Something Seems Fishy | Eating Fish During Pregnancy

Choosing healthy seafood when you’re pregnant can be challenging.  RDN Mama is here to break it down for you, once and for all.

The Good:

Not only is seafood a great source of lean protein, iron, and zinc, but an excellent source of DHA.  DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid which is very beneficial in brain and eye development for your little one.  There have been studies showing that DHA consumption during the first trimester of pregnancy can result in a higher (healthy) birth weight, and possibly even reduce the rate of pre-term delivery; and that intake of DHA during the second and third trimesters correlates with better vision two months after delivery.

Fish can help nourish your baby during pregnancy.  Image from patrisyu at freedigitalphotos.net.

Fish can help nourish your baby during pregnancy. Image from patrisyu at freedigitalphotos.net.

The Bad:

So with all of the great health benefits with seafood, why shouldn’t pregnant women eat it?  Fish can contain high levels of mercury.  Larger, predatory fish, such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tile fish, tend to have higher concentrations of mercury that most others.  Mercury can build up in the body over time, and, if consumed excessively, can harm your little one’s nervous system.

Limit fish to 12 oz a week during pregnancy.  Image courtesy of antpkr at freedigitalphotos.net.

Limit fish to 12 oz a week during pregnancy. Image courtesy of antpkr at freedigitalphotos.net.

The Bottom Line:

For those Mamas out there who like their fish, there is no need to give it up!  In fact, it may even be encouraged (with the blessing of your physician) to provide your growing baby with the healthy DHA fats, and provide your body with the iron, protein, and zinc needed to grow a little person.  Last summer, the FDA updated its recommendations to state that pregnant women should eat at least 8 ounces of fish each week.  However, be sure to follow these guidelines when choosing seafood during your pregnancy:

  • Avoid shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tile fish completely throughout your pregnancy
  • Limit total seafood intake to 12 ounces or less each week
  • According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the Mayo Clinic. these are all safe to eat during pregnancy:
    • Halibut, cod, rainbow trout, herring, sardines, rockfish, yellowfin tuna, salmon, pollock, anchovies and catfish
    • Shrimp, clams, oysters, and clams are also acceptable choices
  • Albacore tuna tends to be moderately high in mercury and should be limited to 6 ounces a week.  Canned light tuna is typically lower in mercury, however, studies have shown that it may vary from can to can.

I am an advocate for food first, but if you are allergic to, or just can’t stomach, seafood, DHA supplements can be purchased at your local drugstore. Some post-natal vitamins contain it as well.  Of course, be sure to talk to your physician or personal RDN before taking any supplements, especially during your pregnancy.

I hope this clears up the fishy business, Mamas!

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