Can you eat caviar in pregnancy?

Quick Answer

Most experts agree that pregnant women should avoid eating caviar, as it may contain high levels of mercury and other contaminants that can be harmful to a developing baby. While the risks are not fully understood, it’s recommended to avoid caviar and limit fish high in mercury when pregnant.

What is Caviar?

Caviar is a delicacy consisting of salt-cured fish eggs from sturgeon. The fish eggs are highly prized for their soft, delicate texture and unique flavor. True caviar comes from sturgeon species like beluga, ossetra, and sevruga. There are also other types of “caviar” made from fish like salmon, trout, lumpfish, and whitefish.

Caviar is most often enjoyed as a garnish or spread. The small pearls of fish roe provide a burst of salty, briny flavor when eaten. This expensive delicacy is associated with luxury and elegance.

Nutrition Facts of Caviar

Caviar is high in important nutrients like:

  • Protein – Necessary for fetal development
  • Healthy fats like omega-3s – Support brain and eye health
  • Vitamin B12 – Crucial for red blood cell formation
  • Iron – Helps prevent anemia
  • Vitamin D – Critical for bone health
  • Selenium – Boosts immune system function

However, caviar is also high in sodium. One ounce provides over 300 mg sodium, 13% of the recommended daily limit.

Caviar Nutrition Facts (1 oz)

Nutrient Amount % Daily Value*
Calories 70 4%
Protein 6 g 12%
Total Fat 5 g 8%
Omega-3 Fatty Acids 1 g 62%
Sodium 323 mg 13%
Iron 1.5 mg 8%
Vitamin B12 3.5 mcg 146%
Vitamin D 192 IU 48%
Selenium 36.4 mcg 66%

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

Is Caviar Safe to Eat During Pregnancy?

There are some concerns around eating caviar when pregnant. Here are the main risks to consider:

1. High Mercury Levels

Mercury is a heavy metal that can accumulate in certain fish. High mercury exposure is toxic and poses risks like:

  • Impaired neurological development
  • Vision and hearing problems
  • Delays in speech and language

Fish higher up the food chain like shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish tend to have the highest mercury levels. But sturgeon used for caviar can also contain moderate amounts of mercury.

To limit mercury exposure, it’s recommended that pregnant women eat no more than 6 ounces (170 grams) of cooked fish per week from choices lower in mercury.

2. Other Pollutants

In addition to mercury, caviar may contain other environmental pollutants like:

  • PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls)
  • Dioxins
  • Pesticides

These contaminants can accumulate in aquatic environments. They may have toxic effects on fetal development and increase the risk of health problems later in life.

3. Food Poisoning

As a raw seafood product, caviar also carries a risk of foodborne illness if not handled properly. Food poisoning is never desirable, but can be especially dangerous during pregnancy due to the risk of dehydration and hospitalization.

Listeria is a bacteria that can contaminate refrigerated, ready-to-eat seafood. Listeria infection during pregnancy may result in miscarriage, stillbirth, or illness in the newborn baby.

4. High Sodium Content

Caviar is very high in sodium, with a 1 ounce serving providing over 300 mg. Consuming high sodium foods can increase swelling and raise blood pressure.

It’s generally recommended that pregnant women limit sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg per day. Eating caviar regularly could easily cause you to exceed this level.

Best Fish Choices in Pregnancy

While seafood like caviar should be avoided, eating 2-3 servings of low mercury fish per week is encouraged during pregnancy. Here are some of the top fish choices:

  • Salmon
  • Shrimp
  • Pollock
  • Tuna (limit albacore tuna due to higher mercury levels)
  • Catfish
  • Cod
  • Anchovies
  • Sardines
  • Trout
  • Atlantic mackerel

These fish provide beneficial omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA that are vital for your baby’s brain and eye development.

Just be sure to eat a variety of fish and seafood, rather than the same ones each week. Follow local fish advisories on safe consumption limits.

Tips for Purchasing and Eating Fish

Here are some tips for choosing healthy fish options during pregnancy:

  • Buy wild-caught fish when possible
  • Avoid raw fish due to risk of parasites/bacteria
  • Cook fish to an internal temperature of 145°F to kill pathogens
  • Check advisories about limits for local fish
  • Choose a variety of fish lower in mercury
  • Read labels for sodium content if eating canned/processed fish

Alternatives to Caviar

If you’re craving the taste of caviar but want to avoid the risks, here are some safer alternatives to consider:

  • Salmon roe – Milder flavor and lower mercury levels
  • Masago – Orange flying fish roe often used in sushi
  • Tobiko – Bright red roe from flying fish
  • Lumpfish caviar – Mild, economical alternative to sturgeon caviar
  • Trout caviar – Delicate flavor from trout eggs
  • American Paddlefish caviar – From a sustainable freshwater fish

However, these alternatives may still pose a slight risk – so enjoy in moderation. Veggie-based caviar options made from seaweed, mushrooms, or lentils are also available.

Safest Approach: Avoid Caviar During Pregnancy

Based on the potential risks, it’s recommended to completely avoid caviar and limit fish intake when pregnant or breastfeeding.

While many women experience healthy pregnancies while eating some fish, it’s impossible to determine the exact threshold of mercury exposure that could be damaging.

By avoiding high mercury fish altogether, you can help ensure your growing baby’s health and development are protected.


Caviar provides important nutrients like omega-3s and protein, but also contains contaminants like mercury that may impair fetal development. To be safe, it’s best for pregnant women to steer clear of caviar and stick to low mercury fish options like salmon, shrimp, and pollock a few times per week. Although it may be tempting to indulge, caviar is ultimately best saved for a special occasion after giving birth. Choosing healthier protein sources will help support your baby while keeping risks low.

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