Man kissing forehead of expectant mother holding plate of shrimpShare on Pinterest

You’re out for a special dinner and eyeing the surf and turf. You know you need to order the steak well done, but what about the shrimp? Can you even eat it?

Yes, pregnant women can, in fact, eat shrimp. That doesn’t mean it should become your go-to daily meal, but it does mean you and baby can benefit from some of the great nutrients in shrimp.

Let’s look a little more closely at some of the recommendations for eating shrimp and other seafood during pregnancy, as well as a few safety precautions.

As far as eating shrimp during pregnancy, some women avoid it like the plague because they’ve been told that all seafood is off limits. But while it’s true that you should avoid some types of seafood during pregnancy, shrimp isn’t on the list.

In fact, according to the Food and Drug Administration, seafood can provide pregnant and breastfeeding women with nutrients to help their baby’s growth and development. Still, it’s important to have a clear understanding of which seafoods are safe, and which seafoods to avoid.

Basically, you’ll need to avoid any seafood that’s high in mercury. This is important because eating too much mercury can damage a growing baby’s nervous system. Seafood with high mercury levels include:

  • swordfish
  • shark
  • king mackerel
  • tilefish
  • fresh tuna
  • orange roughy

Seafood that contains little mercury, on the other hand, is completely safe to eat during pregnancy. This includes shrimp — but not only shrimp. If your taste buds are screaming for seafood in general, you can switch it up and eat any of the following:

  • shrimp
  • pollack
  • catfish
  • salmon
  • trout
  • canned tuna
  • cod
  • tilapia

Don’t forget that these still contain mercury — just not as much. As a general guideline, pregnant women should eat no more than 8 to 12 ounces (two or three servings) of seafood per week.

A healthy diet during pregnancy can help ensure a healthy baby.

Shrimp and other types of seafood are extremely healthy because they include many of the vitamins and nutrients you need. For example, seafood is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.

According to research, omega-3 fatty acids such as the ones found in seafood could potentially reduce the risk of preterm birth when consumed during pregnancy. In addition, babies born to mothers with adequate omega-3 intake were less likely to have a low birth weight.

Omega-3s are also believed to be crucial for fetal brain and eye development. That’s why so many prenatal vitamins include them — but if you can get these fatty acids from your diet, that’s an added bonus.

Eating seafood during pregnancy also provides your body with protein, vitamin B-2, and vitamin D. Plus, seafood and shrimp are a source of iron, magnesium, and potassium. Eating iron-rich foods during pregnancy helps your body produce extra blood for you and baby. This can fight iron deficiency anemia and give you more energy during your pregnancy.

Just because shrimp is safe to eat during pregnancy doesn’t mean that there aren’t a few safety precautions.

To be safe, avoid raw seafood entirely during pregnancy. Pregnancy can wreak havoc on your immune system. So when you eat undercooked seafood, there’s the risk of getting a foodborne illness — and let’s be honest, that’s the last thing you want to deal with during pregnancy. Plus, it can be more dangerous for baby.

Therefore, avoid raw sushi, sashimi, oysters, ceviche, and any other types of uncooked seafood. Keep in mind that this may not mean you have to say goodbye to sushi entirely for those 9 months — most sushi restaurants have cooked options that include fried shrimp or other safe seafood preparation.

Which brings us to our next point: When ordering seafood at a restaurant, always confirm that dishes are fully cooked. And when preparing your seafood at home, make sure it’s cooked thoroughly and has an internal temperature of 145°F (62.8°C). Consider investing in a food thermometer.

Also, only purchase fish, shrimp, and other seafood from grocery stores and fish markets that have a good reputation in the community. If you retrieve your seafood from local waters, keep up to date on regional fish advisories to avoid fishing in polluted waters.

Yes, shrimp is safe to eat during pregnancy. But don’t overdo it.

Stick to two to three servings of seafood (including options like shrimp) a week and avoid eating it raw. Follow these recommendations and you’ll satisfy your taste buds — and cravings — without getting yourself or your baby ill.