Can I Eat Fish when Pregnant?
We all know the benefits of eating fish, but should you continue to eat fish when pregnant?
Yes! Fish contains essential nutrients that are important to the developing foetal brain. The issue is with certain types of fish that you must avoid. Here is what you need to know.
Do you know that certain types of fish can also be contaminated with brain-damaging mercury and polychlorinated biphenyl?
This can make things get a little confusing when deciding to eat fish when pregnant.
Safe or Unsafe?
You may have read conflicting reports about eating fish during when pregnant. This only creates confusion about whether or not it is safe.
Let’s start off by stating that there are numerous health benefits of eating fish. The big issue comes during pregnancy and knowing which fish are safe to eat and which fish you need to avoid.
In this article, my goal is to provide unbiased facts to alleviate some of your stress. As always, I recommend you seek professional advice from a Dietitian when it comes to your pregnancy meal plans.
Fish provides many of the nutrients essential for the early development.
Fish have high levels of Vitamin D and protein which help promote a healthy pregnancy.
Also, there are two essential Omega-3 fatty acids present in fish called EPA and DHA. These are difficult to find in other foods but essential for the baby’s development.
Let’s chat about fish can be harmful when pregnant.
Mercury in Fish
Mercury is found in water and also in the air that we breathe.
When fish swim in these waters contaminated with mercury and feast on other organisms, this mercury enters their body. The big concern is that this mercury binds with the muscles of the fish and remains even when they are cooked.
It is for this reason that you should avoid certain types of fish, even if you cook them thoroughly.
Risks of Getting Too Much Mercury while Pregnant
The methyl-mercury from fish is absorbed by our body when you eat it. It moves across the placenta to the baby.
Even low levels of methyl-mercury can have an impact on the baby’s brain and nervous system.
As a result, it can have a negative impact on vision, language, motor skills, and cognitive skills like attention and memory.
What to Do if You Ate High Mercury Fish
Firstly, do not panic. The first step is to stop any further consumption and inform your doctor about it.
Your doctor could suggest chelation therapy by administering chelating drugs to help eliminate the metal from your organs.
Toxins and Fish
Many toxins and pollutants from contaminated water finds it way into the fish that we eat. These fish when ingested can affect human health.
Studies have shown that the neurological development of babies can be severely affected if the mercury levels remain high and unchecked.
When pregnant, your anxiety levels are high. You want to do everything right for baby. So when it comes to fish, you should eat certain fish during this period.
How Much Fish Should you Eat when pregnant?
The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) recommend two or three servings, i.e., 8 to 12 ounces (226 to 340 grams), of low-mercury fish every week.
Health Benefits of Eating Fish during Pregnancy
Fish are a great source of lean protein.
This is an essential amino-acid that supports foetal growth. It helps to create the baby’s cells for hair, bones, skin, and muscles.
Fish are a great source of DHA, an Omega-3 fatty acid (salmon)
These are known to boost the baby’s brain growth and activity.
The baby’s growth is highly accelerated during the third trimester. Therefore, it is important to consume fish during this period.
Omega-3 is helpful to enhance their baby’s memory development and also improve brain activity.
If you suffer from hypertension, eating fish can lower blood pressure.
A fish-rich diet reduces blood clotting and blood fat levels, which may lower the risk of cardiac arrest in pregnant women.
Fish You Can Eat When Pregnant
- Farmed Rainbow Trout
- Farmed Arctic Char
- Wild-caught Pacific Sardines
- Wild-caught Alaska Salmon
- Farmed Oysters
- Farmed Mussels
- Tuna (canned-light)
What about salmon?
So, recently, there have been conflicting reports about salmon due to the possible high levels of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) found in farmed salmon.
PCBs are toxic chemicals that have also been linked to cancer. So, to be safe, consume wild salmon or organically-farmed salmon.
Fish to AVOID when Pregnant
- Atlantic Salmon
- Chilean Sea Bass
- Orange Roughy
- King Mackerel
- Tile fish (from Gulf of Mexico)
Also, when pregnant, you should avoid eating raw fish as they are more susceptible to food-borne illnesses. This includes; sushi, ceviche, and sashimi since they are highly prone to the risk of food-poisoning.
Is Canned Tuna Safe in Pregnancy?
Canned tuna is termed as a high-risk fish. An occasional serving of tuna will not cause harm to your baby.
Avoid albacore tuna (white tuna) since it is known to have higher quantities of mercury.
Aim for light tuna over its other varieties.
What about fish I catch myself?
Well, this is an unknown due to water quality.
You should avoid eating fish that has been caught recreationally. You can check the water information if possible before consuming it.
Cook Fish Properly
You should always cook fish properly. This helps in reducing any kind of exposure to potential contaminants that could cause harm to you or your baby.
Always buy fresh, well-refrigerated sea food.
Seal the fish in an airtight container and refrigerate it if you do not plan to use it immediately.
What about Sushi when pregnant?
Raw food should be completely avoided due to possibile of contamination. To be safe, I would avoid sushi and other raw fish.
FDA Guidelines for Eating Fish during Pregnancy
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency advise pregnant women to eat more low-mercury fish.
The FDA recommends that pregnant women consume more fish because fish contains vital nutrients including omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, protein, and minerals such as iron.
How Much Fish Should I Eat when Pregnant?
The FDA recommends eating 8 to 12 ounces of fish low in mercury per week. This is about 2 – 3 servings of fish per week.
Fish is High in Nutrients
Eating fish low in mercury provides important nutrients that can have a positive impact on growth and development as well as on general health.
Omega-3 fatty acids promote foetal brain and nervous system development and can also contribute to a healthy pregnancy by lowering the risk of preeclampsia.
So the question really comes down to knowing which fish you can eat when pregnant and which fish you must avoid due to high mercury levels.
Can I Eat Fish from a local River?
The important issue here comes down to water quality.
So, if you plan on eating fish from your local stream, river, waterway, or lake; then it is vital you check with your local advisories for those bodies of water to see if the water is contaminated or not.
Need more help? Ask your health care professional for advice or book in an appointment with a Dietitian who specialises in prenatal nutrition.
Takeaway for Eating Fish during Pregnancy
Fish provides you with numerous health benefits.
The important point is to know what fish you can eat, and what fish you must avoid in pregnancy.