Is It Safe to Eat Fish While Pregnant? We Look at Pros and Cons
There are several benefits of eating fish. One of the reasons it’s so good for you is that it’s a lean protein that is rich in omega-3 “good fat.” Unfortunately, Omega-3s are not synthesized by our body and must be obtained from our diet or supplementation. DHA is a type of Omega 3 that benefits/supports the brain, eyes and central nervous system. We recommend 300 mg DHA daily for pregnant and lactating women.
But, is it safe to eat fish while pregnant? There are a lot of cautionary statements about eating fish while pregnant, but it all comes down to one bottom line:
It depends upon what type of fish you eat and how often you eat it.
Can You Eat Fish While Pregnant?
The short answer is yes, you can eat fish while pregnant. In many ways, fish is good for the baby because it can help stimulate brain development. However, too much fish can lead to a buildup of mercury, which can hurt the brain of the fetus.
So what’s the solution?
Eating Fish While Pregnant
There are some types of fish and seafood that are completely off-limits. This includes sushi, raw shellfish or raw oysters. Other types of fish that can have dangerous mercury levels are predatory fish. These are the types of fish, such as sharks, that feed on smaller fish.
Because these predators consume the mercury found in smaller fish, it tends to build up in their body and bloodstreams. This higher level of mercury is passed on to you and your baby when you eat these types of fish.
So you should avoid predatory fish, and that includes shark, swordfish, tilefish and king mackerel.
How Much Seafood Should Pregnant Women Eat?
If you’re pregnant, you can have two or three servings (between 8 and 12 ounces) a week, as long as these are fish that are low in mercury.
What Kind of Seafood Is Safe?
Again, we want to emphasize that the key is to avoid predatory fish. Therefore, if you’d like to have seafood, the best choices are:
- Freshwater trout
Additional Precautions for Eating Seafood
There’s nothing like a fresh catch of the day to make your mouth water. If you do eat local, fresh fish, pay careful attention to the conditions of the nearby waterways. You want to be sure that they are safe and free from any type of contamination before you indulge in these delicacies.
If you can’t get reliable information or if the studies you need are not readily available, you should consider forgoing the fresh catch. Why? Because mercury can also be found in the lakes, rivers and streams where these fishes live.
If you prepare fish yourself, make sure it’s properly cooked—remember that fish is completely done when it becomes flaky and appears opaque.
What About Tuna?
Canned light tuna is okay. However, you should limit the amount of white (albacore) and tuna steaks you eat to around 6 ounces a week.
What Are Some Seafood Alternatives?
If you still want to get the benefits of Omega-3 acids without seafood, there are other sources. These include:
- Canola oil
- Sunflower seeds
You may also choose to eat fortified foods including yogurt, milk and eggs
You can also opt to take supplements, although researchers haven’t come to a complete conclusion of how supplements can help baby’s brain development.
Is Fish Safe to Eat While Breastfeeding?
Obviously, whatever mother eats is passed through to the baby. For that reason, it’s best to continue this safe eating policy throughout the time that you are breastfeeding.
If you’d like a useful chart about what fish are safe and which ones to avoid, you can download this more detailed information from the FDA.
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A healthy mom equals a healthy baby; however, our dedication doesn’t stop there. We want all our patients to live a healthier life through all facets of well-being, from yearly Pap smears to breast cancer screenings.
No matter what stage of life you’re in, we welcome the opportunity to serve you as part of our health care family. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.
This article was reviewed by Dr. Paula Gizzie.