Is It Safe for Pregnant Women to Eat Shrimp?


Can pregnant women eat shrimp? With the many dietary restrictions expectant mothers have, it may be disheartening to find that shellfish are among the restricted foods. The good news is that in spite of the restrictions, a small amount of shrimp can be a good addition to a pregnancy diet.

Can Pregnant Women Eat Shrimp

Shellfish are among the foods outlined by the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Fish Advisories, created in 2004. While pregnant women should cut out many types of seafood, some types, including shellfish, may be eaten in small portions.

Off-Limits Seafood

According to the advisory, women should not eat large fish because they accumulate mercury in their systems, which winds up in the meat. These include:

  • King Mackerel
  • Swordfish
  • Tilefish
  • Shark

These four seafood items are off-limits for women who are pregnant and women who may become pregnant should discuss dietary restrictions with their doctors. Women planning to start a family are at risk when they eat too many foods that are high in mercury because the element builds up in the bloodstream. It may take considerable time for the mercury levels to drop.

Shrimp Concerns

Since shrimp is among the foods that contain traces of mercury, many women question the safety of eating this type of food. Following guidelines with the help of a physician can make the process of developing a healthy pregnancy diet much easier. The EPA's advisory suggests that women can eat up to 12 ounces of shrimp per week. Some question why anyone would take the chance. Weighing the benefits and drawbacks can help.

The Bottom Line

When developing a healthy diet during pregnancy, stick to the old rule--everything in moderation. WebMD's article Benefits of Fish Outweigh Mercury Risk warns that cutting fish out of a diet may do more harm than good. Some things pregnant women can do include:

  1. Limit servings of shrimp to 12 ounces per week
  2. Do not eat other fish that contain trace levels of mercury in addition to the 12 ounces of shrimp
  3. Check advisories about the level of mercury in local streams, rivers, and coastal waters

Can pregnant women eat shrimp? Yes, they can but there are restrictions. Using the FDA's Mercury Levels in Commercial Fish and Shellfish as a guide can help lead to a decision. Expecting mothers and women planning to become pregnant should talk to their doctors about the best dietary choices for their individual situations.

Additional Information

See Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy and Pregnancy Diet Nutrition Guidelines for more information.

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Is It Safe for Pregnant Women to Eat Shrimp?