Eating Crawfish While Pregnant | How To Do It Safely

Are you a long-time fan of crawfish? Maybe you had it once in the past, but now you’re experiencing strong cravings for this delectable combination of sweetness and saltiness due to pregnancy.

Either way, you’re probably now wondering if this is safe to eat now that you’re eating for two.

Crawfish is considered safe for consumption during pregnancy, though it must be fully cooked to prevent the risk of exposure to harmful bacteria and parasitic diseases. Cooked crawfish must also be limited to two or three servings per week (8-12 ounces) due to its mercury content.

Seafood in general tends to have a question mark on it where pregnancy is concerned due to mercury levels and how safely it has been prepared and cooked.

Fortunately, crawfish is something you can still enjoy, but there are a few things to know beforehand.

Let’s learn a little more about crawfish and its health benefits along with which seafood you can and definitely can’t enjoy while pregnant.

Crawfish While Pregnant – What To Know

This high-protein seafood has many benefits for you and your baby, but it will only be safe to consume when fully cooked and responsibly sourced.

Here are some helpful things to know about eating crawfish during pregnancy.

Crawfish Must Be Properly Cooked

Crawfish need to be cooked thoroughly to kill any traces of harmful bacteria or toxins.

As hormonal changes during pregnancy result in mothers having weaker immune systems, undercooked crawfish puts pregnant women at a much higher risk of developing food poisoning or infection.

When properly cooked, crawfish should have firm tail meat and a juicy head. Tail meat that is rubbery suggests it is undercooked, while mushy tail meat that falls apart easily has been overcooked.

When cooking crawfish or any seafood type – whether frying, boiling, or steaming them – be sure to always use a thermometer to confirm it has been thoroughly cooked through.

The internal temperature should be at least 165⁰F to be safe to eat.

Also, when dining out, always get confirmation from restaurant staff that your crawfish has been fully cooked, and let them know you are pregnant upon ordering.

Catching and Eating Your Own Might Not Be Safe

Commercial species of crawfish, like the ones you’ll find at restaurants and fish markets, tend to contain low amounts of mercury, making them safe for consumption.

When it comes to cooking wild-caught crawfish, however, safe mercury levels aren’t guaranteed.

“Many factors affect mercury concentration,” warns physician and founder of Alternative to Meds Center Lyle Murphy, “Water temperature and pH levels can change mercury concentration in fish species, and the buildup is hard to predict with certainty.”

Before catching and eating wild crawfish, you’ll want to make sure that the area you’re fishing in contains no pollutants or contaminants by checking with marine advisories here.

Stick to Pregnancy Dietary Guidelines

Both the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) recommend that pregnant women consume between 8 and 12 ounces (equivalent to 2 or 3 servings) of low-mercury seafood per week.

Low-mercury seafood includes options like crawfish, cod, salmon, and shrimp.

Health Benefits of Crawfish

Cooked crawfish is rich in protein, contains omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and has essential nutrients such as:

  • Selenium
  • Zinc
  • Phosphorus
  • Iodine
  • Iron
  • Choline
  • Vitamins B12, D, A, & E

Consuming these nutrients and fatty acids during pregnancy has been found to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, boost the immune system, and help support your baby’s brain and cognitive development with research finding positive associations with verbal IQ, motor functions, and social cognition!

A platter of assorted types of seafood against a white background.

What Seafood Is Safe During Pregnancy?

According to the FDA, you can safely eat 2 to 3 servings per week of low-mercury seafood such as:

  • Anchovy
  • Haddock
  • Cod
  • Salmon
  • Whitefish
  • Whiting
  • Plaice
  • Freshwater trout
  • Butterfish
  • Clam
  • Crab
  • Crawfish
  • Hake
  • Canned light tuna
  • Black sea bass
  • Atlantic mackerel
  • Pacific mackerel
  • Shrimp
  • Sardine
  • Herring
  • Flounder
  • Lobster
  • Pollock
  • Scallop
  • Squid
  • Tilapia
  • Catfish

You can also eat 1 serving (roughly 6 ounces) per week of the following fish:

  • Monkfish
  • Sablefish
  • Albacore tuna
  • Carp
  • Grouper
  • Chilean sea bass
  • Yellowfin tuna
  • Halibut
  • Mahi mahi
  • Snapper
  • Striped bass
  • Tilefish

Seafood To Avoid When Pregnant

The following fish contain the highest levels of mercury and should be avoided in pregnancy:

  • Bigeye tuna
  • Ahi tuna
  • Marlin
  • King Mackerel
  • Shark
  • Swordfish
  • Orange roughy
  • Tilefish (from the Gulf of Mexico)

Also, be sure to pass on raw sushi until after pregnancy.

There’s no guarantee that all harmful bacteria, pathogens, or parasites will have been removed during the handling process, and your immune system isn’t as strong as it used to be!

Related Questions:

Can I eat Tuna Fish While Pregnant?

Light canned tuna is recommended during pregnancy due to its high omega-3 content and low mercury content, but this is best consumed in moderation.

The American Pregnancy Association recommends the canned tuna brand Safe Catch Elite as this meets the “low mercury” criteria for pregnant women.

Can I Eat Smoked Oysters While Pregnant?

According to Healthline, smoked oysters are best avoided during pregnancy as they carry risks of contamination and food poisoning:

“Although technically cooked in the ‘smoking’ process, they are not always cooked at a safe temperature.”

For reference, fully cooked oysters should have a firm texture.

Closing Thoughts

In summary, crawfish is perfectly safe to enjoy while you’re pregnant as long as it’s fully cooked and consumed in moderation, i.e., 2 to 3 servings per week, which is equivalent to about 8 to 12 ounces.

For your safety, catching and eating your own wild crawfish is not advisable as certain species may contain higher levels of mercury that fall outside the low mercury recommendations for pregnant women.

Lastly, when buying fresh or frozen crawfish (or any of the pregnancy-safe seafood listed above), be sure to follow these steps to select, store, and eat your favorite seafood in the safest manner possible.