Can I Eat Crab While Pregnant?

Photo illustration of a pregnant belly and a crab leg

Verywell Family / Photo Illustration by Nusha Ashjaee / Getty Images

When you’re pregnant, you’re nourishing your growing baby as you eat. So, it’s no wonder many people who are pregnant are concerned about only consuming foods that will be healthy for their babies. Still, you want to enjoy your favorite foods, when possible, and for many people, that includes crab.

Luckily, it's generally safe to eat crab during pregnancy as long as it's eaten fully cooked and in moderation. However, if you have never tried crab before, you may not want to try it for the first time in pregnancy. Shellfish allergies are common in adulthood and you do not want to risk an allergic reaction while pregnant. Learn more about how to safely consume crab while expecting.

Eating Crab During Pregnancy

Crab can be part of a healthy prenatal diet. It can be enjoyed in many ways, including right out of the shell with a squeeze of lemon, tossed into pasta or salads, piled on sandwiches, or made into crab cakes.

There are very few risks to eating crab while pregnant as long as food handling guidelines are followed and you don't overindulge. Plus, seafood is a nutritious, low-fat protein option that is recommended to be eaten regularly during pregnancy by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Every pregnancy is different. Be sure to consult with a healthcare provider about your circumstances if you have any questions about eating crab while pregnant.

Is It Safe for Baby?

As long as crab is cooked through, it is safe for both the expectant parent and baby. "Often seafood is eaten raw and it might contain bacteria that can make the mom sick and can pass to the baby," says Sandra Arévalo, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist in Nyack, New York and a national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. This is why eating crab fully cooked is important.

Another worry is potential contaminants. "The problem with seafood and fish, in general, is the amount of mercury it may contain that may be dangerous for both mom and baby and cause genetic malformations among other problems," explains Arévalo. However, crab is a low mercury shellfish option. So, mercury is not a worry with this type of seafood.

Benefits of Eating Crab During Pregnancy

There are many great reasons to eat crab while pregnant, especially for those who enjoy this type of seafood.

"I highly recommend eating seafood during pregnancy," says Dr. Amy Valent, DO, and assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology (maternal-fetal medicine) in the Oregon Health & Science University School of Medicine in Portland, Oregon.

Generally, eating seafood while expecting offers a great number of nutritional benefits, such as it being a lean source of protein. Crab in particular is also a good source of minerals, including calcium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, and potassium.

Safety Precautions

Even though eating low mercury fish and seafood, like crab, while pregnant is encouraged as a healthy part of a prenatal diet, there are several important safety precautions to follow.

Eat It Fully Cooked

The key to eating crab safely during pregnancy is to make sure you are only eating it when it's fully cooked. Sometimes, crab and other types of shellfish are prepared raw or rare, says Arévalo. So, if you are not the one cooking it, make sure to ask that the meat in your dish is cooked thoroughly to an internal temperature of 145 degrees.

Source It Carefully

Some crab may be fished in areas where water contaminants are present, so it's important for pregnant people to monitor where their seafood is coming from, explains Dr. Valent. "It should be emphasized that the benefits of seafood outweigh the risks," she says. Still, in most cases, crab is a safe choice.

Also, make sure that the crab you eat (whether fresh or frozen) is not spoiled. The meat should not have a fishy smell, be slimy, or otherwise look "off." The shells should not be cracked prior to cooking and the cooked meat should be white, opaque, and not mushy.

Limit How Much You Eat

As long as crab is thoroughly cooked, it is safe to eat 2 to 3 times per week maximum, with a weekly limit of 12 ounces total, says Dr. Valent. However, she encourages her patients to eat the full allotted amount of seafood, if possible, due to the nutritional benefits. "If we can get people to get even close to 12 ounces, we would be happy as providers," says Valent.

A Word From Verywell

Crab is a welcome addition to a healthy diet for expecting individuals. As long as your crab is fully cooked, there are minimal risks to eating crab during pregnancy. So, feel free to eat crab (and/or other types of low-mercury seafood) a few times a week as a part of your prenatal diet. If you have questions about eating crab during your particular pregnancy, feel free to reach out to a healthcare provider.

4 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Advice about eating fish.

  2. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Update on seafood consumption during pregnancy.

  3. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Crab, hardshell, steamed.

  4. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Selecting and serving fresh and frozen seafood safely.

By Sarah Vanbuskirk
Sarah Vanbuskirk is a writer and editor with 20 years of experience covering parenting, health, wellness, lifestyle, and family-related topics. Her work has been published in numerous magazines, newspapers, and websites, including Activity Connection, Glamour, PDX Parent, Self, TripSavvy, Marie Claire, and TimeOut NY.