Friday, June 10, 2011

Japanese Women have Worms?

I don't guess I get out a lot... socially speaking. And I don't have a lot of friends that like sushi. I had been craving sushi for months before I got pregnant with Sasha. I waited until she was about a year old to have it, though, per the medical warnings. (Yes, I shared it with her, too!)

So here I am pregnant again and wanting sushi, again. I find it hard to believe that Japanese women don't eat sushi while pregnant. In fact, I finally found an article that pointed out they DO eat it. They consider it quite a healthy thing for pregnant women to eat!

That said, I don't live in Japan. I was hunting for someone, ANYone to tell me that they ate sushi while pregnant (and had no dire consequences). I recently read Anktangle's birth story and noticed that she had sushi while in labor! I literally contacted her on Facebook to ask her about this! Turns out she had only eaten California Rolls unagi rolls (cooked eel). (For those not in the know, California Rolls also do not contain any raw fish.) Well phooey. She asked that I let her know if I found any research indicating that it is safe, after all.

Last Saturday was the annual Asian-American Festival at our local library branch. We attended and enjoyed the festivities. A friend offered me a California Roll and I snatched it! This lead to a conversation about it. She ate sushi during both of her pregnancies! And at least one of her boys is a genius (literally)! She also rode roller coasters and pretty much anything else she wanted to do! THIS was the person I wanted to find! I bought a package of Philly Rolls. They include smoked salmon, raw. They were so yummy!

After more visiting, I found Tyler again so I could buy her some California Rolls and I picked up a package of Spicy Tuna rolls to take home for myself. I was a glutton! I just couldn't stop myself! I got home and immediately devoured them. It was all so very yummy... with soy sauce and wasabi.

Sunday morning my stomach hurt. I'd been having lots of bloating with this pregnancy, though, so tummy aches were no stranger. I took a nap pretty early in the day. When I woke up, I figured out I was sick. In fact, for two days I didn't get very far away from my pillow or the toilet. I felt tired and extra yucky. Lesson learned?

Then I had my midwife appointment. I asked both the PA and the midwife for their thoughts on sushi. The PA (in training, I believe) gave me the usual rigamarole about the dangers of food borne illnesses and such. Then the midwife actually said that some raw fish contains WORMS. A good sushi chef will know and watch closely to catch the bad fish and not use it. But she doesn't trust anyone these days. I can understand that, especially in the food industry.

The PA went on to explain that basically during pregnancy, our immune system is weakened so the risk of food borne illnesses has a greater risk of making mother OR baby sick. Ugh. Well aren't I a horrible, horrible mother?! I love sushi, but not enough to risk my unborn child's health!

I asked, specifically, what about Japanese women? The midwife pretty much said "They might have worms, I don't know." This kind of makes me laugh. Kind of not.

I neglected, for some reason, to confess my recent sushi incident. I am being transferred to an OB, though (more on that later)... so I may mention it to them. In case they want to check me for worms!

In linking, I see on the menu there is a footnote:

CAUTION: Consuming raw or undercooked meats, poultry, seafood, shellfish, or eggs may increase your risk of foodborne illness, especially if you have certain medical conditions.

I know I've seen such warnings before... but never really applied them to sushi.

If you're a fan of sushi, what has been your personal policy during pregnancy and the first year of breastfeeding?


  1. I think sushi, like any of the foods pregnant women aren't supposed to eat, has a very minute chance of making you sick, but is stil a risk. I would be willing to bet sushi bars aren't routinely ignoring the state of their raw fish, if they made a bunch of people sick they would be closed down fast. But when we are pregnant we need to decide if a teeny risk is worth it. Should you drink a glass of wine? Eat at a salad bar? Have soft cheese? Highly unlikely it will hurt your baby. But it still could.
    Giving up those foods wasn't at all hard for me, but I guess it would have been tough if I craved them!

    Where do you live? How fresh was the fish you ate?

  2. We're not supposed to eat at salad bars? I mean, I rarely do anyway, but I hadn't heard that.

    As for freshness... I wonder if that was the problem. They had (covered) "to go" trays and trays of sushi ready to purchase since the restaurant set up in the library. They were just sitting on a table.

    That may have been the only issue... but I don't think I'll have a problem avoiding raw fish through the rest of my pregnancy. Those were an unpleasant two days!

  3. Re salad bars, we're in the middle of this big scare about EHEC, some form of E Coli, here in Europe. Is that a big deal in the US too? Basically everything was declared unsafe at some point, from cucumbers to lettuce to bean sprouts and tomatoes. Well, the good thing is that I can get a kilo of cucumbers for 12 cents now. Mmmm... tatziki :).

