Can I Eat Shrimp While Pregnant?

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If you are pregnant and wanting to add some surf to your turf, we have good news! Cooked shrimp is safe to eat during pregnancy. Not only that but it’s also a nutrient rich option.

Crystal A. Terrill, D.O., FACOG, an OBGYN at Longstreet Clinic in Georgia, recommends eating shrimp while pregnant. "Shrimp is safe to consume in pregnancy due to its low mercury content," she says. "It is also...high in protein making it a healthy food choice for pregnant women."

We reached out to nutrition and pregnancy experts to learn more about the health benefits as well as suggested guidelines for safe shrimp consumption during pregnancy. 

Eating Shrimp During Pregnancy

It is perfectly safe to say yes to those garlic butter shrimp while pregnant. Sauteed, baked, grilled, or chilled? It's up to you. Cooked shrimp is a nutritious protein to consume during pregnancy.

It is rich in vitamin B2 and B12 which are important for overall health while pregnant. It also contains DHA, an omega-3 fat that is important to both the pregnant parent's health as well as the health of the baby.

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

Is It Safe for Baby?

Not only is shrimp safe for baby but it's nutrient-rich too. Shrimp is a source of iron which helps pregnant individuals produce the extra blood needed to supply oxygen for the developing baby. Shrimp also provides calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, selenium, and choline which are all beneficial for both parent and baby.

Benefits of Eating Shrimp

Cooked shrimp has numerous health benefits. Not only are they low in mercury, along with freshwater trout, salmon, and sardines, but they are high in omega-3 fatty acids, including docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which can support your baby's brain development.

Katie Goldberg, MCN, RDN, LD, a pregnancy dietitian, is a big fan of seafood for pregnant individuals for a variety of nutritional and health reasons.

Shrimp Is High in Protein

According to Goldberg, protein needs increase significantly during pregnancy and, because of this some parents might seek to increase their protein intake. “Shrimp is an excellent lean protein option during pregnancy, with about 20 grams of protein per 3 ounces of shrimp.” For regular shrimp eaters, this is great news. Not only can you continue to eat a food you already enjoy but you can also meet this increased need for protein during pregnancy. For people who do not already eat shrimp, it can be simple to prepare and fast to cook.

Shrimp Is High in Iodine

Shrimp is also a great source of iodine which Goldberg says plays a key role in thyroid hormones for both parent and baby.

Iodine is essential for maternal and fetal thyroid hormone production. These hormones regulate the development of the fetal brain and nervous system and, since iodine requirements increase substantially during pregnancy to ensure adequate supply to the fetus, shrimp is a great way to ensure these needs are met.

Selenium in Shrimp Is Beneficial

Shrimp offers many nutritional benefits, including that it provides selenium which is necessary for a healthy pregnancy. "The selenium found in shrimp may help reduce pregnancy complications, miscarriage, and pre-term labor," says Goldberg. For pregnant shrimp-lovers, this is an obvious plus.

Safety Precautions

During pregnancy, food safety is especially important. Cooked shrimp is considered a safe, low mercury protein but be sure to buy quality shrimp from a reputable source. When purchasing fresh shrimp, be sure the shrimp is clear with a pearl-like color and little or no odor.

There are a few additional precautions to consider when adding shrimp to the menu. Keep baby and parent safe with the following guidelines.

Ensure Shrimp Is Fully Cooked

Terrill recommends consuming fully cooked shrimp only, during pregnancy, "Make sure when eating shrimp it is thoroughly cooked and not raw while pregnant," she says.

Pregnancy is not the time to eat raw shellfish due to the risk of foodborne illness, says Goldberg. So, even If you've eaten raw seafood in the past, it's best to refrain for now and instead err on the side of caution by ensuring all of your seafood is fully cooked.

Keep Shrimp Refrigerated

Keeping shrimp cold and fresh is essential. Goldberg suggests that pregnant people do not consume anything that has been out of refrigeration for more than an hour.

As with the consumption of undercooked shrimp, eating unrefrigerated shrimp puts you at risk of foodborne illnesses which, when pregnant, places you at an increased chance of lengthier illness, hospitalization, or even death.

Stick to 8 to 12 Ounces Per Week

Seafood has many benefits during pregnancy, but unfortunately, virtually all of it is exposed to some level of mercury contamination.

High levels of mercury can damage your baby's developing brain and nervous system. Avoid larger fish, such as big eye tuna or swordfish, who accumulate more mercury in their body's. Enjoy up to 12 ounces of low-mercury options such as shrimp, salmon, or clams.

Don't be afraid to eat any seafood, however. Experts advise pregnant people to eat up to 12 ounces of low-mercury fish or shellfish because it greatly benefits your baby's brain development.

A Word From Verywell

Providing the safest possible environment for the growth of your baby for for feeling good is the ultimate goal. If you can minimize pressure to follow "food rules" (aside from basic food safety), this can make eating during pregnancy and beyond more peaceful, satisfying, and enjoyable.

Goldberg believes in intuitive eating, viewing this approach as a key tool for many pregnant individuals. "If ever there is a time to listen to your body, it’s during pregnancy," she says.

If you enjoy shrimp, eat shrimp in moderation. If not, don't force it! And be sure to speak to a healthcare provider if you have any concerns or questions about food safety during pregnancy.

10 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.
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By Shannon Day
Shannon Day is a freelance writer specializing in parenting, lifestyle, and women's humor. She has been published in several online parenting and lifestyle sites as well as in print. Shannon is also the co-author of Martinis & Motherhood: Tales of Wonder, Woe & WTF?!