Evidence Based

Can You Eat Eggs During Pregnancy? Benefits & Risks

Susan Adeosun, Dr.

Published at 01:34

Kathy Shattler, MS, RDN

Medical reviewer

Eggs are a protein-rich meal option for pregnant women. Photo: Nattaro Ohe/shutterstock

Pregnancy is a time of heightened awareness, especially regarding dietary choices. What a woman eats directly impacts her health and her growing baby’s development. So, when you are pregnant, your doctor might draw up a list of dos and don’ts for your diet.

Eggs are among the many foods that may be scrutinized during pregnancy. They are a safe, quick, and versatile meal option that many expectant mothers turn to for hunger during pregnancy. Scrambled, fried, boiled, or sunny side up, what can a pregnant woman eat? 

In this article, we will explore the role of eggs during pregnancy. You will find out if it is safe in a pregnant woman’s diet, the potential benefits, risks, and guidelines for safe consumption.

Eating Eggs During Pregnancy: What You Should Know

  • Eggs are generally safe to eat during pregnancy.
  • Eggs are a good source of protein, vitamins, and minerals that are beneficial for pregnancy.
  • Ensure eggs are thoroughly cooked to reduce the risk of salmonella infection.
  • Avoid consuming raw or undercooked eggs in dishes like homemade mayonnaise or certain desserts.
  • While dietary cholesterol from eggs may reduce the risk for heart disease, its association between gestational diabetes and macrosomia is controversial.

Is It Safe To Eat Eggs While Pregnant?

Is It Safe To Eat Eggs While Pregnant
Is It Safe To Eat Eggs While Pregnant? Photo: Shidlovski/shutterstock

It’s normal to have many questions swirling around in your mind when you’re expecting, especially when it comes to what you should and shouldn’t eat. After all, you want to do everything you can to ensure a healthy pregnancy for you and your baby. And when it comes to eggs, it’s no different.

Your doctor might have recommended eating certain foods during pregnancy due to their benefits. For instance, pomegranate benefits your baby in terms of neural development. However, there are also meals that your doctor will strongly advise against eating.

This advice is due to bacteria lurking in unpasteurized or undercooked foods. Our bodies can normally handle these bacteria just fine, but when you’re pregnant, your immune system is a bit weaker, which means you and your baby could be at risk if you consume these foods.

Now, onto the main question: are eggs safe to eat while pregnant? The answer is yes, but there’s a catch.

As we just mentioned, improperly cooked meals are not advised due to pregnant women’s lower immune systems. So, you need to make sure those eggs are cooked thoroughly. That’s the key to safe egg consumption during pregnancy.

This means you should be clear of anything with a runny yolk. That means no over-easy, sunny-side up, poached, or soft-boiled eggs. And when it comes to foods made with eggs, like homemade raw cookie dough, eggnog, or certain salad dressings and ice cream, it’s best to skip them if they contain undercooked eggs.

Benefits Of Eating Eggs During Pregnancy

Now, you may ask, what are the benefits of eggs? Here are some benefits of eating eggs during pregnancy.

High In Nutrients

Eggs are packed with many nutrients[1] that can give you and your baby a healthy boost. For one, eggs are full of high-quality protein, which is crucial for your baby’s growth. Protein helps build cells, muscles, and tissues. 

They are also easily digested and absorbed by your body, making them a convenient and efficient nutrient boost, even if you’re experiencing pregnancy-related digestive issues.

Eggs are also rich in a host of essential vitamins, including vitamin D, which is vital for bone health and immune function. They contain vitamins A, E, choline, and various B vitamins. Folate plays a vital role in preventing birth defects like spina bifida. 

Alongside vitamins, eggs contain important minerals like iron and zinc. Iron is crucial for preventing anemia and supporting healthy blood production, while zinc plays a role in immune function and cell growth.

Boosts Brain Health

Eggs are one of the richest dietary sources of choline, an essential nutrient for brain development[2], particularly during pregnancy. Choline is crucial in forming the neural tube[3] which eventually develops into your baby’s brain and spinal cord. So, by including eggs in your diet, you’re ensuring you and your baby get a healthy dose of this brain-boosting nutrient.

Also, some eggs, particularly those from hens fed a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, contain elevated levels of these beneficial fats. Omega-3s are known for their role in brain health, promoting optimal cognitive function and development. They’re essential during pregnancy when your baby’s brain rapidly matures.

Blood Sugar Management 

When managing blood sugar levels during pregnancy, eggs can be your ally. Eggs have a low glycemic index, which means they have minimal impact on blood sugar levels[4].

Foods with a low GI are digested and absorbed more slowly, leading to gradual increases in blood glucose rather than sudden spikes. Including low-GI foods like eggs in your meals can help keep your blood sugar levels more stable throughout the day.

Since your diet can be quite unstable, eating eggs can help keep you full and satisfied for longer periods, which can help manage excess weight gain during pregnancy. Eggs can prevent overeating and help control cravings for high-carbohydrate, sugary foods that can cause blood sugar spikes.

Reduces Risk Of Heart Disease 

Pregnancy brings about significant physiological changes, including alterations in cardiovascular function, metabolism, and hormonal balance. These changes can influence the risk of heart disease in pregnant women[5].Eating eggs has been associated with a decreased risk of heart disease[6]. LDL cholesterol, often labeled bad cholesterol, contributes to heart disease risk. While eggs may modestly elevate LDL cholesterol, pregnant women may predominantly increase levels of larger, more buoyant LDL particles. This shift may explain why egg consumption is linked to a reduced risk of heart disease.

