar and select a date. Press the question mark key to get the keyboard shortcuts for changing dates.