    Japanese women have worms? Sounds a little... off to me. I mean, anyone can get worms, and you get treated for them. I remember having them as a kid. We lived rural and played in the mud a lot. Mind you, in addition to the possibility of food borne disease, I might also be worried about radiation.


  4. I don't eat fish anyway, so sushi wasn't an issue. When I read through the list of things pregnant women are supposed to avoid, though, I had to roll my eyes a few times. One thing that really got me was hummus. Apparently we are not supposed to eat hummus while pregnant! I totally ignored that one. It seems that any food that has ever caused food poisoning is considered off limits. It's certainly better safe than sorry, but at some point we have to realize that pregnancy is a biologically normal state of being and shouldn't require that women be put in glass cases for 40 weeks!

  5. as long as it's fresh and reputable, go for it. I did not refrain. I stuck to a lot of the cooked fish (unagi, shellfish, tmepura) but I can't resist a good rainbow roll, so...

    If you're somewhere and it smells like the ocean and spices, indulge!

  6. One point of clarification: I ate unagi rolls (cooked eel) not California rolls in the last week of my pregnancy.

    That said, I have not refrained AT ALL from eating sushi in this year since my son was born. I figure that in the rare instance that I get a parasite, it will be processed by my digestive system and most likely not passed on to him through my breastmilk.

    I'm sorry to hear that you got sick after eating sushi, Jorje! I'm very interested to see what everyone else has to say about this.

  7. I had sushi in my first trimester of my first pregnancy when I was still in denial about being pregnant :) Probably within the first 4 weeks. However, I didn't eat it after or in my subsequent pregnancy because of the warnings. I love it though! Spicy salmon is my fave!!

    Incidentally, I would stay away from tuna because it has one of the highest mercury contents. I stick to salmon, mostly because I'm not quite adventurous enough to try to many other things :)

  8. Hi Jorge,

    This is Mariza from How about soaking the fish in lemon? isn't this like cooking it? Like ceviche (I'm addicted to ceviche). You soak the shrimp and fish in lemon for several hours and that cooks it, doesn't it? I don't know much about what's safe and not safe for pregnant women since I adopted both of my girls, but I'm just wondering about this lemon thing.

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  10. I love sushi! When I was pregnant, I asked my midwife about this, and she said that I could have it once a week. She also said to be sure to ask the chef to make sure that the fish had been previously frozen.(I'm assuming this would take care of any worms? Eew!) When my son was about a year old, he started asking for it when I would have some. I asked my pediatrician, and she said the same thing--just make sure it had been previously frozen and from a trustworthy source. He *loves* it, too. Spicy salmon is his fav.....HTH! :)

  11. Mmmm...sooooshhhiii.

    When I was preggers, I made it myself. I just used whatever fish I had eaten (cooked, though), and added cukes, carrots, sometimes cream cheese... It was yummy. Plus, when you have it at home you can use all the pickled ginger you want. Yum! I did eat smoked salmon once when I was pregnant, and then got a bad case of the runs afterward. I think it's some kind of weird karma for not following the "rules." I called my midwife and told her, and she didn't seem concerned, even if it was food poisoning.

  12. @Melissa... no hummus? wonder why? I think perhaps I simply over-did it when I ate.

    @Amy ~ So sorry I got your story wrong! I've edited the article... better late than never, right?

    @Mariza ~ I'm not ready to make sushi myself and honestly loathe all things citrus. So... while this might be a good solution for some, not for me. Thank you, though! I know others were going to be checking back for suggestions!

  13. @Ahmet ~ Good point about the tuna, not that there is a LOT of fish in an order of sushi, though. I'll keep that in mind. Salmon is yummy! What about red snapper?

    @Literature Goddess ~ Thank you!! What a great idea! I've written this down in my list of questions when I meet my new OB on Friday! I should think if you freeze it (and we're in a land-locked state, so all seafood should have been frozen at some point), it should be fine!

    @Tmuffin ~ Thanks. I'm relieved to hear your midwife wasn't concerned. I've been fine since and my nursing LO didn't seem to have any trouble. I'm not prepared to make sushi at home at this point and don't cook fish often, either. Hubby is a big fan of shellfish, but not other seafood. I love your idea that it was karma for not following the rules! lol

  14. If you live in a place where the health regulations require sushi to be flash frozen before serving (most places in Canada/US), the risk of eating sushi is no greater than the risk of having any other restaurant food. Flash freezing kills the parasites, and the rest of the food safety comes down to proper food handling. You would want to avoid any restaurant that is dirty or does not follow proper food handling procedures, regardless of what type of food they serve.

    Also, if you do manage to get a parasite from raw fish, it is not harmful to your fetus. Generally, it is a relative non-issue and to the mother as well, and can be treated with drugs after the baby is born.


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