Can Pregnant Women Eat Crawfish (Crayfish)? Are They Safe?

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Written by Gina Wagg BA, Dip.

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I often get asked if Crawfish or Crayfish are safe to eat in pregnancy, since they’re seafood, and even have ‘fish’ in the name, despite being a crustacean. If you’re pregnant, you’re probably wondering if you can still eat them – and if so, how should they be cooked?

Can Pregnant women eat Crawfish (Crayfish)? Crawfish are safe for pregnant women to eat if they’re fully cooked. Once cooked, they can be eaten hot or cold. Pregnant women shouldn’t eat undercooked or raw crawfish.

If it seems like a simple rule, it is – cook the crawfish, and they should be fine for you to eat in pregnancy.

That said, there are a few additional questions that pregnant women often ask, including the ways of cooking them, and what’s actually in a crawfish, including mercury levels. This is all explained below.

Can Pregnant Women only Eat Cooked Crawfish?

To avoid any confusion I’ll use the word ‘crawfish’ throughout this article, but it is the same crustacean that goes by other names, such as:

  • Crayfish (in the UK and Europe)
  • Crawdaddies or Crawdads
  • Yabbies
  • Mudbags
  • FreshWater or “Mountain Lobster”

Pregnant women (and everyone else, for that matter!) should only eat crawfish when they’re fully cooked. I haven’t heard anyone wanting to eat them raw, but ‘undercooked’ is possible, especially with big crawfish that might need longer cook times than you first think.

Raw shellfish can contain harmful bacteria and pathogens, and raw crawfish can also harbor parasitic diseases, particularly if they’re caught wild (source: FSN). Cooking crawfish makes them safe to eat.

boiled crawfish on a plate

How Much Mercury Is In Crawfish?

Pregnant women are often aware that they have to keep an eye on their mercury intake, including when it’s found in fish and seafood.

Crawfish are low in mercury, averaging 0.033 parts per million (source: FDA). To give you an idea of how low that is, seafood that is up to 0.1 PPM is still considered ‘low’ in mercury. Pregnant women don’t need to be concerned with the mercury content in crawfish at these low levels.

Both farmed and wild crawfish that come from the USA are considered to be low in mercury. This is the most likely crawfish you’ll come across, since the United States is one of the biggest producers of crawfish.

It’s worth noting that imported crawfish are listed as having an ‘unknown’ amount of mercury, so it’s probably best to stick to USA-sourced farmed or wild crawfish (source: EDF).

If you’re fishing for wild crawfish yourself, check if there are any marine advisories in the area indicating that there may be pollution or other issues with certain local bodies of water.

How Much Crawfish Can You Eat When Pregnant?

In the USA, pregnant women are advised to eat 8 – 12oz of low mercury fish or shellfish a week (source: FDA). This includes crawfish, as they’re low in mercury.

As you can imagine, the next question is…

How much is 12oz of Crawfish?

It’s worth mentioning that it’s better to eat a varied diet of fish when you’re pregnant, rather than eating 8 – 12 oz of just one single variety per week.

However, when you’re pregnant, it may be that you can only stomach one particular type of seafood, or it’s all you want to eat for the time being. That’s fine, too.

It’s hard to give a precise measurement of what 12oz of crawfish meat looks like, since the size of crawfish can vary. 12oz is about 240g, or 0.75lb of shelled crawfish meat. As a rough guide:

  • 12oz is around 3 – 4 servings of crawfish tails. If you’re in the UK or Europe, ready-peeled crayfish tails often come in 1-serving trays anywhere between 80-120g.
  • In the USA, the sealed plastic pouches of ready-peeled crawfish meat you find in stores is usually in a 12oz or 1lb size (e.g. Boudreaux, Bernard’s, Riceland, Gulf Marine).
  • Whole crawfish – for example, used in a crawfish boil – cooked in their shell only yield about 15% tail or claw meat, depending on their size. Therefore 6 – 7 pounds of whole crawfish will yield 12oz of meat (source: AgriLife)
boiled crawfish in a bowl

Are Crawfish Good for Pregnant Women?

Now that you know you can eat them safely when cooked, you might be wondering if crawfish are good for you when you’re pregnant.

Crawfish are a good lean source of protein, and they’re low in fat and saturated fat. They’re also an excellent source of iron, copper, selenium and niacin (source: AgriLife).

They also contain trace amounts of vitamins A and C (source: Nutritionix).

Crawfish do contain cholesterol, but this is only an issue if you have to watch your cholesterol intake and have been told to do so by your healthcare provider.

Otherwise, crawfish are a healthy choice of seafood in pregnancy, especially if they are boiled or steamed rather than fried.

Crawfish/Crayfish dishes and their Pregnancy Safety

Here are some common crawfish/crayfish dishes and whether or not they’re OK when you’re pregnant:

  • Crayfish sandwiches – these are very popular in the UK and Europe, and they’re eaten much like a prawn sandwich. Cooked, cold crayfish in a cocktail or sandwich is fine for pregnant women. You might also want to read these articles on prawns and mayonnaise as well.
  • Crawfish Boil – enjoyed throughout the USA (the South in particular), pregnant women can eat boiled crawfish safely if the crawfish is fully cooked. They usually are, though you could cut one of the bigger ones in half first and check it’s done all the way through.
  • Crawfish Etouffee – a Louisiana specialty, and a favorite Cajun and Creole dish. Crawfish etouffee is safe in pregnancy if the crawfish are fully cooked in the sauce. The other ingredients in a typical etouffee are usually pregnancy safe, too.
a bowl of crawfish etouffee with rice

If you’re a pregnant seafood lover, you might also want to check out: