Family Life

Can A Pregnant Woman Eat Shrimp: Your Guide On Foods To Take And Avoid

Can a pregnant woman eat shrimp? Does it hurt the baby if she does? These are just some of the questions commonly asked by pregnant women to ensure she won’t harm the baby, rather keep the baby safe and healthy while inside the womb.


Every pregnant woman wants nothing but the best for her baby. That is why when it comes to her day to day diet, she will eat anything just to make sure the baby gets all the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals he or she needs.


But the thing is, while we thought we can anything we want when we are pregnant, some food, apparently, must be avoided.


I remember when I was pregnant, I had a hard time eating especially during the first few months of pregnancy. Whatever I consume, I would always end up throwing it up. That is why, when I eat something and I did not vomit, I would eat the very same kind of food for the rest of the week.


It was quite a challenge, indeed. Needless to say, there were times when I wanted to eat something that is either out of season or has been tagged as one of the foods to avoid when pregnant. I remember when I was pregnant, I would also ask if can a pregnant woman eat shrimp and other seafood. While some say yes, others say no.


But really, what’s behind this? Is it really safe or not?


Pregnancy Diet and Nutrition


First and foremost, before we talk about can a pregnant woman eat shrimp or other seafood, I think it’s best to understand what is the right pregnancy diet and nutrition a pregnant woman needs.


What I learned from my personal pregnancy journey was, what a woman eats and drinks while she is pregnant is very important because it is her baby’s main source of nourishment too. What you get from eating or drinking a certain type of food is basically the same thing that your baby gets.


No wonder why experts highly recommend that a mom-to-be’s diet must include a variety of nutritious and healthy foods and beverages – that is to ensure that the mom and most importantly, the baby gets all the essential nutrients for his or her development and growth.


Key Nutrition for Pregnant Women


According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, when a woman is pregnant, she needs more calcium, iron, folic acid, and protein intake compared to a not expecting woman. Here’s why:


– Calcium


Calcium is a mineral that is responsible for building a baby’s bones and teeth. Needless to say, the mom also needs more calcium in order to ensure that her bones won’t go brittle as the pregnancy progresses.


Now, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, when a pregnant woman does not take enough calcium during her pregnancy, the mineral will then be drawn from the mom’s stores in her bones, which will then be given to the baby in order to meet the added demands of pregnancy. When that happens, the mom’s calcium storage in the body will suffer, which may lead to further problems.


While you can take calcium supplements, there are also many dairy products available that do not only provide calcium but also contains or are fortified with vitamin D, which is another nutrient that works with calcium to help develop healthy bones and teeth for your baby.


Just so you know, according to ACOG, a pregnant woman aged 19 and above needs 1,000 milligrams of calcium on a daily basis. Meanwhile, pregnant women aged 14 to 18 years old will need 1,300 milligrams every day.


Some of the common food sources of calcium include milk, cheese, calcium-fortified juices, yogurt, and foods like sardines or salmon with bones, as well as some leafy greens such as kale and bok choy.


– Iron


Iron is another very essential mineral that every pregnant woman needs. In fact, according to ACOG, pregnant women must take 27 milligrams of iron every day during her pregnancy. Basically, it is double the amount needed by women who are not pregnant.


Additional iron intake is vital to make more blood, which is used to supply the baby with oxygen while he or she is inside your womb. As you know, oxygen helps sustain life. The absence of it may cause death to the baby inside mommy’s womb. In addition, getting too little of this mineral during pregnancy may lead to certain health conditions like anemia, fatigue, as well as having an increased risk of getting infections.


ACOG recommends that to be able to increase iron absorption in the body, a pregnant woman must take it along with a good source of vitamin C during the same meal. For instance, if you are eating an iron-fortified cereal during breakfast, add a glass of fresh orange juice, which is known to have high vitamin C content.


Apart from iron-fortified cereal, other foods that are also a good source of iron are poultry, fish, meat, and dried beans and peas.


– Folic Acid


Folic acid, also commonly known as folate is a B vitamin that is essential to help prevent birth defects among babies – particularly in the baby’s brain as well as the spinal cord, also known as neural tube defects.


According to experts, it is quite hard to recommend a specific amount of folic acid from diet alone. That is why an organization that is dedicated to preventing birth defects, the March Dimes, recommends that those women who are planning or trying to conceive must take a daily vitamin supplement that contains 400 micrograms of folic acid every day. This must be taken for at least one month before pregnancy.


