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Can You Eat Shrimp While Pregnant?

Is shrimp safe during pregnancy? Here’s what the experts say.
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By Nehal Aggarwal, Editor
Updated April 1, 2024
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There are so many dietary limitations placed on moms-to-be and pregnant people that it can be hard to know what’s safe and what’s not—especially when it comes to seafood. Certain types of fish is higher in mercury and not recommended for regular consumption. So can pregnant women eat shrimp? Below, ob-gyns break down everything to know about eating shrimp while pregnant, including safety precautions to take, recommended amounts, benefits and more.

Can You Eat Shrimp While Pregnant

Can pregnant women eat shrimp? In short: Yes. As long as it’s fully cooked, shrimp is actually a great choice for moms-to-be during all three trimesters because it’s a low-mercury seafood, alongside salmon, pollack, sardines and catfish, says Laura Riley, MD, chair of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Weill Cornell Medicine. “The seafood that pregnant women should avoid completely are the high-mercury ones, such as shark, tilefish, swordfish and king mackerel.”

That said, Riley caveats you should still limit your consumption of low-mercury seafood, including shrimp, to between 8 and 12 ounces weekly, as recommended by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Moreover, ensure the seafood you eat in pregnancy is thoroughly cooked. “Go to a place where you know you’ll get well-prepared food. You don’t want to get bad shrimp,” Riley says.

Benefits of Eating Shrimp While Pregnant

On the whole, eating shellfish and other low-mercury fish during pregnancy may have some benefits for you and baby. According to Cynthia DeTata, MD, an ob-gyn at Stanford Medicine Children’s Health and clinical assistant professor in maternal-fetal medicine at Stanford Medicine, eating shrimp while pregnant and other shellfish may actually decrease the risk of preterm birth—a finding that’s also been shown in studies. Research has also found that eating shellfish and shrimp during pregnancy may also help decrease risks of low birth weight.

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DeTata notes that shellfish contain tons of beneficial nutrients for baby, including protein, selenium, iodine and Vitamin D. “They also contain long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA),” she adds. “PUFAs are essential fatty acids that are needed for membrane development and cell growth.”

Alongside benefits for baby, shrimp also has benefits for moms-to-be. It’s low in carbs, but high in protein, which can make it beneficial for those at risk for gestational diabetes, explains Alicia Robbins, MD, a board-certified ob-gyn and founder of The Elm in Greenwich, Connecticut,

Safety Precautions for Eating Shrimp During Pregnancy

When it comes to eating shrimp during pregnancy, you’ll want to:

  • Stick to the recommended amount: Keep consumption between 8 to 12 ounces weekly. “Shrimp has one of the lowest amounts of mercury of seafood, so you’re relatively safe consuming more shrimp than tuna for example,” DeTata says. However, though a low-mercury seafood, it still may contain trace amounts of the toxin.
  • Ensure it’s fully cooked: Raw foods, including shrimp, carry the risk of bacteria and parasites such as listeria, toxoplasma, E. coli and salmonella, all of which can cause sickness and food poisoning. “With the immune suppression of pregnancy, you’re even more at risk when eating infected raw shrimp,” DeTata says. “Being ill with a high fever is not good during pregnancy, and some infections can increase the risk of miscarriage or preterm birth.” You also want to ensure the shrimp is fresh and safely prepared, Robbins adds.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you eat shrimp cocktail while pregnant?

“You can eat shrimp cocktails since they are thoroughly cooked,” Robbins says. That said, you may want to use your best judgment if the food has been sitting out at room temperature for a long time, as it may no longer be fresh.

Can you eat raw shrimp while pregnant?

It’s not recommended. As mentioned, experts note eating raw shrimp increases the risk of ingesting harmful bacteria and food poisoning, which can be dangerous during pregnancy. Cooked shrimp (fried, boiled, etc.) is safest.

Can you eat prawns in pregnancy?

Though they have some subtle differences (i.e. prawns are larger), Robbins says they’re “in the same class as shrimp and can be considered safe in pregnancy” as long as they’re fully cooked.

Eating shrimp during pregnancy is a great way to ensure you’re getting protein in your pregnancy diet along with beneficial nutrients. Just be mindful of a couple of safety precautions, and, as always, reach out to your provider with any specific questions.

Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.

Sources

Cynthia DeTata, MD, is an ob-gyn at Stanford Medicine Children’s Health and clinical assistant professor in maternal-fetal medicine at Stanford Medicine. She earned her medical degree from University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine and completed her residency at Kaiser Permanente in Santa Clara.

Laura Riley, MD, is a board-certified obstetrician who specializes in high risk pregnancies. She serves as the department chair of obstetrics and gynecology at Weill Cornell Medicine, as well as the obstetrician and gynecologist-in-chief at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, based in New York City. She received her medical degree and completed her residency at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

Alicia Robbins, MD, is a board-certified ob-gyn and founder of The Elm, a boutique women’s health practice in Greenwich, Connecticut. She graduated from medical school and residency at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. She worked at Mount Sinai Hospital before relocating to Greenwich, Connecticut, where she practices at The Elm and Greenwich Hospital.

Food and Drug Administration, Advice about Eating Fish, March 2024

BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, Maternal seafood consumption and fetal growth: a birth cohort study in urban China, April 2023

BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, Maternal intake of seafood and supplementary long chain n-3 poly-unsaturated fatty acids and preterm delivery, January 2017

Learn how we ensure the accuracy of our content through our editorial and medical review process.

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