Eating Fish During Pregnancy

Nutritionist Maria Pari-Keener, MS, RD, answers the question, Does fish have too much mercury for pregnant women?

Question

I love all sorts of fish -- fresh and canned. But now I keep hearing all these warnings about mercury contamination. Liquor was hard enough to give up when I became pregnant -- must I forego my beloved tuna sandwiches, too?

    Answer

    Although methylmercury toxicity has been shown to harm the developing nervous system of a fetus, you don't need to entirely give up fish during your pregnancy. Fish is a good source of low-fat protein and essential fatty acids. It's true that the larger, longer-lived fish -- such as tuna -- contain high levels of methylmercury, but you can still eat it as long as you don't exceed the recommended amounts. Tuna consumption should be limited to seven ounces (about a can) per week. According to the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), all pregnant women should avoid shark, swordfish, tilefish, and king mackerel. Other fish such as shellfish, canned fish, smaller ocean fish, or farm-raised fish can safely be eaten up to 12 ounces per week (or about two meals).

      The information on this Web site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your pediatrician or family doctor. Please consult a doctor with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your or your child's condition.