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Can I Eat Clam Chowder While Pregnant?

There are plenty of foods that you need to be careful of consuming while you are pregnant and seafood is high on that list. Eating seafood while you are pregnant is normally safe depending on what cooking method has been used.

In this article, we are going to be looking at clams and specifically clam chowder, and discussing whether it is safe to eat while you are pregnant.

What You Need To Know About Clams

Eating clams for the most part is safe unless they are not cooked thoroughly. This includes many clam dishes such as clam chowder which is increasingly popular. 

Generally, clams should be safe to eat when they are well-cooked. 

Can Pregnant Women Eat Cooked Clams?

While you are pregnant eating clams are safe as long as they are cooked.

Raw clams are a little risky to eat whether you are pregnant or not, this is due to the fact that raw clams can carry bacteria and pathogens such as Vibrio vulnificus, a type of bacteria found in saltwater.

Clams that contain this bacteria do not look, smell or taste any different to those that do not contain it. Most bacteria are killed during the cooking process, which is why seafood is much safer when it is cooked thoroughly.

There is a range of variations when it comes to the term ‘cooked’, so here are a few guidelines according to the Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference or ISSC.

Clam Cooking Method Time/Temperature
Boiled this includes soup or chowder At least 3 minutes
Fried At least 3 minutes at 375f
Broiled/ Grilled Thre inches from the heat for 3 minutes
Baked in the over Ten minutes at 450f
Steamed 5-10 minutes when the water is already steaming. The time does depend on the size of the clam.

What Is Clam Chowder?

Clam chowder is served in the form of a stew or soup and often contains clams, vegetables, salt pork, onions, and a range of sauces. 

The most common type of sauce is a clear broth made just from clam juice. Others use milk to make it thicker and creamier.

Clam Chowder is believed to have been first created in the early 18th century and has gained popularity throughout the country.

Can Pregnant Women Eat Clam Chowder?

Chowder is probably one of the most common ways in which people eat clams. 

No matter what style of chowder you are eating as long as all the ingredients are pregnancy safe, which they usually are. Any milk or cream used should be pasteurized – even if they aren’t, eating it hot should kill any bacteria.

There is one thing that you do need to check if the clams are fresh and that is that they have been cooked for at least three minutes.

This is usually a common practice so most clam chowders that you order or make should be fine to eat while you are pregnant.

Mercury Content Of Clams – Risks While Pregnant

Mercury is often found in fish and shellfish, especially tuna. While pregnant you should limit your intake of foods that are high in mercury.

Clams are very low in mercury, with an average concentration of 0.009 PPM (parts per million). This low level of mercury applies to all types and species of clams including:

  • Ocean and Northern Quahogs
  • Farmed and Wild Pacific Geoduck clams
  • Farmed Pacific Littleneck clams
  • Softshell clams
  • Wild Atlantic clams
  • Butter clams
  • Farmed Manila clams
  • Steamer clams

If you are dealing with wild-harvested clams the mercury level can vary depending on where they are gathered in the wild. It would be a good idea to check your local shellfish advisories to check for reports of any type of contamination.

Clam Dishes While Pregnant

If you really fancy clams while you are pregnant there are other ways in which you can eat them that are also safe while pregnant. Here are some dishes and things that you should check before eating:

Canned or tinned clams

If they do not need to be stored in a refrigerator they are safe to eat hot or cold. These clams are already cooked and are sterile. So are fine to consume while you are pregnant.

Clam juice

Fresh clam juice usually comes from steaming or sauteeing clams and as long as it is served hot, it is safe.

Clam juice that is used as a base for dishes such as stews, soups, or sauces is safe as it is also heated up. As long as clam juice comes from a commercially produced jar, is it safe since this is sterilized.

Clam strips

These are also known as fried clams and are safe to eat while pregnant as long as they are fully cooked. If the clams are large it is advisable to cut them in half to double-check that they are steaming hot and completely cooked.

Stuffed clams

These are normally clams on a half shell, covered with a filling, topped with cheese or breadcrumbs and oven cooked. As long as they are fully cooked then stuffed clams are safe to eat while pregnant.

The Final Thought

Pregnancy means that there are many favorite foods that you have to forego in order to keep yourself and your unborn baby safe. But clam chowder is not one of them as long as you follow the recommended guidelines for cooking.

Also, you should ensure that if you are eating wild clams that you have taken precautions to ensure they are safe as well. Otherwise, tuck in and enjoy!