Pregnancy and fish: What's safe to eat?
If you're unsure about whether it's safe to eat seafood during your pregnancy, you're not alone. Understand the guidelines for pregnancy and fish.
By Mayo Clinic Staff
Pregnancy nutrition can be confusing, especially when it comes to seafood guidelines. Here's help understanding the facts.
What are the pros and cons of eating seafood during pregnancy?
Seafood, which includes fish and shellfish, can be a great source of protein, iron and zinc — crucial nutrients for your baby's growth and development. The omega-3 fatty acids in many fish, including docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), also can promote your baby's brain development.
But some types of seafood — particularly large, predatory fish such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish — can contain high levels of mercury. Although the mercury in seafood isn't a concern for most adults, special precautions apply if you're pregnant or planning to become pregnant. If you regularly eat fish high in mercury, the substance can accumulate in your bloodstream over time. Too much mercury in your bloodstream could damage your baby's developing brain and nervous system.
How much seafood is recommended?
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that pregnant women eat at least 8 ounces and up to 12 ounces (340 grams) of a variety of seafood lower in mercury a week. That's about two to three servings.
June 17, 2016
See more In-depth
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- Oken E. Fish consumption and omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation during pregnancy. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed June 7, 2016.
- EPA-FDA advisory on mercury in fish and shellfish. United States Environmental Protection Agency. https://www.epa.gov/fish-tech/epa-fda-advisory-mercury-fish-and-shellfish. Accessed June 7, 2016.
- Fresh and frozen seafood: Selecting and serving it safely. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/food/resourcesforyou/consumers/ucm077331.htm. Accessed June 7, 2016.
- Garner CD. Nutrition in pregnancy. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed June 7, 2016.
- Fish facts. The National Women's Health Information Center. http://www.womenshealth.gov/pregnancy/mom-to-be-tools/index.html. Accessed June 7, 2016.
- Position of the American Dietetic Association: Vegetarian diets. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2009;109:1266.
- 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines. Accessed June 7, 2016.