Can You Eat Oysters While Pregnant?

Can You Eat Oysters While Pregnant?

Medically Reviewed By
Anindita Bhattacharya (Diabetologist/Nutritionist/Dietitian)
View more Diabetologist/Nutritionist/Dietitian Our Panel of Experts

During the beautiful pregnancy journey, a woman’s dietary choices play a vital role in nurturing her well-being and that of her growing baby. However, in this phase, more often than not, gluttony may haul over several women. Pregnancy cravings are real and can manifest in the weirdest forms. Most pregnant women crave food items that they should avoid during pregnancy. It is no secret that oysters are incredibly delicious and a delicacy for most people. But are oysters while pregnant safe to be consumed? Well, there’s only one way to find that out.

Can Pregnant Women Eat Oysters?

Pregnant women can safely consume oysters only if they are fresh and cooked thoroughly. Yet, it is recommended to keep oysters at bay, especially in certain phases of pregnancy.

How Many Oysters Can Pregnant Women Eat?

When consuming oysters during pregnancy, exercising caution and making informed decisions is important. While oysters can be a valuable source of nutrients, they also pose potential risks due to their raw or undercooked nature. Pregnant women are generally recommended to avoid raw or undercooked oysters to reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses. Instead, opting for thoroughly cooked oysters can provide a safer alternative, ensuring any harmful bacteria are eliminated. It is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional to determine specific dietary recommendations based on individual circumstances.

Potential Side Effects of Eating Oysters When Pregnant

Pregnant women must strictly avoid raw or undercooked meat products. Consumption of raw oysters during pregnancy would fall into the same category, which can give rise to certain unwelcome side effects. Oysters contain bacteria like Vibrio vulnificusi, and eating them can result in sepsis and other serious diseases marked by skin blisters. A few of these are listed below.

1. Risk of Experiencing Gastrointestinal Problems

Since oysters might not be adequately cooked or would generally be raw, they are likely to contain bacteria that can infect the digestive tract and other areas within the body. At times, the bacteria and fungi causing the infections might harm the foetus, leading to a miscarriage or severe damage to the brain. The bacteria could also result in an illness severe enough to cause a blood infection that can be life-threatening for the mother and the baby.

2. Ineffective Immunity During Pregnancy

Since a baby is growing within the body, the immunity system takes a step-down to keep all the processes functioning as they are. Undercooked or half-cooked oysters, unfortunately, increases the chances of experiencing food poisoning. At times, they could even trigger allergic reactions as a result of the immune system’s final response.

Cheesy Oysters during pregnancy

Why Consuming Oysters Might Be Beneficial During Pregnancy?

Any meat product served raw or not prepared by subjecting it to an intense cooking process is generally unsafe for a pregnant woman. However, oysters themselves do have various constituents that can be quite beneficial to a pregnant woman.

  • The proportion of vitamin E, potassium, magnesium, and various omega 3 acids in oysters are quite substantial. All these constituents are highly recommended for a pregnant woman, which can keep her heart healthy and also keep a check on any inflammation.
  • Amongst the numerous elements required to keep the neurological development of the growing child on track, zinc is a pretty important one. While it might be present in trace quantities in various food items, oysters contain a considerable proportion of it, making it a great choice during pregnancy.
  • Protein intake is another factor that pregnant women need to consider. Oysters are rich in protein and significantly low in fat and calories. This makes them the perfect addition to pregnant women struggling to keep their weight in check.
  • Oysters are known to be a nutritional powerhouse, packed with essential nutrients that can benefit both the mother and the developing baby. They are an excellent source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, iron, zinc, vitamin D, and B vitamins. These nutrients are crucial in supporting fetal development, promoting healthy brain and nervous system functioning, and bolstering the mother’s overall well-being during pregnancy.
  • Another benefit of consuming oysters during pregnancy is their high content of omega-3 fatty acids, specifically docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). DHA is a crucial nutrient for developing the baby’s brain and eyes. It supports cognitive function, visual acuity, and neural development. Adequate intake of omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy has been associated with positive outcomes in the baby’s cognitive development and visual acuity later in life.

Oysters during prengnacy

Things to Consider Before Eating Oysters While Pregnant

While consuming adequately cooked oysters during pregnancy poses the lowest risk and the highest benefit for the mother, it is necessary to keep a few things in mind before consuming oysters in any form.

