A plate of prawns
Louise Broadbridge
Louise Broadbridge
Food Safety

Can you eat prawns in pregnancy?

If you absolutely love prawns, shrimp and other kinds of shellfish, you might be worried that being pregnant will stop you from tucking into your favourite dish. 

Don’t worry though as it is safe to eat prawns and seafood in general while you are pregnant so long as it has been properly cooked first. You will however want to take a little extra care to make sure it is fresh, contamination-free, and cooked through.

So can you eat prawns when pregnant?

In a word, yes. Eating seafood, including prawns, is generally safe during pregnancy but take extra care to make sure it is cooked well and consumed before its due date. Cooking well will kill off most of the bacteria which could cause food poisoning.

Avoid consuming prawns that have been left out at room temperature for long periods so you might need to take care if you’re choosing food from a buffet or eating at a party or event.

Don’t eat raw prawns or any raw shellfish while pregnant. If you’re a fan of raw oysters, you’ll just have to choose something else from the menu until after your baby is born.

What prawn dishes are safe to eat when pregnant?

Recipes like butter garlic prawns or prawn curry are likely to be safe as they involve cooking the prawns. Do make sure you don’t undercook the prawns though – they should be completely pink in colour. If any of the prawns are still grey, you will need to cook the prawns a little bit longer. 

It is also a good idea to check the use-by date on the packaging carefully. If you have any doubts about whether the prawns you are using are past their best, don’t take the risk and throw them out.

A prawn cocktail is also likely to be safe as, although the dish is cold, it is prepared using cooked prawns. However, if you using raw eggs to make the Marie Rose sauce, you will need to make sure the eggs have a British Lion stamp. 

Can I eat prawns from a restaurant or takeaway?

When you are eating out or ordering a food delivery, choose somewhere with a good food hygiene rating so you can feel confident the dish will be prepared safely. If you like to add some prawn crackers or prawn toast to your Chinese takeaway order, there’s no need to worry as the prawns in these dishes will be well-cooked.

Why do I need to be careful when eating prawns in pregnancy?

When you are pregnant, you are more at risk of food poisoning due to changes in your circulation and metabolism.

In short, all the pregnancy hormones swirling around your body have an impact on your immune system, which means you are more likely to catch illnesses from germs and bacteria, including those found in food. Your body is putting all its energy into helping your baby grow and develop, which means there is less of a focus on fighting off illness.

Why is food poisoning dangerous when pregnant?

As well as it being extremely unpleasant to suffer from sickness and diarrhea when you’re pregnant, food poisoning does carry a serious risk to both you and your baby. In extreme cases, food poisoning can increase the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, or premature delivery so it is important to take extra care with what you eat and how you prepare food during pregnancy.

There is also a risk that your unborn baby could catch an infection if you become ill as their immune system is still developing.

Eating raw shellfish has a food poisoning risk for anyone, but it is particularly important to be careful when expecting a baby. According to government figures, between 12,000 and 14,000 people in the UK experience sickness and diarrhea each year after eating seafood. Most of these cases are caused by raw oysters but there is a small risk with any shellfish.

Is it safe to eat sushi or smoked fish during pregnancy?

Pregnant women should also take extra care with sushi and smoked salmon. Avoid any sushi which includes raw fish and only eats smoked fish if it has been thoroughly cooked and is steaming hot all the way through.

This is because fish like smoked salmon or trout come with an increased risk of listeria. 

During pregnancy, you should limit yourself to no more than two portions of oily fish a week. However, it is safe to eat up to four medium-sized tins of tuna.

Fish like swordfish, marlin, and sharks should be avoided while you are pregnant as they contain high levels of mercury, a toxic metal that can be harmful to your baby.

What do I do if I get food poisoning while pregnant?

If you are unlucky enough to catch food poisoning while pregnant, get lots of rest and make sure you keep your fluid levels up by drinking plenty of water. Contact your midwife or GP if the symptoms last longer than 48 hours or you feel really unwell, especially if it seems to be getting worse and not better. 

If your vomiting is severe or your urine is very dark in colour, you may need medical attention.

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