It's stressful to be pregnant. Not only are you dealing with tons of symptom, but you also have to worry about whether or not you're doing the best thing for the growing life inside of you. Pregnant women are often told that there are things they shouldn't be eating, but this kind of guidance can bring up a lot of questions. You want to avoid foods that have a risk for contamination, but doctors also want you to eat healthy items like protein. For seafood lovers, knowing if shrimp is safe to eat during pregnancy can be very helpful when making those meal plans.
Eating Shellfish & Seafood During Pregnancy
Seafood and shellfish are often considered types of foods that put you at a higher risk of foodborne illness. This is something anyone would want to avoid, obviously, but especially pregnant women. Pregnant women are more prone to foodborne illnesses because their immune system is suppressed due to the change in hormones, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It's harder for their bodies to fight off these illnesses because their bodies are doing so much work to, you know, grow a baby.
And food poisoning when pregnant isn't just annoying: it can be extremely dangerous. Side effects like fatigue, fever, and dehydration can all be damaging for a growing fetus, and foodborne illnesses like listeria (which pregnant women are 10 times more likely to get, reported the ACOG) can even lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, or preterm labor. So, it's safe to say that pregnant women should be a little extra cautious about what they're eating.
Eating Food With Mercury During Pregnancy
The other concern about pregnant women eating seafood is the mercury content. Consuming high levels of mercury during pregnant can expose the baby to that mercury, which can potentially lead to brain damage and hearing and vision problems. It can also negatively affect the mother.
But this doesn't mean you should avoid shrimp completely during pregnancy. Dr. Zaher Merhi, board-certified OBGYN, tells Romper that it's OK to eat shrimp during pregnancy, as long as it is fully cooked. "Shrimp has a lower mercury content than other seafoods," Merhi says, but that doesn't mean you should overdo it. In other words: maybe keep your shrimp meals to once a week.
Benefits Of Eating Shrimp During Pregnancy
And while you don't want to eat too much shrimp, it can also be good for you. "Shrimp is a great source of omega-threes and low in fat. It's perfectly safe for pregnancy — as long as it's not raw," says Dr. Kim Langdon, OB-GYN of Medzino.
If you're still hesitant or overly concerned, definitely speak with your doctor about the potential risks of eating shrimp. If you're preparing the shrimp yourself, make sure it is fully cooked before eating, and if you're getting it at a restaurant or buying it already prepared, make sure you trust where you're buying it from.
And just because shrimp is safe doesn't mean all seafood is safe during pregnancy. Tuna, swordfish, and other fish high in mercury should be avoided, Merhi says, as well as raw fish like sushi. He also recommends avoiding "unpasteurized cheeses and milks, raw/undercooked eggs," and you should try to heat any deli meats you consume.
Dr. Zaher Merhi, MD, HCLD, FACOG, board-certified OBGYN, and the Founder of Rejuvenating Fertility Center
Dr. Kim Langdon, OB-GYN of Medzino