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Is it safe to eat fish when pregnant?

Seafood can be part of your healthy-eating plan throughout pregnancy as long as you avoid uncooked fish and fish rich in mercury.

You’re not alone if you’re confused about whether it’s safe to consume seafood while pregnant. There are a lot of fishy tales on the Internet about the dangers of seafood while expecting, some of which are completely unfounded. 

In this article, we break down the latest guidelines for expectant parents.

What fish choices to choose

Seafood, including fish and shellfish, can be a good source of protein, iron, and zinc, all of which are essential minerals for your baby’s growth and development. Many fish include omega-3 fatty acids, including docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which can help your baby’s brain development.

However, some fish contain high levels of mercury. Although most individuals are not concerned about mercury in seafood, care must be taken if you are pregnant or want to become pregnant.

If you consume high-mercury fish frequently, the chemical can build up in your bloodstream over time. A high mercury level in your circulation may harm your baby’s developing brain and nervous system.

How much seafood is advised?

Experts recommend that pregnant women consume no more than 340 grams of low-mercury seafood per week. That equates to two to three servings.

What seafood is safe to consume?

Consume a range of low-mercury, high-omega-3-fatty-acid seafood, such as salmon, anchovies, herring, sardines, freshwater trout and Pacific mackerel. Other safe options include shrimp and canned mild tuna.

Are there any other guidelines for eating seafood while pregnant?

Consider the following precautions:

  • Avoid raw fish and shellfish, including oysters, sushi, and sashimi.
  • Cook fish correctly. How do you know when fish is cooked thoroughly? When the fish splits into flakes and is opaque. Cook lobster and shrimp until the flesh is glossy and opaque. Clams, mussels, and oysters should be cooked until their shells open. Throw away those that do not open.

Are there any alternative sources of omega-3 fatty acids?

Other sources of omega-3 fatty acids outside seafood can be found in flaxseed (ground seeds or oil), canola oil, walnuts, sunflower seeds, and soybeans (edamame).

Fish oil or omega-3 fatty acids from marine plant sources are commonly found in supplements. DHA is also found in many prenatal supplements. Before taking any supplement, consult your doctor.

Remember that studies have yet to determine if supplements can improve embryonic brain growth. While pregnant women can acquire omega-3 fatty acids from various sources, most experts recommend eating seafood.

Good to know: Although mercury can impair a developing baby’s brain, consuming moderate amounts of low-mercury seafood during pregnancy has not been proved to create difficulties. Furthermore, the omega-3 fatty acids found in many forms of fish can help a baby’s cognitive development. 

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