Are there other guidelines for pregnancy and fish?

Consider these precautions:

  • Avoid large, predatory fish. To reduce your exposure to mercury, don't eat shark, swordfish, king mackerel or tilefish.
  • Avoid uncooked fish and shellfish. To avoid ingesting harmful bacteria or viruses, avoid uncooked fish and shellfish, including 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 and don't eat other fish that week.
  • Cook seafood properly. Cook fish to an internal temperature of 145 F (63 C). The fish is done when it separates into flakes and appears opaque throughout. Cook shrimp, lobster and scallops until they're milky white. 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, pine nuts 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. Talk to your doctor before taking any supplement.

Keep in mind, however, that researchers haven't yet determined whether omega-3 fatty acids from plant sources 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.

What's the bottom line?

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 — especially salmon and tuna — can promote healthy cognitive development. As long as you avoid fish known to be high in mercury or contaminated with pollutants, fish can be a regular part of your healthy-eating plan during pregnancy.

Sep. 04, 2014 See more In-depth