Can I Eat Fish While Pregnant?

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So, you love eating fish. But now you’re pregnant and are wondering if fish is safe for you and your baby? There are many doubts and confusions about what one should eat during pregnancy. Some of the most frequently asked questions about pregnancy nutrition areCan I eat fish while pregnant?‘ or ‘Is seafood safe when I’m pregnant?‘ or ‘List of safe fish during pregnancy.

Read along to find out the safe fish to eat during pregnancy. It is also essential to know seafood that is not safe during pregnancy. 

Types of fish you can eat when you are pregnant are the Fish rich in nutrients, essential vitamins, and amino acids.

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition1 mentions that eating fish and shellfish during pregnancy is good for baby’s brain.

Benefits of Fish while pregnant

In a study published in The Lancet, US and British scientists showed that the children of mothers who ate fish while pregnant had higher IQ and social abilities. This study sufficiently answers those who want to know if it’s safe to eat fish while pregnant. But we will delve more for more clarity.

  • Seafood is white meat. White meat considered best for health. It has healthy cholesterol and omega fatty acids.
  • Seafood is a storehouse of amino acids, proteins, vitamins, and minerals required for the growing baby.
  • Eating seafood while pregnancy will help you gain weight gradually. Thus it will be healthier.
Can I Eat Fish While Pregnant?
Can I Eat Fish While Pregnant?

Why some people consider seafood unsafe for pregnant women?

Taboos such as that eating fish during pregnancy leads to white patches, and pigmentation problems in the baby’s skin are scary. Doctors have given contradictory instructions about eating fish by pregnant women. So how far are these findings of eating seafood during pregnancy true?

  • Water from industries and agricultural lands mixes with sea water from drainage. It brings along harmful toxins.
  • Fishes of all kinds have got the harmful chemicals and elements such as mercury in them. Mercury can pass through the placenta to the growing baby.
  • Mental retardation, kidney failure, bone deformation, teeth enamel rupture, etc are adverse effects of mercury.

You need to select the fishes that have less of these harmful Mercury salts and are from clean water sources while finding fishes for eating during pregnancy.

What are the dangers of eating fish during pregnancy?

  • If you eat a wrong type of fish during pregnancy, it won’t affect you much. The high levels of Mercury will interfere with your baby’s brain development and might lead to severe mental retardation. So it is the baby who suffers due to the harmful effects of eating the wrong seafood. Accidentally eating a fish with high mercury level won’t harm but regular consumption of such fish leads to complications.
  • A woman’s body becomes a lot more sensitive during pregnancy. There are chances that something you’ve been eating since ages will act as an allergen. This includes fishes too. A red patch or itching is a sign of allergy which may or may not reverse even after pregnancy. Select the fish carefully and buy only from a reliable place.

What kind of Seafood is safe during pregnancy?

Can pregnant women eat fish? This question doesn’t have a definite answer.

Fish intake during pregnancy and allergic outcomes2 show minimal correlation suggesting that it’s safe and beneficial.

It is OK to eat fish when pregnant if you know the right breeds and variety.

Low Mercury Medium Mercury LevelHigh Mercury Level
Best fish for pregnancy
Take 8 -12 ounces a week
Take 6 ounces a weekAvoid during pregnancy
Perch
Mullet
Butterfish
Clam
Crayfish
Trout
Whiting
Bass
Mahi Mah
Croaker Monkfish
Bluefish
Sea Bass
Grouper
[Fishes categorized according to their mercury content]

Earlier FDA proposed that pregnant females shouldn’t eat fish due to the risk of mercury poisoning. Now, it has recommended including more fishes in pregnant woman’s diet.

Can I eat fish while pregnant?
Can I eat fish while pregnant?

