Can I Eat Octopus During Pregnancy?

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle throughout pregnancy is facilitated by a nutritious diet. Consuming wholesome foods not only contributes to a sense of well-being but also supports the development of the baby’s brain, while simultaneously lowering the risk of complications such as anemia, low birth weight, and congenital disabilities. While the idea of serving a plate of tentacles may not appeal to everyone, octopuses, as boneless sea creatures, have been regarded as a culinary delicacy by numerous cultures.

Nevertheless, many expectant mothers express concerns about their diet, particularly since certain favorite foods are off-limits during pregnancy. The scrutiny intensifies when it comes to fish and shellfish, despite their role as excellent sources of high-quality protein and essential nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids. Some varieties, however, contain higher levels of mercury, posing potential dangers during pregnancy.

One example of such concern revolves around the consumption of octopus during pregnancy, prompting health experts to advise against it for expectant women. Therefore, it is crucial to make well-informed decisions before indulging in your preferred seafood during this special time.

Can I Eat Octopus During Pregnancy?
Can I Eat Octopus During Pregnancy?

Is Octopus Considered Seafood?

Seafood encompasses various marine life forms, including sea fish, crustaceans, and cephalopods. The classification of these creatures as safe for consumption during pregnancy can be perplexing due to their diversity. Octopus, belonging to the cephalopod family, is categorized broadly as “shellfish,” despite lacking a traditional shell. When properly cooked, octopus offers a taste and texture similar to lobster.

Similar to most shellfish, thorough cooking is essential to make octopus safe for pregnant women. Its relatively mild flavor allows it to absorb the aromas and textures of accompanying ingredients, often served with a flavorful sauce in restaurants.

Octopus can also be enjoyed in its raw, cold form. However, when consumed raw, it exhibits a soft and chewy texture, contrasting with the tougher consistency when well-cooked.

How Safe Is Octopus Consumption During Pregnancy?

Octopuses generally have low to medium mercury levels compared to certain sea fish, rendering them safe for moderate consumption during pregnancy. Proper cooking is crucial to eliminate potential germs associated with this type of shellfish.

Despite cooking, heavy metals, posing risks to both the woman and her baby, are not entirely eradicated. It is advisable not to exceed two servings of 6 ounces of octopus per week to prevent an excess of heavy metal intake while still enjoying the nutritional benefits. Preparing raw octopus can be challenging, as undercooked octopus may be excessively rubbery and difficult to consume.

Consuming grilled octopus during pregnancy is considered safe, following the methods of boiling or baking to ensure thorough cooking and a delightful taste. Cutting the thickest part in half and confirming that the inside is fully cooked is a common practice. Raw, only marinated, or undercooked octopus should be strictly avoided due to the potential presence of harmful pathogens, parasites, bacteria, and viruses, which can lead to diseases and severe complications during pregnancy.

Advantages of Consuming Octopus During Pregnancy

Octopus serves as a beneficial source of protein, vitamins, and minerals while being low in fat, making it a favorable choice for those aiming for weight loss. However, its health benefits are influenced by the method of preparation. Frying or cooking octopus in butter or oil can introduce extra fat and calorie content to the meal. Here are some advantages of including octopus in your diet during pregnancy:

Enhances Cardiac Health

Octopus contains Omega-3 fatty acids, which can lower blood pressure levels and inhibit the buildup of plaque in arteries, reducing stress on the heart. It also reduces triglycerides and fats in the blood, thereby lowering the risk of stroke, irregular heartbeat, heart attack, and heart disease.

Reduces Cancer Risks

The taurine in octopus features an amino acid that fights inflammation in the body and acts as an antioxidant, protecting against cell damage associated with cancer. Octopus is also rich in antioxidants such as selenium, vitamin B12, and folate, which may contribute to lowering the risk of cancer.

Boosts Cognitive Health

Octopus contains magnesium, supporting healthy brain activity, including memory power and learning processes. The presence of magnesium may also reduce the risk of degenerative diseases such as dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Relieves Depression

Octopuses contain Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), two omega-3 fatty acids known to prevent or alleviate symptoms of depression and other mood disorders.

Prevents Neural Tube Defects

Rich in vitamin B12 and iron, octopus combats anemia and may help prevent neural tube defects, including conditions like spina bifida and anencephaly during pregnancy.

