Can You Eat Shrimp During Pregnancy?

Pregnancy can feel like an overwhelming responsibility. Suddenly, there are lists of dos and don’ts. You begin paying attention to things you paid no mind to before. All because you are concerned about the new life growing inside of you.

Key takeaways:
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    Nutrition during pregnancy is incredibly important for the health of you and your developing baby.
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    Pregnant people are able to and should eat properly cooked shrimp as part of a balanced diet.
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    Shrimp and all seafood provide a great source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids and iron.
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    While there is a very long list of seafood that pregnant people should consume, there are also some fish that should not be consumed during pregnancy.

Pregnancy nutrition is incredibly important for many reasons. The list of foods you should eat can feel just as long as the list of foods you should not eat. The ‘rules’ surrounding seafood consumption can be confusing.

Can pregnant women eat shrimp?

Yes! Pregnant women can and should eat cooked shrimp. Shrimp is part of the shellfish family. Seafood and shellfish can have a bad reputation among pregnant individuals because they can harbor bacteria and viruses that can be harmful to your unborn baby. Let’s review the nutritional benefits of shrimp and some guidelines around consuming seafood when you are expecting.

What are the benefits of eating shrimp?

Seafood can have enormous benefits for your developing baby and for your body that is doing tremendous work creating life. Seafood and shellfish, including shrimp, are protein morsels filled with omega fatty acids, and iron. Shrimp contain these vitally important nutrients for you and your growing baby.

Proteins

Protein intake during pregnancy is directly responsible for the survival, growth and development of you baby. Limited protein consumption is linked to pregnancy losses, intra-uterine growth restriction (IUGR) and decreased infant growth after delivery. Excessive protein intake is linked to embryonic death and IUGR. Protein consumed during pregnancy guides fetal DNA programming and can have lifelong effects.

A protein balance is vital during pregnancy. Low protein intake has been linked to pre-term labor and pre-eclampsia because of the lack of specific amino acid-building blocks of protein byproducts. Studies have found that protein intake should increase slightly throughout pregnancy because of the demands of the developing baby. The current recommendations per day are 0.88 to 1.1 grams/kilogram (g/kg) of body weight per day. However, a recent study found that 1.2 to 1.52g/kg of body weight per day may be more beneficial. A three-ounce serving of shrimp can offer nearly 20g of protein.

Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acid intake is essential during pregnancy. These essential fatty acids provide the building blocks for your developing baby’s brain tissue and the retina, which is a key part of the vision. Studies have also discovered that omega-3 fatty acid intake is important during lactation. It has been linked to better infant psychomotor development and decreased risk of infant allergies. Omega-3 fatty acids have an important role in your body regardless of pregnancy. A balanced intake of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids may decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, and osteoarthritis. In pregnancy, studies have also found that omega-3 fatty acids may play a role in the length of pregnancy and in preventing maternal depression. The most active forms of omega-3 fatty acids – eicosatetraenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) – are found in seafood and algae. Pregnant women should consume about 200mg of DHA per day which is about one to two servings of seafood a week. Omega-3 fatty acids can also be supplemented and are often included in prenatal vitamins. A three-ounce serving of shrimp contains 267mg of omega-3 fatty acids.

Iron

The body requires a greater amount of iron during pregnancy to fulfill the needs of your growing baby and the increased blood volume of your own body. Blood volume increases from 40% to 60% during pregnancy, mostly due to an increase in the plasma part of the blood. Plasma contains proteins, antibodies, and clotting factors. Because the plasma increase is greater than the red blood cell increase, pregnant women are at greater risk for iron deficiency anemia. Iron is necessary for making hemoglobin, the protein part of your red blood cell that carries oxygen throughout the body.

Iron deficiency can be a real risk for you and possibly for your baby. Iron deficiency anemia can make you feel tired and weak. Thankfully, most studies have shown that maternal iron deficiency anemia has a limited negative impact on your developing baby. Currently, it is recommended that pregnant women get 27mg of iron per day to fulfill the body and the developing baby’s needs. Iron is often included in prenatal vitamins, but food sources are important as well. A three-ounce serving of shrimp can provide up to 0.5mg of iron.

What you should consider when eating shrimp

Shrimp is a popular seafood that can be prepared in many ways. It is important to know safe and unsafe preparations of shrimp when you are expecting.

Can you eat cooked shrimp while pregnant?

Yes! Shrimp cooked to an appropriate temperature, from a safe source is perfectly acceptable to consume when pregnant. This includes multiple preparations such as cold shrimp cocktail, shrimp tempura, boiled, fried, baked, roasted or grilled shrimp.

Can you eat raw shrimp while pregnant?

No! Shrimp is raw shellfish and should not be consumed during pregnancy. Raw shellfish can harbor dangerous bacteria that can be harmful to your baby. Your body is in an immune-compromised state during pregnancy and therefore may have difficulty combating a bacterial infection.

You may wonder, can pregnant women eat shrimp ceviche? The answer is still no. While ceviche includes raw fish that have been “cooked” in citrus juices this is not a suitable cooking method that would kill harmful bacteria like other fish preparations. In fact, raw fish or shellfish of any kind should not be eaten during pregnancy. This includes sushi, sashimi, and raw oysters, scallops or clams.

What other seafood you can eat during pregnancy?

Two to three servings a week of high nutrient, safe seafood can be included in your diet while pregnant. An appropriate serving size of fish is eight to 12 ounces. Safe seafood options include:

  • Anchovies.
  • Catfish.
  • Cod.
  • Herring.
  • Pacific oysters.
  • Pollock.
  • Sardines.
  • Salmon.
  • Tilapia.
  • Trout.
  • Canned or shelf stable low-mercury fish such as tuna.
  • Smoked fish that has been cooked.

What seafood you should avoid during pregnancy?

Some seafood is very high in mercury, an element that can be harmful to your developing baby’s nervous system. The following high-mercury fishes are best avoided during pregnancy:

  • Bigeye.
  • Tuna.
  • King Mackerel.
  • Marlin.
  • Orange Roughy.
  • Swordfish.
  • Shark.
  • Tile fish.

There are other types of seafood or preparations that you should be considerate of when pregnant:

Refrigerated, uncooked seafood should be avoided. This includes seafood such as salmon that is nova style, lox, kippered, smoked or jerky.

Cook seafood to 145 F.

Fish should be flaky and opaque/milky when cooked to proper temperature. Clams, mussels and oysters should be cooked until the shells open. Do not eat any mollusks whose shells do not open.

Be aware of local fish advisories.

If you are eating local seafood, be aware of any local fish advisories such as water pollution. Ensure that local fish is safe for eating.

Nutrition during pregnancy is incredibly important. If you have any concerns about the foods you should and should not consume, do not hesitate to speak with your healthcare provider.

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