It’s safe for pregnant women to eat 8 to 12 ounces of shrimp each week, as it has a low mercury content and contains healthy nutrients like protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and iron.
Pregnant women can also safely eat low-mercury seafood like clams, cod, haddock, scallops, sardines.
But pregnant women should avoid all high-mercury seafood, including king mackerel, marlin, orange roughy, swordfish, and bigeye tuna.
Pregnancy comes with a whole new set of health guidelines to make sure you and your baby are in tip-top shape. It’s important to be aware of everything that you’re putting into your body during pregnancy, and how it affects the baby.
There are some commonly known dietary restrictions – like nixing alcohol – but the lines blur when it comes to seafood. Here’s what you need to know about eating shrimp and other seafood during pregnancy.
Yes, shrimp is safe to consume in pregnancy
It is safe to eat shrimp during pregnancy, says Jonathan Schaffir, MD, OB/GYN at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. According to Schaffir, there is not a hard limit for how much shrimp you can eat, as long as the shrimp is fully cooked.
Shrimp is actually one of the safest seafood options for pregnant women, since they have low mercury content compared to other types of seafood. Schaffir says fully cooked shrimp will not pose a risk to pregnant women, but any uncooked seafood has the potential of causing intestinal infection or hepatitis.
Shrimp is rich in nutrients that can be beneficial to pregnancy – like protein, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, and iron. According to the FDA, pregnant women can consume eight to 12 ounces of low-mercury seafood like shrimp every week.
Other seafoods that are safe to consume include:
Find a full list of seafood that is safe to eat during pregnancy here.
Seafood to avoid during pregnancy
While many seafood options are beneficial and nutritious during pregnancy, some seafood should be avoided, particularly seafood that is high in mercury. Mercury is a toxin that is harmful to the brain and nervous system of the developing fetus, Schaffir says.
Mercury is likely to accumulate in larger fish that live for a long time. High-mercury fish include:
Find a full list of seafood to avoid during pregnancy here.
It’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to these fish. “These fish should be avoided in pregnancy. However, if someone had a serving, and then found out she was pregnant, it would not be a reason to panic, since one serving is not likely to be dangerous,” says Schaffir.
Schaffir says high levels of mercury can increase the risk of the following conditions for the fetus:
Shrimp is one of the safest options for seafood to eat during pregnancy, and the nutrients in shrimp are beneficial to both the mother and baby. Just make sure that the shrimp is fully cooked, so you don’t get sick.
And while there are other low mercury seafood options that are safe to consume during pregnancy, you should try to avoid eating high mercury fish entirely.