Potential Risks Associated with Consuming Octopus During Pregnancy

Mercury, a naturally occurring metal in the environment, is released into the air through industrial pollution and settles in water bodies. When bacteria transform it into a more hazardous form, it accumulates in the fatty tissues of fish. While traces of mercury are present in nearly all fish species, it tends to concentrate more in large predatory fish like octopus, which has the highest mercury accumulation due to its diet of other fish and longer lifespan. Here are some potential risks associated with eating octopus during pregnancy:

– Harmful Effects on Fetal Nervous System: The mercury content in octopus can pose a threat to the developing nervous system of the fetus. Mercury poisoning can adversely affect the nervous, digestive, and cardiovascular systems, potentially leading to fatal consequences. Delayed treatment may also result in damage to organs such as the skin, lungs, kidneys, and brain.

– Risk of Anisakis Nematode Worm: Anisakis, a nematode worm, completes its life cycle in the digestive systems of fish and marine mammals, potentially causing food poisoning or toxoplasmosis. This infectious disease can be particularly dangerous for the baby.

– Presence of Harmful Microorganisms: Octopus may harbor microorganisms or dangerous pathogens such as Salmonella, which can cause food poisoning and pose risks during pregnancy.

Mercury Levels in Octopus

The exact mercury levels in octopus are challenging to determine globally, as they may vary based on size and harvest source. The American Pregnancy Association classifies octopus as having a low mercury level, while the Environmental Defense Fund categorizes it as having a ‘moderate’ amount of mercury. Despite the variations in preparation methods, these classifications remain consistent. In the absence of specific scientific tests, octopus can be presumed to fall within the low to moderate mercury category, based on information provided by these two reputable sources.

Octopus Dishes to Avoid During Pregnancy

The safety of octopus dishes during pregnancy is contingent on the method of preparation. Here are some octopus dishes that are considered unsafe for pregnant women:

– Pre-made Octopus Salads: Octopus salads prepared in restaurants can raise concerns for expecting women. However, when pregnant, octopus salad is deemed safe only if the octopus is fully cooked, served cold, and stored under proper conditions. Pre-bagged or pre-cut salads with octopus pose a higher risk of listeria contamination compared to freshly prepared ones. Opting to prepare octopus salad at home ensures thorough washing of salad veggies, maintaining a higher level of hygiene.

– Octopus Carpaccio: Common in Mediterranean countries, Octopus Carpaccio consists of thin slivers of dressed octopus, often served cold. It may include raw or preboiled octopus. Consuming raw octopus during pregnancy is discouraged due to potential harmful bacteria. To ensure safety, it’s advisable to check the preparation method, especially in restaurants, and avoid dishes containing raw octopus.

– Marinated or Pickled Octopus: Marinated or pickled octopus, a popular Mediterranean antipasto, is typically cooked by boiling before marinating to enhance its texture. Some traditional recipes may use raw octopus in the marinade, posing potential risks. Checking with the restaurant or cook to confirm whether the octopus is raw is essential. Pre-cooked octopus in the marinade is generally considered safe for consumption.

– Octopus Sashimi: A prominent part of Japanese cuisine, Octopus Sashimi comes in various preparations. If the octopus has been briefly boiled before cooking, it is considered safe for pregnant women. However, dishes featuring raw or live octopus should be avoided during pregnancy due to potential health risks.

It is advisable to exercise caution and make informed food choices, particularly considering the uncertainties surrounding seafood consumption during pregnancy. In case of any specific allergic reactions to octopus, consulting with a doctor before incorporating this shellfish into a healthy pregnancy diet is recommended.


What seafood to avoid during pregnancy?

During pregnancy, it is recommended to avoid certain types of seafood that tend to have higher mercury levels, which can be harmful to the developing fetus. Examples include shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish. Additionally, it’s advisable to limit the consumption of tuna and choose varieties with lower mercury content.

Does octopus have a lot of mercury?

Octopus, while generally considered safe in moderation during pregnancy, may have varying levels of mercury. The American Pregnancy Association classifies octopus as having a low mercury level, and the Environmental Defense Fund categorizes it as having a ‘moderate’ amount. It’s crucial to be mindful of the source and size of the octopus, and limit consumption to ensure a safe mercury intake.

Is cooked octopus safe to eat?

Yes, cooked octopus is generally considered safe to eat during pregnancy. Thorough cooking eliminates potential harmful bacteria and parasites. It is important to ensure that octopus dishes are properly prepared, cooked, and stored to maintain food safety standards.

Can I eat cooked squid while pregnant?

Yes, cooked squid is considered safe to eat during pregnancy. As with any seafood, it’s crucial to ensure that the squid is properly cooked to eliminate any potential risks associated with consuming raw or undercooked seafood. Following proper cooking and food safety guidelines is essential for a healthy pregnancy diet.


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