  • Prefer using fresh oysters instead of refrigerated ones when preparing cooked recipes using them.
  • While cooking oysters, ensure that they have been cooked thoroughly and have a firm and healthy texture.
  • Avoid oyster consumption, especially in the first and last trimesters, since they are high-risk periods.
  • Consume oysters in limited quantities along with any seafood items that accompany them.
  •  If you or your partner have a known allergy to shellfish or oysters, it is essential to avoid them during pregnancy to prevent any adverse reactions. 
  • Make sure that you purchase oysters with low Mercury levels. Artificially bread oysters may have very high Mercury content.
  • Being filter feeders, oysters can accumulate environmental contaminants in their surrounding waters. These contaminants can include pollutants, heavy metals, or toxins and can be extremely hazardous for pregnant women.

How to Cook Oysters Safely in Pregnancy?

Here are a few safe and delicious ways to cook oysters for pregnant women:

  • Steamed Oysters: Steam oysters until their shells open, ensuring they are thoroughly cooked. Serve them with a squeeze of lemon or a light seasoning for added flavour.
  •  Grilled Oysters: Place shucked oysters on a preheated grill and cook them until they are opaque and firm. Add a touch of garlic butter or a sprinkle of herbs for extra taste.
  • Baked Oysters: Take top shucked oysters with a mixture of breadcrumbs, herbs, and a small amount of melted butter. Bake them until golden and bubbling for a flavourful and safe option.
  •  Oyster Stew: Cook-shucked oysters in a creamy broth, vegetables, and seasonings. Ensure that the stew reaches a proper temperature to guarantee safety.

Remember to follow the recipe and recommended temperatures to ensure oysters are cooked thoroughly, eliminating potential bacteria or pathogens. Enjoy these cooked oyster preparations as a safe and delectable addition to your pregnancy diet.

What to Do If You Accidentally Ate Raw Oysters During Pregnancy?

If you accidentally consume raw oysters during pregnancy, you can take a few steps:

  1. Stay Calm: Panicking will not change the situation. Take a deep breath and focus on the next steps.
  2. Assess the Situation: Consider the oysters’ source and quality. If they were from a trusted and reputable source known for safe seafood, the risk may be lower. However, it’s best to be cautious if there are contamination concerns or if they were from an unknown source.
  3. Watch for Symptoms: Watch for any signs of foodborne illness, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach cramps, or fever. These symptoms can occur within hours or days after consuming contaminated food.
  4. Contact a Doctor: Contact your obstetrician and inform them about the situation. They can guide you based on your circumstances and advise you on any necessary precautions or monitoring.
  5. Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated and replenish electrolytes in case of any potential diarrhoea or vomiting.

Alternatives to Oysters

While oysters provide numerous benefits and nutrients rarely found in other food products, there are always alternatives one can consider. Fish oil supplementspeanuts, and pumpkin seeds do contain zinc in good proportion, along with flaxseed oil or certain cereals, which contain omega-3 acids and are safer than oysters.


1. Can I Consume Canned Smoked Oysters While Pregnant?

Canned smoked oysters are generally considered safe for consumption during pregnancy as they undergo a cooking process during canning that eliminates potential bacteria or pathogens. However, they should be consumed in moderation as they risk being contaminated with listeria.

2. Is It Safe to Eat Oyster Sauce in Pregnancy?

Oyster sauce, a condiment made from oysters, is typically considered safe to consume during pregnancy. The sauce is usually cooked during preparation, reducing the risk of foodborne illnesses. 

3. Can I Consume Oysters While Breastfeeding?

Consuming oysters while breastfeeding is generally considered safe, provided they are thoroughly cooked to eliminate potential bacteria or pathogens. Oysters are a good source of nutrients such as protein, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids, which can benefit the mother and the baby. 

Keeping away from canned smoked oysters might be difficult if you are already a die-hard fan of them. But ensuring your baby’s safety and a healthy pregnancy should always be your priority. Opting for alternatives is your best bet to avoid any complications.


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4. Update on Seafood Consumption During Pregnancy; ACOG;; January 2017

5. Foods to Avoid When Pregnant; American Pregnancy Association;

6. Stephens. TV, Payne. M, Ball. RO; Protein Requirements of Healthy Pregnant Women during Early and Late Gestation Are Higher than Current Recommendations; Oxford Academic;; January 2015

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Also Read:

Sardines while Pregnant
Eating Shrimp during Pregnancy
Is it Safe to Eat Crab during Pregnancy?

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