What's safe to eat?
Eat a variety of seafood that's low in mercury and high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as:
- Atlantic and Pacific mackerel
Other safe choices include shrimp, Pollock, tilapia, cod, catfish and canned light tuna.
However, limit white (albacore) tuna and tuna steaks to 6 ounces (170 grams) a week.
Are there other guidelines for seafood during pregnancy?
Consider these precautions:
- Avoid large, predatory fish. To reduce your exposure to mercury, don't eat shark, swordfish, king mackerel or tilefish.
- Skip uncooked fish and shellfish. To avoid harmful bacteria or viruses, don't eat uncooked fish and shellfish, including oysters, sushi, sashimi and refrigerated uncooked seafood labeled nova style, lox, kippered, smoked or jerky.
- Understand local fish advisories. If you eat fish from local waters, pay attention to local advisories. If advice isn't available, limit fish from local waters to 6 ounces (170 grams) a week.
- Cook seafood properly. Most seafood should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 F (63C). Fish is done when it separates into flakes and appears opaque throughout. Cook shrimp and lobster until the flesh is pearly and opaque. Cook clams, mussels and oysters until their shells open. Discard any that don't open.
Are there other ways to get omega-3 fatty acids?
Beyond seafood, other sources of omega-3 fatty acids include:
- Foods. Flaxseed — ground seeds or oil — canola oil, walnuts, sunflower seeds and soybeans (edamame) are all good sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
- Fortified foods. Yogurt, milk and eggs can be fortified with omega-3 fatty acids.
- Supplements. Supplements typically contain fish oil or omega-3 fatty acids from marine plant sources. Many prenatal vitamins also contain DHA. Talk to your doctor before taking any supplement.
Keep in mind that researchers haven't yet determined whether supplements can promote fetal brain development. While pregnant women can get omega-3 fatty acids from many sources, most experts recommend eating seafood for this purpose.
Though mercury can harm a developing baby's brain, eating average amounts of seafood containing low levels of mercury during pregnancy hasn't been shown to cause problems. And the omega-3 fatty acids in many types of fish can promote a baby's healthy cognitive development. As long as you avoid fish known to be high in mercury or contaminated with pollutants, seafood can be a regular part of your healthy-eating plan during pregnancy.
June 17, 2016
See more In-depth
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 28. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. http://ndb.nal.usda.gov. Accessed June 9, 2016.
- 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.