Verified by Edna Skopljak MD
Edna Skopljak is a medical doctor and an editor at BJBMS medical journal. She graduated from the University of Sarajevo School of Science and Technology.
Certain foods come into question when you’re pregnant, and seafood is often one of them.
If you’re a fan of shellfish or looking to incorporate shellfish into your diet while pregnant, you may be curious if you can eat clams when pregnant.
This article will also address if it is OK to eat cooked shellfish while pregnant, if clams are high in mercury, and what seafood is safe for pregnant women to eat.
Can You Eat Clams When Pregnant?
Yes, you can eat clams when pregnant as long as they are properly cleaned and fully cooked.
To properly clean unshucked clams, remove any debris by scrubbing them under running water or soaking them in salt water.
Properly cleaning and thoroughly cooking clams is essential to avoid any harmful bacteria that could threaten your pregnancy.
For example, clams can harbor Vibro vulnificus, a type of bacteria found in warm seawater (FDA).
Clams contaminated with listeria can also cause listeriosis in pregnant women if eaten undercooked or raw. The FDA reports that ⅙ of listeria cases come from pregnant women.
Pathogens like Vibro vulnificus and listeria are hard to fight off in pregnancy and can infect the vulnerable developing fetus (FDA).
To make sure you fully cook your clams, the Mayo Clinic suggests you cook them until their shells open. If there are any clams that don’t open up after being cooked, throw them away.
Is it OK to Eat Cooked Shellfish While Pregnant?
Yes, it is OK for expectant mothers to eat cooked shellfish while pregnant.
To achieve fully cooked shellfish, the DGA recommends that seafood always be cooked to 145℉. On top of that, pregnant mothers should consume shellfish that are low in mercury.
When purchasing shellfish, ensure you trust the vendor and know where your food is coming from.
Are Clams High in Mercury?
No, clams are not high in mercury. To be exact, the FDA claims that clams have a 0.009 (PPM) mean concentration of mercury. These levels are considered very low.
Some fish and shellfish contain dangerously elevated levels of mercury; however, expectant mothers can rest assured that clams are not one of them.
What Seafood Can a Pregnant Woman Eat?
Pregnant women can eat seafood that has low mercury levels, is responsibly sourced, properly cooked, and appropriately portioned.
The Mayo Clinic lists various types of seafood that are low in mercury. This list includes salmon, anchovies, herring, sardines, freshwater trout, and pacific mackerel.
Some other safe choices are shrimp, pollock, tilapia, cod, catfish, and canned light tuna. The Mayo Clinic notes, however, that portions of white tuna (albacore) should be limited to 6 ounces weekly.
In general, expectant mothers eat a minimum of 8 ounces and a maximum of 12 ounces of low-mercury seafood weekly.
Expectant mothers can eat clams as long as they are well-cleaned and fully cooked. When cooked and cleaned, clams lose the potential to transfer harmful bacteria to pregnant mothers and their babies.
Properly cooked, responsibly sourced, and limited low-mercury seafood and shellfish are also safe choices for pregnant women.