Millie Mackintosh sparks debate about whether it is safe to eat seafood during pregnancy

Millie Mackintosh has unwittingly sparked a debate about whether it is safe to eat shellfish while pregnant [Photo: Getty]

A debate has been sparked on social media about whether or not it is safe to eat shellfish while pregnant.

The confusion was unwittingly sparked by Millie Mackintosh after the pregnant star shared an image of herself enjoying a plate of seafood pasta.

Following queries from some fans in the comments about whether it was safe to eat spagetthi vongole (clam pasta) while pregnant the former ‘Made in Chelsea’ star updated the caption to explain she had checked with her doctor that the tasty-looking dish was fine for her to eat.

“I am eating shellfish occasionally, I have checked it out with my obstetrician and he says it’s perfectly safe to eat as long as it’s cooked but thank you for your comments,” she wrote.

My Expert Midwife co-founder and midwife, Lesley Gilchrist says most shellfish are safe to eat when pregnant if they are properly cooked.

“If they have not been properly cooked or not stored correctly they may contain harmful bacteria which can cause sickness, vomiting and diarrhoea,” she says.

According to Dr Diana Gall from Doctor-4-U seafood can be great for the development of an unborn baby as it is one of the only food types naturally high in omega-3, which is needed for a baby’s brain and eye development.

“Seafood can also contain protein, vitamin D, calcium and iron, so it’s a good idea to include a healthy amount of seafood in your diet while you’re pregnant,” she adds.

But there are certain types of seafood you’d be better off avoiding if you’re pregnant.

“Shellfish such as oysters, muscles, prawns, and crabs should be completely avoided unless they are cooked thoroughly. Raw shellfish is more likely to contain bacteria that can make you ill,” Dr Gall continues.

Gilchrist has cleared up some other common misconceptions when it comes to eating fish and seafood while pregnant.

“White fish are an excellent source of protein and oily fish a source of vitamin D and 'good' fats during pregnancy,” she says.

“However, current recommendations are that pregnant women should limit their consumption of oily fish to two portions per week, as there is a risk of toxin build up in the body which could possibly affect development of the baby.

“It is recommended that shark, swordfish and marlin should be avoided during pregnancy, as they contain higher levels of mercury than other fish, which can damage a baby's development.”

Foods you can and can’t eat during pregnancy

It can be confusing for pregnant women to know the foods they can and can’t eat when pregnant.

Foods to avoid in pregnancy

Soft cheeses with white rinds

The NHS recommends pregnant women avoid mould-ripened soft cheese (cheeses with a white rind) such as brie and camembert. This includes mould-ripened soft goats' cheese, such as chèvre.

“These cheeses are only safe to eat in pregnancy if they've been cooked,” the site explains.

Soft blue cheeses

Soft blue-veined cheeses such as danish blue, gorgonzola and roquefort, should also be avoided as soft blue cheeses are only safe to eat in pregnancy if they've been cooked.

“It's advised pregnant women avoid some soft cheeses because they're less acidic than hard cheeses and contain more moisture, which means they can be an ideal environment for harmful bacteria, such as listeria, to grow in,” the site explains.

Other than mould-ripened soft cheeses, all other soft types of cheese are OK to eat, provided they're made from pasteurised milk.

Pâté

The NHS also recommends pregnant women avoid all types of pâté, including vegetable pâtés, as they can contain listeria.

Uncooked or raw meat

Pregnant women are advised not to eat raw or undercooked meat, including meat joints and steaks cooked rare, because of the potential risk of toxoplasmosis.

“Make sure all meat is cooked through until there is no blood present,” Dr Gall adds.

Though toxoplasmosis is an infection, which can damage your baby, it is important to remember it is very rare in pregnancy.

The NHS also advises caution when it comes to cold meats, such as salami, prosciutto, chorizo and pepperoni. This is because they are not cooked, just cured and fermented, which means there's a risk they contain toxoplasmosis-causing parasites.

Foods it is safe to eat during pregnancy

Smoked fish

Smoked fish, including smoked salmon and smoked trout, is considered safe to eat in pregnancy, according to the NHS.

Sushi

According to Dr Gall it is fine to eat raw or lightly cooked fish in dishes like sushi when you're pregnant, as long as any raw wild fish used to make it has been frozen first.

This is because, occasionally, wild fish contains small parasitic worms that could make you ill. Freezing kills the worms and makes raw fish safe to eat. 

“The majority of pre-packed sushi you find in shops will have already gone through a freezing process and will be safe,” Dr Gall adds.

Peanuts

Unless you are allergic to them or are advised by your doctor or health professional not to, you can eat peanuts or food containing peanuts, such as peanut butter, during pregnancy.

Caffeine (in moderation)

Caffeine is fine, in moderation. “Avoid drinking more than 200mg a day which is about 2 cups of instant coffee,” recommends Dr Gall. “Though some foods and medications can contain caffeine, it is worth reading the label. If you do exceed this occasionally, the risk is not that big.”

Milk and yoghurt

Are both fine to consume while pregnant as long as you stick to pasteurised or ultra-heat treated (UHT) milk, which is sometimes called long-life milk.

Although yoghurts including bio, live and low fat have the go-ahead stamp, it is important to check that any homemade yoghurt is made with pasteurised milk, and, if not, steer clear.

Soft ice-cream

Last year a debate was sparked about whether or not it was safe for pregnant women to eat soft ice-cream.

The confusion came after Stacey Solomon was warned by fans against eating the sweet treat while she was pregnant with her third child.

According to the NHS: “Soft ice creams should be fine to eat when you’re pregnant, as they are processed products made with pasteurised milk and eggs, so any risk of salmonella food poisoning has been eliminated.

“For homemade ice cream, use a pasteurised egg substitute or follow an egg-free recipe.”

But Tina Perridge, midwife at Private Midwives had some further advice for pregnant women considering consuming soft ice cream.

“The NHS is quite clear that as these products are made from processed pasteurised milking eggs, they are safe to eat when pregnant,” she explains.

“The only concern would be the cleanliness of the machine producing the treat. Many suppliers pasteurise/clean their machines every night to a high temperature to destroy bacteria, but a small supplier/ice cream van may not. It is therefore probably best to stick to well-known companies and outlets.”