Your pregnancy diet: What to know about mercury
You're encouraged to eat fish because it's good for you, and then told to avoid or limit certain kinds of it because it's high in mercury. Sound familiar? The news about fish can be confusing—especially when you're pregnant because the guidelines for eating fish are different for pregnant women. Which fish are okay to eat? How much can you have? Here's what you need to know.
What you need to know about fish
Fish has high quality protein so it can be a good addition to your diet during pregnancy, when your protein needs increase. And fatty fish like salmon have omega-3 fatty acids, a type of fat that can help support your baby's brain development.
But almost all fish have some amount of mercury and that's why fish can be a concern, especially during pregnancy. Eating fish that have high levels of mercury can be harmful to your unborn baby's brain and nervous system.
Which fish are recommended?
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) advise pregnant women to eat no more than 12 ounces (about two servings) of these types of fish and seafood a week:
- Canned light tuna (no more than 6 ounces a week of albacore tuna or tuna steak, which tend to have higher mercury levels)
Fish to avoid during pregnancy
These types of fish may have high levels of mercury and should not be eaten during pregnancy:
- King mackerel
Locally caught fish
If you eat fish caught in nearby rivers, streams or coastal waters, contact local public health agencies to see if there are any concerns about mercury. If you can't get a clear answer telling you the fish is okay to eat, limit your intake of locally caught fish to 6 ounces per week and don’t eat any additional fish that week.
Learn more about foods to avoid during pregnancy.