If you're confused about the rules on fish and pregnancy, you're not alone:
There have been many opposing viewpoints over the years. Fish is good for
your heart! But wait, it also contains mercury. Fish is high in DHA, which
is beneficial to babies. But don't get too excited because it's still
packed with PCBs.
So, what's the real scoop on fish while pregnant? When it comes to
fish, here's the lowdown on what's healthy and what isn't.
Eating a variety of seafood is not only safe but also encouraged
for both you and your baby by the American College of Obstetrics and
ACOG agrees with the FDA and EPA, that pregnant women should consume
at least 8 ounces (up to 12 ounces) of low-mercury
seafood each week. That equates to two to three servings (serving size 4
All of the above are health benefits of fish!
Fish contains the following nutrients, which are particularly essential for
Let’s take a look at each!
DHA omega-3 ("Omega-3's")
Docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, is an omega-3 fatty acid that helps
in developing your baby's brain and eyes. During the third
trimester, a fetus's brain and the nervous system quickly expand and need
around 65 mg of DHA per day for this. The omega-3 fatty acid DHA also
benefits moms' brain function and can help alleviate
depression during and after birth.
Iodine is important for the production of thyroid hormones. When pregnant,
your iodine requirements increase by around 50% due to physiological
changes. Having an adequate iodine level when pregnant is important not
only for your health but also for your baby's growth and baby’s
Iron is crucial in the transport of oxygen from a
woman's bloodstream to her baby. Iron also aids in the immune system of
mothers. Many people associate iron-rich foods with turkey, beef, and
chicken. However, seafood like clams, halibut, crab, shrimp, and cooked
oysters are also iron-rich.
Dangers of fish in pregnancy
Women should avoid eating an excessive quantity of seafood during
pregnancy, that is, no more than 12 ounces a week (or less depending on the
type of fish consumed) in order to keep mercury levels low. A
mercury level greater than 0.3 μg/g has risks.
What effects does too much mercury have on a pregnant woman?
If you take in too much mercury during pregnancy it can cause issues for
both you and your baby.
Mercury has the potential to harm multiple organs in your
body, such as the lungs, kidneys, and nervous system (that
includes the brain, spinal cord, and nerves). It can also lead to hearing
and vision issues.
Babies exposed to mercury in the womb can have brain damage and
hearing and vision problems.
PCP in fish
Fish is the major dietary source of high PCB (Polychlorinated Biphenyls)
levels. Fish caught in contaminated lakes or rivers or
farm raised fish in contaminated water have higher levels of PCBs. Levels
of PCBs vary with region and type of fish.
PCBs can have negative health effects for you including potential
cancers, and negative effects on the immune, nervous and endocrine
systems. It can also have an effect on the baby including
low birth weight, preterm delivery and learning
All of the above!
Here is a list of fish are “best choices” to eat when
you're pregnant at two to three 4-ounce servings per
Canned light tuna
Black sea bass
NO! Halibut and Mahi-Mahi both have slightly higher
mercury content so you should limit it to only 1 serving per week.
The following fish are considered "good choices," which means you can
eat one serving per week (about 4 ounces):
Chilean sea bass
Striped bass (ocean)
Tilefish from the Atlantic Ocean
Albacore white tuna (canned, fresh or frozen)
White croaker/Pacific croaker
To be safe, the current FDA and EPA guidelines advise restricting your
consumption of the following fish while pregnant or nursing:
Types of fish to avoid
Tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico
Here are some key points to remember when eating fish when
Avoid large, predatory
fish. These fish have higher mercury content
as they eat smaller fish and accumulate more mercury.
Skip raw and smoked fish and
shellfish. Uncooked fish and shellfish may
have harmful bacteria or viruses. This includes oysters, sushi and
Know local fish advisories
if you are eating fish from local waters. If you are unsure then
limit fish from local waters to 6 ounces a week.
Cook seafood properly.
You don’t have to memorize these lists! It’s here when you need to check
back. Just keep the key points in mind.
So go ahead enjoy this delicious and super healthy food! You can feel
secure you have made safe choices AND that you are boosting your baby’s and
Reach out to MaternalWell text support for any general questions or for
more specific nutrition guidance, book a consultation (30% discount) with
our registered nutritionist.