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Is It Safe to Eat Raw Oysters During Pregnancy?

When you are pregnant, there are many things that you have to take care of, one of the most important of these things being your eating habits. Let's find out if it is safe to eat raw oysters when you are pregnant. Read on.
HerHaleness Staff
Last Updated: Dec 31, 2017
Whatever you eat during pregnancy, is passed on to the fetus through the placenta, and is the only source of nourishment for the baby. Which means if the things you eat contain viruses or bacteria, then you will be passng through the article, youing on the same to your child. Granted, you get crazy cravings when you are pregnant, but it's better to think twice before giving in to your urges every time, lest your baby is exposed to health problems before it is even born. Make sure you know all the foods that are right to consume during pregnancy, and which foods to avoid when you are pregnant.
Seafood can be a potent source of bacteria and viruses, so it is best to avoid eating sea food that is undercooked when you are pregnant. There is no straight answer to this question. The best advice is to avoid raw oysters, but if you really are craving oysters, make sure to cook them properly, so that all the viruses and bacteria in it are killed, and the risk of food poisoning is eliminated.
Is it Safe to Eat Raw Oysters During Pregnancy?
After going through the article, you will know that there are many harmful bacteria and viruses present in raw shellfish, which is why you should avoid them as much as possible. Eating healthy when you are pregnant is crucial for your baby's as well as your own health. But if you happen to unintentionally eat a few raw oysters (this usually happens in the initial few weeks, when you are not yet aware that you are pregnant), or if you pop in a few forgetfully, but do not experience any of the symptoms mentioned above, within the stipulated time, then it is safe to assume that both you, and your baby are safe. But you may not always be lucky, and so it's better to keep a strict watch on what you are eating.
Pregnancy and Seafood
Some sea foods can have high content of fatty acids and proteins, while others may contain really high levels of mercury. While the earlier set is good for the baby and aids in the development of its brain, the latter can prove to be very risky. Sea foods that contain very high amounts of mercury, may trigger many infections and illnesses, and can even prove to be fatal if the mom-to-be has a history of some other medical diseases. Besides, most of the poisoning from sea food is mainly caused due to consumption of shellfish (specially uncooked), due to the viruses and bacteria that are present in them. Sometimes, even cooking them properly cannot completely kill all the algae that are present in shellfish, so you can understand what would happen if you ate it raw! You can try other high protein snacks when pregnant, to replace seafood as much as possible.
When you are expecting, your body evolves and adapts according to the needs of the baby, and the baby's health becomes the primary concern of your immune system. Because the immune system's conditioned response to any foreign agent/ unusual growth inside the body, is to attack and destroy it to protect your body from harm, the immune system is weakened during pregnancy to protect the growing fetus. Which means that you are left susceptible to various petty health risks. If in such a condition, you eat food that is known to breed pathogens, then your immune system will not be able to counter the effects of these pathogens on your body, and will fail to protect you and the fetus from diseases. The immune system of the fetus isn't developed enough to fight off pathogens by itself.
List of Pathogens usually found in Raw Oysters
Oysters tend to be the breeding place for many pathogens, which can cause food poisoning. Also, we hardly ever eat oysters immediately after they have been harvested, and it will surprise you to know that bacteria grow more rapidly in harvested oysters. So the longer the harvested oyster spends in the market or on the shelves, the riskier it becomes for consumption.
Here is a list of pathogens that are usually found in oysters, along with the effects that their unintentional consumption can cause (as listed by the Food and Drug Administration website). Please note that the recovery time given below is for a normal person and not specifically for a pregnant women.
Symptoms: Fever, diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea, headaches, etc.
Recovery Time: Symptoms can start appearing anytime between 12 to 48 hours after consumption, and patients usually take a couple of days to recover.
Vibrio Cholerae
Symptoms: This virus mainly causes cholera, thus causing indirect death rather than direct. Leg cramps, diarrhea, dehydration and shock due to it, vomiting, etc., are some other symptoms.
Recovery Time: Symptoms can surface anytime between 5 hours to 5 days after consumption, and if not detected and treated, can cause death within a matter of hours. If detected and treated, then it usually takes at least a week to recover.
Symptoms: Fever, stomach cramps, passing blood along with stools, vomiting, etc., are the common symptoms displayed if this bacteria is present in the raw oyster.
Recovery Time: Symptoms begin to appear between a day and a week after consumption and recovery takes almost a week.
Vibrio Parahaemolyticus
Symptoms: The symptoms are similar to the rest, i.e., diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, fever/ chills, headache, etc.
Recovery Time: Symptoms surface between 4 to 96 hours after consumption of raw oysters, and recovery will take 3 to 4 days.
Campylobacter Jejuni
Symptoms: This is specially dangerous and risky for the fetus, and symptoms include nausea, diarrhea, fever, muscle and stomach cramps, headaches, etc.
Recovery Time: Symptoms show up between 2 to 5 days, and recovery takes around a fortnight.
Vibrio Vulnificus
Symptoms: Vomiting, development of blisters/ sores on legs, cramps in stomach, fever or chills, diarrhea, and nausea are the most prominent symptoms.
Recovery Time: Recovery takes around 3 to 4 days, while the symptoms show up within a day of consumption.
These are some of the pathogens found in raw oysters, which can prove to be harmful to the fetus and should be avoided. Your health is delicate when you are pregnant and you need to make an extra effort to take care of yourself during this phase. So, as your pregnancy proceeds, it is advisable to stop eating raw foods, specially raw meat and seafood. Eat healthy, avoid foods that are harmful, and as long as you are cooking your oysters well, you should be safe.