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Pregnancy health

Can pregnant women eat shrimp? Sometimes.

Hold the scampi till you read this!

Can pregnant women eat shrimp? Sometimes.

Photo: Erik Putz

When it comes to pregnancy and nutrition, not all seafood is created equal. In fact, there are some types of fish you should avoid until your little one is safely out of the womb.

If you're adding a new set of pans to your baby registries for seafood-inspired meals, or burp cloths to your newborn checklist for a post-seafood smash, it's necessary to know which ocean life lands on the safe list and which to temporarily nix.

Can pregnant women eat shrimp?

Pregnancy cravings might trigger the urge to order shrimp scampi at your favorite restaurant, but is it safe? It depends.

“Fish and shellfish have been shown to be a beneficial addition to a well-balanced pregnancy diet," says Stephanie Brownridge, a Reproductive Endocrinologist at Shady Grove Fertility New York.

"And shrimp offers a rich source of protein and fatty acids."

Shrimp is among the best choices of seafood to eat during pregnancy because of its high protein and low levels of mercury, but like most meat, how the shrimp is prepared is most important.

"The two main concerns with seafood consumption in pregnancy are mercury exposure and risk of infection, such as from bacteria," Brownridge says.

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Cooking shrimp thoroughly can help prevent the risk of foodborne illness.

Shrimp can be a great source of omega-3 fatty acids and protein, though it's suggested these mouth-watering shellfish are eaten in moderation to limit your intake of saturated fats.

Are raw shrimp safe for pregnancy?

Sorry, but long gone are the days of snacking on trendy raw shrimp sushi with spicy sauce—at least, while pregnant.

"Shellfish (like shrimp) should be thoroughly cooked, and raw shellfish should be avoided during pregnancy," Brownridge says. And if you're wondering, similar guidelines apply to eating crab when pregnant.

But that doesn't mean you can't enjoy it at all.

close up of pregnant woman urine urgency at home RyanKing999/ Getty Images

Are cooked shrimp safe for pregnancy?

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With both fresh shrimp and frozen on the "safe seafood" list, it seems like a great choice for a protein-rich meal or an in-between snack for quick energy—but shrimp must be fully cooked through.

"Several types of seafood that are low in mercury and thoroughly cooked are not only safe but offer a healthy dietary option to ensure the nutritional needs of pregnancy are met," Brownridge adds.

Are shrimp healthy?

Shellfish including shrimp are a nutritious choice and good source of vitamins in pregnancy. Pregnant women can enjoy up to two to three servings of shrimp per week as part of a healthy, balanced diet.

And, while there are plenty of other seafood options safe to eat, shrimp provides 24 grams of protein for every 100 grams making your next date night entree an easy choice.

Shrimp is high in cholesterol though, so be sure not to overdo it if you've been told to watch your dietary cholesterol intake or are concerned about heart health and heart disease.

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We'll toast a hot shrimp cocktail to all the health benefits these delicious crustaceans have to offer!

FAQs

What is the nutritional value of cooked shrimp?

Shrimp is an excellent source of vitamin B12, a necessary part of healthy pregnancy. Each serving of cooked shrimp provides roughly 1.4 mcg,  or almost half of the daily value (DV) a pregnant woman requires. Shrimp is also a good source of phosphorus, providing about 201 mg per serving.

Hard-to-find choline is also found in cooked shrimp, without about 10% of a pregnant woman's daily requirements being found per serving. Plus, these popular shellfish have a bit of calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc and other must-have minerals.

Each four-ounce serving of shrimp contains about 80 calories, making this a fairly modest way to meet your protein requirements. And yes—it's better to have steamed or boiled shrimp than a hot dog, greasy fast food burger or even buttered steak (if you're wondering).

What are the best shrimp recipes for pregnancy?

Well, that depends on your personal taste and preference, but we like this collection of shrimp recipes you should probably make right now.

When can pregnant women eat raw shrimp?

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Not when pregnant—ever. The risks just outweigh the benefits according to health experts and the Food and Drug Administration. If you're absolutely devoted to raw shrimp, wait till after baby arrives. A good shrimp sushi adventure is never more than a few months away.

This article was originally published on May 10, 2023

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