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Is It Okay to Eat Shrimp While Pregnant?

written by: Keren Perles • edited by: Rhonda Callow • updated: 3/25/2010

If you’re pregnant, you might be wondering, “Can pregnant women eat shrimp?” Surprising enough, the answer is not so straightforward. Read on for information about the issue of eating shrimp while pregnant.

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    The Two Issues of Eating Shrimp While Pregnant

    There’s a long list of foods that pregnant women should avoid or limit, much to every pregnant woman’s dismay. But can pregnant women eat shrimp? Some would say it’s best to avoid it, while others would advise not to worry about it at all. The truth lies somewhere in the middle.

    There are two main reasons that people might avoid eating shrimp while pregnant. First of all, many types of fish have been found to contain very high levels of mercury, which can be toxic at certain levels. Secondly, undercooked fish carries with it a risk of listeria, a bacterial infection that can be especially dangerous for pregnant women.

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    Shrimp and Mercury

    Shrimp can be a nutritious choice for pregnant women, containing both protein and iron. At the same time, it can also contain mercury. Mercury isn’t as much of a concern for most healthy adults, but it can build up in the blood of pregnant women and affect the fetus’s developing nervous system. Therefore, experts recommend that pregnant women keep their intake of shrimp and many other types of fish (light tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish) to a total of 12 ounces a week. This should keep the level of mercury in the bloodstream at a safe level.

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    Shrimp and Listeria

    Listeria is a bacterial infection that people can get from eating undercooked meat, poultry, seafood, or eggs. In order to minimize your risk of listeria, cook all shrimp until it is milky white. Do not eat shrimp that someone else has cooked if you’re not sure how well it has been cooked. And most importantly, do not eat raw shrimp.

    So can pregnant women eat shrimp? Sure. As long as they stay within the recommended limit and make sure that the shrimp is cooked sufficiently, shrimp can be a healthy part of a pregnant woman’s diet.