Nutrition & Exercise

Q&A: Eat More Fish During Pregnancy?

How much fish should I eat when I'm pregnant? Should I be worried about mercury?

How much fish should I eat when I'm pregnant? Should I be worried about mercury?

For years, the FDA has warned that pregnant women should limit intake of fish to 12 ounces per week, in an attempt to limit exposure to mercury. But are these concerns unfounded (and maybe even unhealthy)?

A large coalition of scientists, medical organizations, and doctors (including our own expert, Dr. Ashley Roman) is now urging women to eat at least the FDA's recommended amount, if not more. They say that the Omega-3s in fish are especially important for the second-half of pregnancy, when baby's nervous system is developing, and that women should be urged to eat more fish.

The FDA isn't currently prepared to revise its recommendation (but they do plan to study the new information).

So what's a pregnant lady to do? Talk to your doctor, and check out the info we found below to help with your decision:


According to our expert, Dr. Ashley Roman: "To date, there is not a single case of fetal toxicity linked directly to fish intake..." (You can watch Dr. Roman's full interview on the subject on MSNBC.com.)

The FDA says:
> "...high levels of mercury in the bloodstream of unborn babies and young children may harm the developing nervous system."

> "Do not eat Shark, Swordfish, King Mackerel, or Tilefish because they contain high levels of mercury."

> "Eat up to 12 ounces (two average meals) a week of a variety of fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury."

> "Fish and shellfish contain high-quality protein and other essential nutrients, are low in saturated fat, and contain omega-3 fatty acids. A well-balanced diet that includes a variety of fish and shellfish can contribute to heart health and children's proper growth and development."

The National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition says:
> "Recent studies indicate that the nutritional benefits of fish consumption during pregnancy greatly outweigh potential risks from trace methyl mercury consumption."

> "Oily ocean fish are...an important source of the mineral selenium, which is essential for thyroid function and anti-oxidation. There is a growing body of evidence that selenium in ocean fish may also counteract potential negative influence of mercury exposure. While a nutritional deficiency from insufficient seafood consumption (long-chain omega-3 fatty acids) is quite common, the risk of mercury toxicity is exceedingly rare."

A study at the Medical University of South Carolina in 2007 found that:
> The FDA warning has led 56% of pregnant women to cut too much fish from their diet.


A British study published early in 2007 in The Lancet indicates that:
>
Women who eat more fish while pregnant may bear children with higher IQs.

**Also important to note: Different fish have different levels of mercury: Check out this chart

By Dr. Ashley Roman