What Is The Correct Way To Store Eggs?

Storing eggs according to food safety guidelines is crucial for maintaining their freshness and reducing the risk of foodborne illness. Here’s the correct way to store eggs:

  1. Refrigeration: Eggs should be stored in the refrigerator, ideally in their original carton. The refrigerator temperature should be set at or below 40°F (4°C) to inhibit bacterial growth.
  2. Original carton: Keep eggs in their original carton rather than transferring them to the refrigerator door or other containers. The carton helps protect eggs from absorbing strong odors and flavors from other foods in the fridge.
  3. Positioning: Store eggs with the large end up. This helps keep the yolk centered and minimizes the risk of it breaking.
  4. Avoid washing: Eggs have a natural protective coating called the bloom or cuticle, which helps seal the shell pores and prevents bacteria from entering. Washing eggs can remove this protective layer, so it’s best to avoid washing them until just before use.
  5. Avoid temperature fluctuations: Keep eggs away from temperature fluctuations and avoid placing them near the refrigerator door, as this area is subject to temperature changes when the door is opened frequently.

Use-by date: Pay attention to the expiration or use-by date on the egg carton and consume eggs before this date for optimal freshness and safety.

Risks Of Eating Eggs During Pregnancy

While eggs are a nutritious food choice for most people, there are some potential risks associated with eating eggs during pregnancy. Pregnant women need to be aware of these risks and take appropriate precautions.

Food Safety

The major risk is salmonella contamination[7]. Raw or undercooked eggs may contain Salmonella bacteria, which can cause food poisoning. Pregnant women are at a higher risk of severe illness from Salmonella infection, which can lead to dehydration and potentially harm the fetus.

To avoid risks, proper food handling and cooking practices are crucial. Pregnant women should ensure that eggs are cooked thoroughly, avoiding raw or undercooked eggs and dishes containing raw eggs, such as homemade mayonnaise, Caesar salad dressing, or unpasteurized eggnog.

Allergic Reactions

Another high risk is an allergic reaction. While egg allergies[8] are relatively rare, they can occur, and if a pregnant woman is allergic to eggs, consuming them can lead to allergic reactions. If you have a known egg allergy, avoiding eggs and products containing eggs is essential.

High In Total Cholesterol

The research on cholesterol in eggs and pregnancy is controversial. Elevated cholesterol production and absorption may occur during pregnancy[9]. increasing the risk for gestational diabetes mellitus[10] and dyslipidemia.

Cholesterol from eggs but no other foodstuffs[11] was positively associated with the development of GDM.  Consuming 379 mg per day was sufficient to show a linear relationship. Despite having a favorable lipid profile, the total cholesterol content of one egg is still high at 186 mg[12].

According to a 2020 meta-analysis, the risk for gestational diabetes increases by 32% for every 100 mg[13] increase in dietary cholesterol. Other studies on the relationship between dietary cholesterol and gestational diabetes remain mixed.Furthermore, one research study advises limiting daily cholesterol[14] intake to 300 mg a day to avoid large-for-gestational-age infants or macrosomia. Infants with macrosomia have short and long term health consequences. These studies challenge the current guidelines that say eggs need not be limited in pregnancy.

Conclusion

Eggs can be part of a healthy diet during pregnancy, providing essential nutrients such as protein, vitamins, and minerals. However, consuming eggs safely by cooking them thoroughly and practicing good food hygiene to minimize the risk of foodborne illness is crucial. Some recent research points to an association between excess dietary cholesterol and both gestational diabetes and macrosomia.

If you are pregnant, you should consult your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian for personalized dietary recommendations based on your health status and nutritional needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I eat eggs with runny yolks during pregnancy?

No, avoid eggs with runny yolks during pregnancy.

Are there any specific guidelines for storing eggs during pregnancy?

Yes, store eggs in the refrigerator at 40°F (4°C) or below to prevent bacterial growth and maintain freshness.

Can I eat eggs every day during pregnancy?

Moderate egg consumption as part of a balanced diet is generally safe during pregnancy. Consult with your healthcare provider for personalized dietary advice.

Are there any alternatives to eggs for protein during pregnancy?

Yes, other sources of protein during pregnancy include lean meats, poultry, fish, legumes, tofu, and dairy products. Try substituting other high food sources of choline, a nutrient found abundantly in eggs and under-consumed by pregnant women.

Can I consume raw or undercooked eggs in desserts like homemade ice cream or mousse?

It’s best to avoid desserts made with raw or undercooked eggs during pregnancy to minimize the risk of foodborne illness.

Dr Susan Adeosun (MPH, MD) is a Medical Doctor and Public Health enthusiast. She has over five years’ worth of experience in public health and preventive medicine and is a firm believer in the famous phrase by Dutch philosopher Desiderius Erasmus, “prevention is better than cure.” Her journey through public health, combined with her love for writing, has resulted in the publication of several health articles on various blogs, websites, and peer review journals.

Resources

MANA adheres to strict sourcing guidelines, avoids most tertiary sources, and uses only professional resources updated to contain accurate and current information. We majorly rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research from reputable medical associations. For more information regarding our editorial process, please refer to the provided resources.

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