Meanwhile, during pregnancy, March Dimes recommends an increased folic acid intake to 600 micrograms per day. This amount though is commonly found in most daily prenatal vitamins.


To help you with your folic acid needs, you may also include foods that are rich in folic acid like bread and pasta, beans, citrus fruits, fortified or enriched cereals, as well as leafy green vegetables.


– Protein


Last on the list of essential nutrients and minerals for pregnant women is protein. During pregnancy, women need more protein as it helps build important organs for the baby – including the brain and the heart. Good thing is, most women do not have problems getting their daily protein needs.


Common protein sources are dried beans and peas, eggs, nuts, tofu, as well as meat, poultry, and fish.


Foods to Eat During Pregnancy


Maintaining a healthy diet while you are pregnant is very, very important. It is during this season of your life that your body needs additional nutrients, vitamins, and minerals not only for you but also for the growing human inside your body.


In fact, experts say that women who are pregnant may need additional 350-500 calories every day, especially during the second and third trimesters. A diet that lacks key nutrients may negatively affect your baby’s development.


In addition, poor eating habits, as well as excess weight, may also pose a threat to your health. It’s in fact, common among pregnant women to develop gestational diabetes or pregnancy or birth complications when your nutrient intake is insufficient.


To put it simply, before you even think can a pregnant woman eat shrimp, think instead of what a pregnant woman needs to eat during this time.


Although I have already mentioned earlier some of the food that provides essential nutrients for pregnant women, here are some more:


  1. Dairy products – These ones are a great source of protein and calcium, which are very important to meet the needs of your growing baby.
  2. Legumes – Legumes are an excellent source of iron, folate, protein, fiber, as well as calcium, which are all needed by your body during pregnancy.
  3. Sweet Potatoes – Sweet potatoes are apparently high in beta-carotene, which is a plant compound that is converted into vitamin A (which is essential for the growth and differentiation of tissues as well as most cells) once in your body.
  4. Salmon – Salmon is a great source for essential omega-3 fatty acids, which is also vital in the development of your baby particularly its DHA and EPA content.
  5. Eggs – Believe it or not, it’s the ultimate health food. Eggs contain almost every nutrient a pregnant woman needs.
  6. Dark, Leafy Vegetables – They contain many nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, calcium, iron, folate, fiber, and potassium – all of which are essential for pregnant women.
  7. Lean Meat – Lean meat is an excellent source of high-quality protein. In addition, beef and pork, in particular, are also good sources of iron, choline, and other B vitamins.
  8. Berries – Berries are packed with essential nutrients like fiber, healthy carbs, as well as vitamin C and water.
  9. Whole Grains – Whole grains help pregnant women meet their daily calorie requirements, particularly in the second and last trimester. It is also packed with vitamins and plant compounds as well as fiber.


In addition to this list, a pregnant woman must also increase her water intake to keep hydrated. Please note that these are just some of the essential foods. More food types can still be added on this list. Also, take into consideration that every pregnant woman is different. Thus, I highly suggest you consult your healthcare provider regarding the ideal pregnancy diet for you.


Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy


If you thought you can eat anything and everything you want while pregnant, well, unfortunately, not. There are some food choices that must be avoided during pregnancy. Here’s a list of foods to avoid from Mayo Clinic:


  1. Undercooked Poultry, Meat, and Eggs


When a woman is pregnant, she becomes more susceptible to bacterial food poisoning, thus the need to ensure that poultry, meat, and eggs are well-cooked. Please know that when a pregnant woman is food poisoned, it will affect the baby too.


Mayo Clinic says, to avoid foodborne illnesses, make sure to:


  • Fully cook all meats and poultry before eating. You may opt to use a meat thermometer to make sure you are cooking it properly.
  • Cook hot dogs and luncheon meats until they’re steaming hot — or avoid them completely. Just so you know, these canned foods can be sources of a rare but potentially serious foodborne illness known as listeriosis. If possible, avoid them completely while you are pregnant.
  • Avoid refrigerated pates and meat spreads. If you can’t help it, opt to canned and shelf-stable versions instead.
  • Cook eggs until the egg yolks and whites are firm. We all know that raw eggs can be contaminated with harmful bacteria. Thus, avoid taking foods that are made using raw or partially cooked eggs like eggnog, raw batter, and freshly made or homemade hollandaise sauce, as well as Caesar salad dressing.


