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Eating Fish While Pregnant

Posted Dec 02 2008 11:14am

Fish Facts for Nursing and Pregnant Moms and Women Who May Become Pregnant

Fish and shellfish can be an important part of a healthy diet. They are a great source of protein and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

But almost all fish and shellfish contain some mercury. Mercury is a metal that can harm the brain of your unborn baby—even before it is conceived.

Mercury mainly gets into our bodies by the fish we eat. Only high levels of this metal seem to be harmful to developing babies. So the risk of mercury in fish and shellfish depends on the amount and type you eat.

Women who are nursing, pregnant or who may become pregnant should steer clear of fish with high levels of mercury. But removing all fish from your diet will rob you of important omega-3 fatty acids. So how can you reap the benefits of eating fish without the dangers of mercury? Follow these tips.

Don’t eat:
• Swordfish
• Tilefish
• King mackerel
• Shark
• Raw or uncooked fish or shellfish (e.g. clams, oysters, scallops)
• Refrigerated uncooked smoked fish (labeled Nova-style, lox, kippered or jerky)
Eat up to 1 serving (6 ounces) per week:
• Tuna Steaks
• Canned albacore or chunk white tuna
• Halibut
• Snapper

Eat up to 2 servings (12 ounces) per week:
• Shrimp, crab, clams, oysters, scallops
• Canned light tuna
• Salmon
• Mahi Mahi
• Pollock
• Catfish
• Cod

Check before eating fish caught in local waters.
• State health departments have guidelines on fish from local waters. Or get local fish advisories at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Website (
• If you’re unsure about the safety of a fish from local waters, only eat 6 ounces per week and don’t eat any other fish that week.

Eat a variety of small, young non-fatty fish.
• Ask your fishmonger to recommend lean, small fish that are caught young.

Source: National Women’s Health Information Center, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,

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