Most foods are safe to eat while pregnant, but ceviche isn’t one of them.
Ceviche is a seafood dish made with raw fish or shellfish, spices, and lime or lemon juice. The seafood is marinated in the juice for 10 to 30 minutes, or sometimes up to 24 hours, then served raw. The dish is usually served as an appetizer or a snack.
You should not eat ceviche while pregnant because it is made with uncooked seafood. Raw fish or seafood can cause food poisoning. Pregnant women have a higher chance of getting sick, being sick longer, and having serious side effects.
Risks of Eating Ceviche While Pregnant
Raw seafood can have parasites or bacteria like Listeria, which can cause an illness called listeriosis. Listeria is one of the most serious types of food poisoning and pregnant women are 10 times more likely to get listeriosis than other people. Symptoms of listeriosis include:
- Muscle aches
- Upset stomach
- Throwing up
- Stiff neck
- Loss of balance
Vomiting and diarrhea can cause dehydration, which happens when the body loses too much water. Listeriosis also can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, or early labor.
You can have symptoms as late as 2 months after you’ve eaten something with Listeria. Lots of pregnant women do not feel sick, but you can still pass the infection to your baby.
Babies who get listeriosis can have serious blood and brain infections. Listeriosis can cause death in newborns or lifelong health problems, including:
- Intellectual disability
- Brain disorders
- Kidney problems
- Heart problems
Benefits of Eating Fish While Pregnant
Ceviche is not safe during pregnancy, but that doesn’t mean you have to avoid all fish and seafood. Fish are an excellent source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Eating enough omega-3 fatty acids while pregnant and during breastfeeding helps your baby’s brain and eyes develop.
Fish also are a good source of protein and other vitamins and minerals, including:
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin D
Pregnant women need more iron and some women don’t get enough, which can lead to iron-deficiency anemia. Eating fish can help keep your iron levels healthy so that your body can make extra blood.
While it’s safe to eat fish during pregnancy, there are some fish that you should avoid. Some large, predatory fish have higher amounts of mercury, which can be unsafe during pregnancy. These include:
- King mackerel
- Orange roughy
There are many types of seafood that have little or no mercury at all. It is safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women to eat different kinds of cooked fish and seafood. The United States Food and Drug Administration has set guidelines for pregnant women on how much fish to eat in a week. These include:
- Eating up to 6 ounces or 1 serving of some cooked fish
- Albacore tuna
- Eating up to 12 ounces or 2 servings of cooked fish and shellfish
- Canned tuna
Be careful with local fish caught by friends and family as they might be higher in mercury or other metals and contaminants.
Other Safety Factors for Ceviche and Seafood While Pregnant
You may have read or heard somewhere that the lime or lemon juice in ceviche “cooks” the fish and makes it safe. This is not true. The fish in ceviche is uncooked. Raw fish can lead to food poisoning and pregnant women are much more likely to get sick than anyone else.
To prevent getting sick, seafood dishes should be cooked to a temperature of 145°F. This means you should not eat the following foods while pregnant:
- Raw oysters
- Raw scallops
- Raw clams
Other good cooking, storing, and serving practices will help keep you safe and prevent sickness. Make sure to:
- Thaw fish overnight in the fridge
- Use a meat thermometer to check the temperature of cooked fish
- Once prepared, keep hot seafood hot and cold seafood cold
- Refrigerate leftover cooked seafood within 2 hours of serving
- Throw out sour, rancid, fishy, or ammonia-smelling fish
If you are traveling to other countries while pregnant, make sure to avoid ceviche and any places that serve raw fish. It’s easy for other foods to become contaminated from the fish. Choose hot, cooked foods that are served right away. Avoid buffets where food can sit out and street vendors unless you can watch them cook the food and serve it to you fresh from the grill.