Guideline to Eating Seafood during Pregnancy

Pregnant and avoiding fish to limit mercury exposure? You’re not alone, but eating seafood during pregnancy is important for your baby’s development. Find out the fish to consume—and which to avoid.

Research has shown that one in five expectant American moms ate little or no fish during their pregnancies. These moms were missing out on key nutrients for the growth and neurodevelopment of their babies. In fact, experts encourage pregnant women—and those looking to become pregnant—to eat more low-mercury fish to benefit their babies’ health and brain and vision development.

Why is fish so important?

  • Seafood can be a great source of iron, protein, and zinc, all of which are important for red blood cells to transport oxygen and for a baby with a healthy birth weight.
  • Fatty fish, such as salmon, offer omega-3 fatty acids, including docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which supports your baby’s brain and vision development.

But not all fish is equal in safety for pregnant women.

Fish to Enjoy During Pregnancy

Eat a variety of these low-mercury fish to give your baby the nutrients she needs for brain development and overall health:

  • Shrimp
  • Pollock
  • Salmon
  • Canned light tuna
  • Tilapia
  • Catfish
  • Cod

Experts recommend that pregnant women—or women trying to get pregnant—eat between 8 and 12 ounces (or two or three servings) of low-mercury fish per week.

To keep these choices safe, make sure you’re cooking fish properly.

  • Cook fish to an internal temperature of 145 degrees F.
  • Fish is cooked when it appears opaque throughout (don’t eat it rare—cooking kills any harmful bacteria or viruses).
  • Shrimp, lobster, and scallops should be milky white.
  • Mussels, clams, and oysters should be cooked until their shells open.

Fish to Avoid During Pregnancy

The key is limiting your consumption of large predatory fish. These fish contain high levels of mercury. The mercury can accumulate in your blood stream and could have an adverse effect on your baby’s brain and nervous system. Fish to avoid:

  • Tilefish
  • Shark
  • Swordfish
  • King mackerel

Limit your consumption of white (albacore) tuna to 6 ounces a week.

It’s also recommended to shun uncooked seafood during pregnancy to avoid harmful bacteria or viruses, including sushi, sashimi, and fish labeled as lox, smoked, kippered, or jerky.