Fish for Dinner? What to Limit; What to Avoid

Studies have linked eating fish during pregnancy to healthy fetal development. But how much fish expectant mothers can safely eat is still being researched, due to concerns about the health effects of mercury and bacteria in some seafood.

Currently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that pregnant women, women trying to conceive, nursing mothers and young children limit their overall consumption of fish and avoid certain types known to have high mercury levels.

Specifically, the FDA recommends that these groups:

  • limit their weekly portion of fish to 12 oz. (about 2 servings far more than most Americans eat each week, anyway), and

  • avoid eating shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish (sometimes called golden or white snapper).

Canned light tuna (12 oz. per week) is safe to consume, while canned white tuna (albacore) is higher in mercury and should be avoided or limited to 6 oz per week.

Raw fish and shellfish can have high bacteria counts and viruses, and should be avoided during pregnancy.

What Fish Can You Eat?

Various studies have suggested that fish low in mercury smaller fish and farm-raised fish like salmon, pollock and shrimp are good for women and their babies, and that eating fish or seafood at least once a week could reduce the risk of having a low birthweight or premature baby. Fish remains an excellent source of protein, essential vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids, all needed for healthy fetal development.

While the reasons for its protection against premature birth are not fully understood, fish contains important omega-3 fatty acids, including DHA, a nutrient essential to optimal brain and vision development in fetuses and infants.

Disclaimer: This page is not intended to provide individual medical advice. Always personally seek the advice of a physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you have related to your health or medical condition. Never disregard, avoid or delay contacting a doctor or other qualified healthcare provider because of something you read here.

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