Pregnancy nutrition can be very confusing and you always want what is best for your baby, so you probably always put some fruits in your cereals and consume a lot of vegetables. In addition, you may eat protein and dairy food, and probably you have a few healthy snacks in between.
But, can pregnant mothers eat fish during pregnancy, with the latest concerns about the high fish mercury level in some fish and the received mixed results from the research that mercury might affect a baby’s brain and the nervous system?
Well, of all the food dilemmas you might have while pregnant, fish may be the most challenging one. On one side, this food contains nutrients that may be essential for the development of the fetus, while on the other, it may not be safe as it contains damaging polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and mercury.
So, let’s see which fish is beneficial and which should be avoided during pregnancy so you can maximize the many benefits of the fish for you and your baby.
Why Fish is Healthy for the Baby And Pregnant Mothers?
Omega 3 – DHA fatty acids
Fish is rich in nutrients and vitamins and in healthy oil called Omega 3 – DHA. When you include it in your diet, it is a very good way to get all the needed protein and healthy fats that are very healthy for the brain and eyes of your baby. (1)
During the last trimester, the nervous system and the baby’s brain are rapidly developed, and this requires about 65 mg/day of DHA. Some studies have shown that it can be beneficial for a baby’s early development.
This high demand for Omega 3 fatty acids continues to the age of 2.
At the same time, Omega 3 fatty acids nourish the brain of the expectant mothers and prevent depression.
It can also lower the risk of premature delivery, as shown in some studies. (2)
Another thing that is needed to build the baby’s skin, hair, bones, and muscles is protein. In addition, pregnant mothers also need 25 gr of protein daily to support their babies.
Fish, peanut butter, eggs, beans, and dairy are good protein sources.
Iron is great for building up the immune system and helps bring oxygen from the mother’s bloodstream to the baby. Some seafood like crab, shrimp, clam, and oysters are rich in iron and are safe to be eaten during pregnancy.
Vitamin D is important for calcium absorption and can lower the risk of getting high blood pressure during pregnancy.
Some fish are high in vitamin D, such as shrimp, salmon, and canned tuna. Other food supplements rich in vitamin D are milk and orange juice.
The revised advice from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is for the pregnant women to eat a variety of cooked fish 2 to 3 times per week or up to 12 ounces (340 grams) of a variety of seafood lower in mercury. (3)
What Fish Is Safe To Eat While Pregnant?
While pregnant, you can eat fish low in mercury and high in Omega 3 fatty acids such as follows:
- Pacific mackerel
- Freshwater trout
- Canned light tuna
When pregnant, you should enjoy eating fish and all types, frozen, fresh, and canned. Canned tuna is one of the most affordable, and it has a mild and sweet flavor.
What Fish To Avoid While Pregnant Or Breastfeeding And It Is High In Mercury?
Mercury is a mineral that can be found in nature, and it is also released into the environment through human activities. Fish and other animals are exposed to it in rivers, lakes, and oceans.
Mercury can pass from a mother to a child through the placenta when you are pregnant. It can also pass in smaller amounts through breast milk if you breastfeed a baby. Mercury can affect a baby’s brain and cognitive development.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, it is recommended to avoid these 7 types of fish. They are all high in mercury:
- Tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico
- Orange roughy
- Bigeye tuna
- King mackerel
In addition, never use a microwave for cooking fish and do not eat raw fish when pregnant, even sushi. Pregnant and breastfeeding women have lower immunity than normal and are more prone to infections, so make sure that your seafood is fully cooked.
Is It Safe To Consume Shrimps During Pregnancy?
If you are pregnant and you are a seafood lover, you may be wondering if it is ok if you eat shrimp, and we have some good news for you! The answer is Yes!
Well–cooked shrimp is not just safe, but it is an excellent and nutritious food option to be taken during pregnancy, provided it is not part of your daily meal. They should be consumed in small doses at about 340 g a week.
Shrimps are high in protein, and it is low in mercury content, so it is perfectly safe during pregnancy. It is rich in vitamins B2 and B12, which are very important for overall health when pregnant. They are rich in Omega 3 fatty acids that are beneficial for a baby’s development.
They are rich in iron, so in 100 g, you will get 1.8 gm of iron, which is significant for the baby’s development and you as a mother. It can reduce anemia in pregnancy which also helps premature birth and brings oxygen and blood supply to the baby.
But, during pregnancy, you should refrain from eating raw shellfish and ensure yourself that all the seafood you take is fully cooked. When raw or not fully cooked, they may contain listeria that can cause bacterial infection and premature birth or miscarriage.
It is also necessary to keep them fresh and cold and you shouldn’t consume anything that has been out of the refrigeration for more than an hour. It is also important to consult your health provider for any questions you might have about the safety of the shrimps or any other food during pregnancy.
Eating Salmon During Pregnancy
Salmon fish may be a good choice as it is high in DHA or omega 3 fatty acids, which are very important for the neurodevelopment of the baby and may also reduce the preterm delivery. Some studies have found that it can also decrease the risk of induced hypertension during pregnancy.
Salmon has the least amount of mercury compared to other fish, but still, it should be consumed in moderation, and stay away from it if you are allergic. If you develop some kind of reaction, go to the doctor immediately.
To be safe during the pregnancy, salmon must be fully cooked, and it should be noted that raw and smoked salmon can lead to listeria infection during pregnancy and should be avoided.
Eating just two to three portions of cooked salmon per week is completely safe for you and your baby, and you are protected from excessive mercury exposure and getting all the nutritional benefits from it.
Monitor Mercury Intake
When you are pregnant is very important for you to monitor your mercury intake because high mercury content in your diet may cause hearing and vision problems for your baby and lead to brain damage.
All fish have some mercury content, but some should be avoided due to their high content of this metal that occurs in natural fish habitats.