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Is It Safe For Pregnant Woman To Eat Fish?

February 9th, 2014 · No Comments ·


Friends have been telling my wife to avoid eating fish during her pregnancy to prevent mercury poisoning in the developing of fetus. On the other hand, I found another school of thought which mentioned that pregnant women who eat fish frequently have smarter kids. Source I do not really buy into the story. After all, kids are bright not just because the mother eat lots of fish or not eating fish, either. Eating fish is probably one of the hundred possible causes. Many other things may have influenced fetus’ brain development.

Now, let’s look at the question – is it safe to eat fish during pregnancy?

Fish provides high quality protein and also omega 3 fatty acid which is required to help nourish brain, nerves, eyes and heart. It also low in saturated fat and an excellent source of DHA, which is a fabulous fat that is known to boost baby brain powers. However, it is true that nearly all fish contain traces of mercury which exists in the environment naturally or through industrial pollution. It is normally not a health concern. But, some fish, especially those longer-lived that feed on other fish (predatory fish), has higher level of mercury which may harm unborn baby by affecting his developing nervous system. In this case, high dose of mercury is able to bypass the placenta and goes straight to a baby’s brain.


Here are the list of fish which is considered having least mercury and therefore safe (listed according to alphabetical order):

  • Anchovies
  • Canned light tuna
  • Catfish
  • Cod
  • Flounder
  • Haddock
  • Ocean perch
  • Pollack
  • Sea bass
  • Sardines
  • Sole
  • Snapper
  • Tilapia
  • Trout
  • Wild salmon

Here is the list of fish which are high in mercury and not safe to be consumed:

  1. Canned albacore tuna
  2. Barracuda
  3. king mackerel
  4. Shark
  5. Swordfish
  6. Tilefish

If you are pregnant and have just eaten one of the 6 types of fish listed up there, what will happen? Do not panic. The risk comes from mercury building up over for months, and not a single meal.

How about seafood such as shrimp, lobster, crab and scallops?
Yes, but I do not specifically recommend pregnant woman to consume in large quantity. First, they do not provide quantities of omega 3 fatty acids that other species of fish containing. Second, they are bottom feeders – they live and crawl mainly on the seabed floor and eating what goes to the bottom of the sea, which can be garbages human dump into the sea. So, pregnant woman still can eat them, but should minimize non-finned seafood.

How about sushi or sashimi?
Pregnant woman should avoid all raw fish, including sushi, sashimi and also raw shellfish (oyster, clams, mussels). These raw fish contain parasites or bacteria which may cause gastrointestinal illness that can complicate pregnancy.


5 Tips for Pregnant Woman Before Eating Fish

  1. Choose the cleanest and least contaminated fish. You may ask the counter where the fish were caught or raised. Rule of thumb – most farmed fish contains concentrations of contaminant than wild fish.
  2. Include low-mercury dish in your diet twice a week [not more than 12 ounces (about 340 grams) total of fish].
  3. Squeezing lemons into fish can help “purify” the fish from toxin.
  4. Before you cook your fish, remove the fish skin and trim the dark meat thoroughly. Normally, most chemicals accumulate in skin and dark meat.
  5. Always make sure the fish is thoroughly cooked. Check the fish with a fork to see whether it flakes easily which is a good indication.

Instead of not eating any fish at all, I hope that you spent some time to read up what is the myth and what is not. Eat fish, but make sure you make an informed decision.



Category: Health

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