During pregnancy, women frequently worry about what can or cannot hurt their baby. While everyone knows (or should know) not to drink or take unprescribed medications during pregnancy, other foods or activities are less well known. One common question during pregnancy is about whether seafood is safe to eat. Many women love eating sushi, shrimp, oysters and other seafood during pregnancy. The question is: Can pregnant women eat shrimp?
Unless you are allergic to shrimp, you can eat shrimp while you are pregnant. There are very few restrictions around eating shrimp, and they can be an extremely healthy part of your diet. Shrimp are known for being rich in protein, iron and omega-3 fatty acids. These omega-3 fatty acids are excellent for helping the baby’s brain to develop properly. In addition, the iron in shrimp can help prevent pregnant women from becoming anemic. Eating shrimp in your diet can help to lower your chances of having a premature delivery.
Obviously, it is still important to monitor your shrimp intake. It is possible to have too much of a good thing. Like everything in life, your shrimp intake should be done in moderation whether you are pregnant or not. According to the Food and Drug Administration, pregnant women should eat less than 12 ounces (340 grams) of shrimp every week. Any shrimp that you do eat should be cleaned properly and thoroughly cooked.
Be Cautious About Mercury Levels
One of the things that pregnant women should watch out for is the amount of mercury in the seafood that they eat. Many fish contain high amounts of mercury, and mercury is known to cause several problems during pregnancy. Too much mercury can lead to mercury poisoning, birth defects, still births or damaged nervous tissue development. This is the main reason why you should only have about two meals containing shrimp each week. You should not exceed this limit because it could lead to too much mercury in your diet. Shrimp is generally safe to eat, but it is only safe if you eat a small amount of it. Always follow the EPA and FDA guidelines regarding seafood intake.
Mercury levels in shrimp can also vary depending on where the shrimp was caught. It is beneficial to find out where the shrimp were caught before you eat. You can find this information from a community health department, the EPA or the FDA. Once you have determined that your shrimp are safe to consume, make sure that they are completely cooked before you enjoy them.
Use These Seafood Precautions for a Healthier Pregnancy
Whatever seafood you choose to eat, you should use certain precautions to make sure that you do not unintentionally eat harmful viruses or bacteria like E.coli. Use the following precautions for a safe, healthy pregnancy.
1. Never Eat Uncooked or Non-Refrigerated Seafood
You should only eat seafood that has been refrigerated and cooked properly. If the seafood says that it was smoked, you should still only eat it if it was cooked in a casserole or other dish. Do not eat any seafood that is labeled nova, jerky, lox, smoked or kippered style. Canned or shelf-stable versions of smoked seafood can be consumed.
2. Do Not Eat Raw Seafood or Shellfish
Do not eat any raw seafood . This includes scallops, sashimi, raw oysters, clams and sushi.
3. Cook Your Seafood Completely
Any fish that you eat should be cooked until it reaches an internal temperature of at least 63 degrees Celsius. This generally will cause the fish to separate into flakes and turn opaque. Oysters, mussels and clams should be cooked until their shells pop open. For scallops, shrimp and lobsters, you should cook them until they are a milky white in color.
4. Use Local Fish Advisories
If there are viruses, mercury or other toxins in the ocean, local fish advisories are issued. Pay attention to these advisories so that you know if there are problems with water pollution or metals in the water. Since it is easier to track local advisories, many pregnant women choose to eat only locally caught fish that they can easily research. Never eat more than 170 grams of fish in a week.
Can Pregnant Women Eat Other Types of Seafood?
Fish that are older or larger have more time to consume mercury than smaller fish. In addition, fish that eat other fish will end up consuming the mercury in the smaller fish and are more likely to have high levels of mercury. According to the FDA and EPA, pregnant women should restrict the amount of shark, swordfish, tilefish and king mackerel that they eat.
Albacore tuna and tuna steak should be limited to just 6 ounces each week. Mercury levels are different for canned tuna. For other types of seafood, limit your intake to 8 to 12 ounces a week or about two normal meals. These reasonably safer fish include trout, anchovies, catfish, pollock, shrimp and salmon.