List of safe fish during pregnancy

  1. Crab: Can you eat crab while pregnant? Cook crab meat before eating to ensure its safety. Crab has phosphorus, selenium, and copper. Every cell needs phosphorous for protein formation. Crab meat also has Vitamin B12 and is a rich protein source. It also has essential omega-3 fatty acids which are incredibly important for the development of your baby’s brain.
  2. Shrimp: Can pregnant women eat shrimp? Cooked Shrimps are the best fish to eat when for a pregnant woman and her baby. Shrimps have vitamin D essential for hormonal balance and skin formation. Shrimps are low in calories and cholesterol and have a higher proportion of minerals such as iodine, zinc, etc.
  3. Mussels: Can you eat Mussels while pregnant? Mussels are rich in niacin and other forms of vitamin B such as Vitamin B12. It is cardioprotective. It can prevent the development of heart disorders in your baby. This is the best shellfish to eat while pregnant.
  4. Prawns: Is it safe to eat prawns during pregnancy? Prawns are good for pregnant women. They are beneficial for your baby’s skin development. Prawns also improve eyesight. So eating prawns can aid the development of a baby’s eyes. Prawns are rich in vitamin B 12, B 6, Iron and sodium. Prawns are the healthiest seafood during pregnancy.
  5. Salmon: Can you eat Salmon when pregnant? Salmon is one of the healthiest fishes during pregnancy. It has omega-3 fatty acids that are good for the heart. Salmons have a lot of phosphorus which is good for bones and potassium maintains electrolyte balance. Salmon is good for pregnant females for reducing hypertension.
  6. Lobster: Can pregnant women eat Lobster? Lobster has a higher cholesterol level and is suitable for pregnant females who have complaints of weakness and lethargy. Also for the baby Lobsters have a blessing as they boost the immune system. They have high levels of selenium that is an anti-oxidant and helps in detoxifying your body during pregnancy.
  7. Pollock: Can I eat Pollock while pregnant? Pollock is low in mercury content and hence is suitable fish for eating during pregnancy. It has a lot of omega-3 fatty acids which help in the formation of the heart, brain and other organs of the baby.
  8. Tilapia: Can pregnant women eat Tilapia? Tilapia is again a low mercury fish. It has a lot of amino acids and proteins. Tilapia is aids baby’s development.
  9. Cod Fish: Is Cod fish safe while pregnant? If you have Cod fish it lowers the chances of getting Alzheimer’s, Hypertension and other heart diseases. Imagine what wonders will it work if you give it to your baby even before she or he is born. Cod liver oil has many benefits for everybody. Eating Cod fish is better than taking cod liver oil tablets.
  10. Catfish: Can you eat Catfish when pregnant? Catfish provides a complete set of proteins that is it has all the amino acids. It is low in bad cholesterol and has essential fatty acids like Omega-3 fatty acids, Omega-6 fatty acids, etc. All this is like an elixir for you and your little one. Also, the catfish is very low in calories, so it benefits you even more.
  11. Anchovies: Can pregnant women eat Anchovies? Yes, you can and you must. Anchovies are rich in iron. Iron is one of the essential minerals needed by you. Iron is vital for oxygen transport and also for blood formation. The tiny Anchovies are like iron tablets and will substitute for your folic acid tablets! This will prevent your baby from depending wholly on artificial supplements.
  12. Tuna: Can you eat Tuna while pregnant? Tuna needs a lot of caution while consuming it during pregnancy. Every variety has an entirely different set of nutritional benefits. But for selecting the type of fish a pregnant woman can eat we have to focus on the mercury content. Low mercury Tuna has endless benefits like helping fight postpartum (post-pregnancy) depression. It boosts the immune system of your baby, makes firm cell membranes, and prevents infections. Tuna improves circulation of blood, reduces the risk of heart diseases. 
  13. Oysters: Can you eat Oysters while pregnant? Oysters are rich in essential fatty acids. Oyster sauce might not be recommendable for a pregnant woman. But oysters should be in your pregnancy seafood list. Oysters have a lot of minerals like zinc, potassium, phosphorus, iron, etc. The problem with Oysters is that during their growth they absorb a lot from the surroundings. So you need to get oysters from a shop that sells a variety that is free from such toxins.
  14. Scallops: Are Scallops safe during pregnancy? Scallops are one of the tastiest shell fishes and even an excellent dietary source of proteins. A pregnant woman must have scallops as they are abundant in good cholesterol and essential fatty acids. They are good for your baby and you in every aspect.

List of fish to avoid during pregnancy

The answer to “What fish should I avoid while pregnant?” is here:

  1. Sword Fish: Sword fish is a carnivorous fish that eats smaller fishes. Mercury accumulates, and hence Sword fish is not safe during pregnancy.
  2. Shark: Shark is a predator fish that comes at a higher level in the food web. The levels of mercury are alarming. Avoid eating shark till you’ve your baby inside.
  3. Tile Fish: Tile fish is an oily fish and has the risk of having polychlorinated biphenyls and other harmful toxic heavy metals. Hence it is better to avoid having Tile Fish during pregnancy.
  4. White Albacore (Tuna): Some varieties of Tuna such as the White Albacore have a slightly higher content of mercury. So avoid White Albacore during pregnancy. It is permissible to eat in amounts less than 6 ounces a week.
  5. Raw or under-cooked Fish: Raw fishes and canned fishes or sushi are more harmful than cooked seafood. Canned Tuna has another issue of being prone to food spoilage by toxic cold-loving bacteria. The canning process if gone wrong allows bacteria to form food poisons which can not only lead to miscarriage but can even be lethal.

Uncooked fish might have parasites like tapeworm. If consumed it will cause immense damage and affect your little one adversely. Under-cooked fish has a different case but leads to the same results. Under cooked fish comes to a temperature where it becomes the perfect site for fungal germination.

How much seafood is safe for a pregnant woman?

FDA and EPA recommend a pregnant woman to have around 8-12 ounce of fish a week. This means around every alternate day a pregnant woman must have fish for baby’s health and development.

How to prevent damage by eating seafood during pregnancy?

  • Cook seafood at higher cooking temperature, to make it safe to eat during pregnancy.
  • Always buy fish that has bright shiny eyes and firm to touch.
  • It should be fresh and not from cold storage.
  • The scales should be intact, and not fragile at all. Try getting as fresh as possible from the market, just before you’ve to eat them.

Just keep these points in mind about seafood during pregnancy and reap the benefits of fish in your diet!

References

  1. Emily Oken, Marie Louise Østerdal, Matthew W Gillman, Vibeke K Knudsen, Thorhallur I Halldorsson, Marin Strøm, David C Bellinger, Mijna Hadders-Algra, Kim Fleischer Michaelsen, Sjurdur F Olsen; Associations of maternal fish intake during pregnancy and breastfeeding duration with attainment of developmental milestones in early childhood: a study from the Danish National Birth Cohort, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 88, Issue 3, 1 September 2008, Pages 789–796, https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/88.3.789
  2. Fish intake during pregnancy and allergic outcomes http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/140/Supplement_3/S181.2

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