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Pregnancy Seafood Guide: Fish To Eat And Avoid During Pregnancy

Are you pregnant? Then, you might have been doing a lot of research on the dos and don'ts. Among these, the most important one is about safe-food options. During pregnancy, it is important to have control over what you eat.

Whether pregnant women should be given fish is something that has left many people confused. The concern has been about mercury in fish, which is known to be harmful to the babies.

Well, doctors and health experts point out that fish and shellfish are an important part of a well-rounded diet, and during pregnancy, it can benefit your body and the foetus in several ways [1]. Today, Boldsky will help you understand the types of fish that are the best choices, those that are good choices, and the fish you should avoid because of their mercury content. Let's read about Fish To Eat And Avoid During Pregnancy.


Fish During Pregnancy: Good Or Bad?

Generally, fish contains low-fat, omega-3 fatty acids or what is known as the good fat. They are rich in vitamins such as D and B2 (riboflavin), calcium and phosphorus, and are also a great source of minerals, such as iron, zinc, iodine, magnesium, and potassium [2]. These are extremely necessary for expecting mothers, as they boost the baby's health.

The omega-3 fatty acids in fish are one of the most important nutrients essential for expecting women. The more they consume these essential fats, the more the baby benefits in terms of early childhood development [3].

Mothers who have higher blood levels of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an omega-3 fatty acid, give birth to children with better attention spans. They are considered to be two months ahead of their counterparts born to mothers with lower DHA levels [4]. They are also essential requirements for the development of the infants' brain and retina. Accumulation of DHA in the brain during the first two years after birth determines a child's future course of development.

According to the FDA, pregnant women should eat at least 8 ounces and up to 12 ounces (340 g) of a variety of seafood (low) in mercury a week [5]. Research shows that moms-to-be who eat fish 2-3 times each week during pregnancy have babies who have a better rate of growth and development. The benefits of having (the right kind of) fish during pregnancy include the following:

Beneficial for the baby's brain
Supports foetal growth
Boosts the mother's memory
Improves mood
Support heart health
May reduce the risk of preterm birth


The Dangers Of Mercury In Fish During Pregnancy

Mercury is released into the water, converted into methylmercury by the bacteria [6]. The fish in water absorb methylmercury, and it gets absorbed into the protein present in the fish's body and remains even after cooking. Our body easily absorbs the methylmercury from the fish and can adversely affect the health of a pregnant woman since it can cross the placenta and affect the foetus. Even a low dose of methylmercury can adversely affect the baby's brain and nervous system. It can result in limited cognitive skills, vision, language problems, etc., in the child [7].

Now that you have an idea of the importance of fish during pregnancy let's take a look at what types of fish you can eat during your pregnancy and the types of food you should avoid during pregnancy.


Fish To Eat When Pregnant

Eat a variety of seafood that is low in mercury and high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as [8]:

  • Salmon
  • Anchovies
  • Herring
  • Sardines
  • Freshwater trout
  • Pacific mackerel
  • Shrimp
  • Pollock
  • Tilapia
  • Cod
  • Catfish
  • Tuna
  • Note: Limit tuna consumption to 6 ounces (170 g) a week.

    The following list of fish are good for pregnancy but should be limited to one serving (113 g) per week during pregnancy [9].

    • Bluefish
    • Buffalofish
    • Carp
    • Chilean sea bass
    • Halibut
    • Mahi-mahi
    • Snapper
    • Spanish mackerel
    • Striped bass (ocean)
    • Tilefish from the Atlantic ocean
    • Sole
    • Flounder
    • Crab
    • Crawfish
    • Lobster
    • Clams
    • Black sea bass
    • Trout

Fish To Avoid When Pregnant

The following fish should be avoided during pregnancy because they are higher in mercury, which can be harmful not just to the mother but also to the baby.

Avoid the following types of fish as they are high in mercury [10]:


Sushi During Pregnancy: How Safe Is It?

Sushi or Sumeshi is the Japanese preparation of cooked vinegar rice. It is mixed with other ingredients like seafood, vegetables, fish, and occasionally tropical fruits. There is no conclusive evidence that eating sushi during pregnancy can do any harm. However, it is important to be aware of the risks[11]. Please take it in moderate amounts only. Keep the following pointers in mind if you are craving some sushi during pregnancy:

  • Eating sushi during pregnancy usually will not do any harm to the mother or baby. But make sure that you are taking this only in moderate amounts to be on the safer side. It is more important when sushi is made from large fish [12].
  • It is recommended not to take big fish (such as salmon) during pregnancy. The main reason behind this is the chance of the fish containing more mercury [13].
  • Make sure that sushi is frozen. Small parasitic worms like anisakis present in raw fish such as salmon can cause a condition known as anisakidosis [14]. However, freezing and proper cooking of this raw fish kills the worms present in the fish and thus makes it safe to eat.

How To Safely Prepare Fish During Pregnancy

Seafood can be safe during pregnancy, but only if it is prepared correctly [15].

  • Buy only fresh, properly refrigerated seafood.
  • Store fish in the fridge in a sealed container if you're not cooking it immediately.
  • Wash all cutting boards, knives and prep area with hot, soapy water after handling raw seafood.
  • Use separate knives and cutting boards.
  • Cook seafood (all types, including shucked clams, oysters, shrimp, lobster and scallops) until the flesh is opaque with a milky white shade, and in case of fillets, it should flake easily with a fork.
  • Throw out any food that has been left out at room temperature for more than two hours; also any perishable, precooked, or leftover food after four days.

On A Final Note…

Medical experts have recommended expecting mothers or those who breastfeed or those who are planning to become pregnant, should have fish because it contains a variety of nutrients that are too vital to be missed out on. Also, consult a doctor to know about the right sources to obtain omega 3 fatty acids through diet.