  1. Raw, Undercooked or Contaminated Seafood


Raw, undercooked or contaminated seafood could be very harmful to both you and your baby as they may contain destructive bacteria or viruses. To avoid such, make sure to:


  • Avoid eating raw fish or shellfish like sashimi, sushi, raw oyster, clams, or scallop.
  • Avoid consuming refrigerated or uncooked seafood like seafood labeled nova style, smoked, kippered, lox, or jerky.
  • Understand/pay attention to local fish advisories. This applies to those who eat fish from local waters. Make sure to pay attention to fish advisories particularly concerning water pollution.
  • Make sure to cook seafood properly. Ideally, you must cook fish to an internal temperature of 145 F or 63 C. To know if the fish is well-cooked, it must separate into flakes and appears opaque all throughout. Meanwhile, when cooking shrimp, lobster, and scallops, make sure that they turn into milky white. As with mussels, oysters, and clams, they are cooked when their shells are already open.


  1. Seafood with High Mercury Levels


Although seafood is an excellent source of protein, as well as omega-3 fatty acids, which helps promote brain and eye development, there are some types of fish and shellfish that can be dangerous for your baby because of high mercury levels. Just so you know, a high mercury level could harm the development of your baby’s nervous system.


According to experts, the bigger and older the fish is, the more likely it is to contain higher mercury levels. According to the Food and Drug Administration or FDA, pregnant women must avoid consumption of the following:


  • Swordfish
  • Shark
  • King mackerel
  • Tilefish


Wondering if can a pregnant woman eat shrimp? Well, according to experts, shrimps contain low mercury content, thus, it is likely safe to eat shrimp – but better if taken in moderation, and that it is well-cooked.


  1. Unpasteurized Foods


Unpasteurized foods can lead to foodborne diseases. Thus, make sure to avoid them while you are pregnant. Meanwhile, you can add low-fat dairy products like mozzarella cheese, skim milk, and cottage cheese to your daily diet instead. Avoid drinking unpasteurized juices as well.


  1. Unwashed Fruits and Vegetables


Washing fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating helps eliminate harmful bacteria. Meanwhile, avoid eating raw sprouts like radish, bean, and alfalfa to name a few as they may contain disease-causing bacteria. When cooking them, make sure to cook them properly.


  1. Alcohol


Taking alcoholic drinks is definitely a big no-no among pregnant women. In fact, there is no level of alcohol intake that has been proven safe for pregnant women. According to experts, pregnant women who drink alcohol during pregnancy have a higher risk of miscarriage or stillbirth. In addition, too much alcohol intake during pregnancy can lead to fetal alcohol syndrome, which may cause facial deformities on your baby as well as intellectual disability.


  1. Caffeine


Although it’s safe to take a few sips, it’s better to totally avoid caffeine while you are pregnant. Know that too much caffeine intake may cross the placenta. Although how it affects your baby is unclear, to be safe, stay away from it for the meantime.


  1. Herbal Tea


Although there is very little data on the effects of herbal teas on developing babies, better be on the safe side. Avoid drinking it unless your doctor says it’s fine.


Can Pregnant Woman Eat Shrimp?


Although there are certain types of seafood that must be avoided during pregnancy, fortunately, shrimp is not one of them – provided of course it’s properly prepared and cooked.


Unlike other seafood, shrimp contain low levels of mercury. Needless to say, it is also low in fat content, but high in protein, which makes it a healthy food choice for expecting moms.


But just like any other foods, shrimp must be taken in moderation. Research suggests that eating between 8 and 12 ounces of shellfish (including shrimp) or fish per week or equivalent to two or three meals is ideal for pregnant women.


Can pregnant woman eat shrimp? The answer is yes! But it is very important to avoid taking raw shrimp like the ones in sushi or sashimi. If you love these foods, better stay away from them for now as it is not healthy to eat them while you are pregnant.


Moreover, it is also best if you know where the shrimp came from as according to research, mercury levels of seafood depends on where they are caught. The best way to know where it comes from it is through your community health department.


Final Thoughts


With all that’s been said, I guess it is safe to say that when a woman is pregnant, she has to be very careful in whatever she takes in as it may also affect the baby in her womb.


Whereas with the question, can pregnant woman eat shrimp, it’s good knowing that it is relatively safe for as long as you know where it came from, and that it was prepared and cooked well enough.