Update: Fish and the Guidelines for Pregnant Women

The advice and guidelines on pregnancy and fish intake have evolved over years and possibly left women confused. How much is safe to have? What type of fish is ideal? When women can’t answer these critical questions, the outcome is a simple yet unhealthy result: to avoid it altogether.

The type of fat found in seafood, omega-3 and DHA specifically, makes it essential for both mom and baby. Research shows that the benefits for women during pregnancy include increasing the likelihood for full-term pregnancy, as well as improved size of the newborn. Research also suggests that appropriate intake of seafood and DHA reduce the potential for post-partum depression. For baby, DHA is believed to offer extensive neurological benefits, including development of baby’s eyes and brain. It’s even possible that there is an increased potential for maintaining an ideal body weight in childhood.

Lemon-Garlic Zoodles with Shrimp, packed with veggies and nutrient-rich/mercury-low shrimp is a great dish to include in your pregnancy diet.

So what exactly are today’s recommendations?

For many years, DHA has been added to pre-natal vitamins to ensure that pregnant women are maintaining an adequate intake (minimum of 200mg/day). However, pre-natal vitamins (and supplements) are not meant to replace fish intake and many women are not eating enough fish due to concerns about mercury or other worries. That said, experts agree that the benefits of consuming fish outweigh the potential harm and that women need to increase their intake to meet the daily goal of 8-12 ounces of (low mercury) fish per week such as canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, catfish and shrimp. Higher mercury fish such as swordfish, king mackerel, and shark should be avoided by women who are pregnant and breastfeeding.

Consume: Fish Low in Mercury

  • Tilapia
  • Atlantic Haddock
  • Salmon
  • Scallop
  • Shrimp
  • Freshwater Trout
  • Domestic crab
  • Anchovies

Limit: Fish Moderate in Mercury

  • Cod
  • Halibut
  • Chunk Light Tuna
  • Lobster
  • Mahi Mahi
  • Bass

Avoid: Fish High in Mercury

  • Bluefish
  • Grouper
  • Albacore Tuna
  • Yellowfin Tuna
  • Mackerel

Some terrific resources:

Eating Fish: What Pregnant Women & Parents Should Know (FDA)

Wallet Card: Mercury in Fish

Choose My Plate: Pregnancy and Safe Fish Intake

Guiding Stars Rated Recipes:

Seaside Pasta Salad

Fennel-Crusted Salmon on White Beans

Quick Shrimp Stir Fry

Poached Coconut Salmon over Greens

Lemon-Garlic Zoodles with Shrimp