Being pregnant comes with a bunch of restrictions—probably no water skiing, OK?—but our society seems to think it's everyone's business whether or not you're abiding by those standards. So you can probably imagine the public outrage after a pregnant Hilary Duff dared to share a Boomerang on Instagram in which she’s in the vicinity of some sushi.
In the clip, Duff and a buddy toast each other while wearing robes. They’re also seated at a low table in front of what appears to be plates of sushi and rolls. “Had the dreamiest of nights with this babe @tomoko_spa + @moflo1wooooow weeeee #couplesmassage lol #tomokospa,” she captioned the shot. It's not immediately clear what's in those sushi rolls or whether or not Duff consumed any of it.
And naturally, people freaked the eff out. “Veggie-only sushi I hope. No sushi while pregnant,” one wrote. “Wait, sushi when you’re pregnant?” another said. Others stuck up for Duff and pointed out that she could have been having vegetable sushi or that maybe she had no plans to eat the food that was in front of her.
The social media drama stems from the fact that it's recommended that people avoid raw sushi while pregnant.
This recommendation comes courtesy of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), which specifically has this to say on the topic: “Avoid all raw and undercooked seafood, eggs, and meat. Do not eat sushi made with raw fish (cooked sushi is safe).”
One big worry about this, according to ACOG, is food poisoning while pregnant. That's because the diarrhea and vomiting that can come along with a foodborne illness can cause your body to lose too much water, causing dehydration, ACOG explains.
And dehydration during pregnancy is no joke: It can lead to serious complications like neural tube defects, low amniotic fluid, and even premature labor, the American Pregnancy Association says. So, as always, being careful about the quality of the fish you're eating and having adequate medical care should something be a little off is important.
Some types of fish are also more likely to carry mercury risks than others.
Some types of fish have higher levels of mercury, and mercury has been linked to birth defects, ACOG points out, so it's important to limit your exposure where possible. Higher-mercury fish include swordfish, king mackerel, marin, orange roughy, and tilefish. These feed on smaller fish that have accumulated mercury, Dana Hunnes, R.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., a senior dietitian at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and an adjunct assistant professor at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, tells SELF.
These fish also tend to live for a long time, giving them more time to accumulate mercury, she adds. "Therefore, I would not recommend a pregnant woman, whose fetus is especially vulnerable to mercury, to consume these fish," Dr. Hunnes says. It’s also a good idea to limit how much white (albacore) tuna you eat to six ounces a week, ACOG says.
Trying to remember which fish you should and shouldn’t have when you’re pregnant can be annoying, but it may be worth the effort. Fish contain omega-3 fatty acids, a type of good fat that may help your baby’s brain development, G. Thomas Ruiz, M.D., lead ob/gyn at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, Calif., tells SELF.
ACOG specifically recommends that women eat at least two servings of fish or shellfish a week before getting pregnant, during pregnancy, and while breastfeeding. The organization suggests eating (cooked) fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury like shrimp, salmon, catfish, and pollock. But, if you plan on eating locally-caught fish, be aware of any health advisories about fish caught in local waters.
For the record, if you happen to have raw sushi once or twice during your pregnancy or you accidentally eat some raw or uncooked fish, you don’t need to panic.
You should be just fine. “If it’s a one-time event, you’re not very likely to get sick at all,” Dr. Ruiz says. Of course, some people love to eat sushi every day, but that’s really not recommended for anyone because of the high mercury levels, Dr. Ruiz says. In fact, Dr. Hunnes says you really shouldn't be eating it more than once a week if you can help it, whether you're pregnant or not.
But you don't have to totally go without your sushi fix if you're pregnant. Try going for something that includes cooked fish or opting for a vegetarian variety as much as possible. And, if a piece of raw fish happens to get into the mix, it's not a huge deal.
Above all, what Duff (or any other pregnant woman) wants to eat is entirely up to her.
Famous or not, at the end of the day, it’s really nobody’s business but their own—especially when they're just trying to enjoy a precious spa day.