We hear or read everywhere around us how healthy is to eat fish. It`s recommended to eat fish because they have lots of positive benefits on our health, especially during pregnancy. They offer high Omega-3 fatty acid, protein and iron levels, and include saturated fats. Omega-3 fatty acids have a very important role in the development of the baby`s brain from her belly.
Generally speaking, for an adult, the mercury in the fish consumed isn`t an issue. However, when it comes to pregnant women, it`s recommended to avoid species of fish which include large mercury amounts (e.g. sharks, mackerel, swordfish) and, instead, choose those with a low content of mercury.
Mercury in flowing waters, lakes and oceans, turning into methyl-mercury, a type of mercury which in high amounts can be very harmful to the nervous system, especially one in full development like that of an unborn child. Some fish accumulate more mercury than other fish, depending on which environment they belong to.
And women who intend to conceive a child are recommended to be cautious when it comes to consuming fish, because if they consume fish rich in mercury on a regular basis, it can accumulate in their circulatory system, and then affect their unborn baby.
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What Fish Are Safe to Eat during Pregnancy?
The Environmental Working Group offers a calculator (which we love very much!) that can help you choose well what seafood and fish to eat, depending on its high content of Omega-3 fatty acids and low content of mercury.
This online calculator determines the amount of fish that a person can eat on a weekly basis, depending on its pregnancy age and weight. It offers personal advice on over 80 species of fish. You`ll be able to find out what fish you are allowed to consume, what fish to avoid and what fish you can consume in moderation.
EWG has split fish in 5 categories:
Best Fish Choices
- Wild salmon.
- Rainbow trout.
- Atlantic mackerel.
One or 2 servings per week of these particular fish contain low amounts of mercury and optimal amounts of omega-3 fatty acids for pregnant and breastfeeding women, as well as people who suffer from heart illnesses. – More like this!
Good Fish Choices
These fish species have good concentrations of Omega-3 fats, 1 serving of 150g bringing around 25% of the recommended consumption of Omega-3 fatty acids per week. An expecting mother of an average weight can consume 3 portions per week without ingesting too much mercury. These species don`t always come from sustainable sources.
Less Mercury, But Less Omega-3 Fats As Well
These varieties might consist of healthy choices of nutrients as well as many other nutrients, but an adult needs to consume around 5 to 20 servings of these fish to reach the benefits a pregnant woman and people with heart conditions need.
Too Much Mercury
- Mahi mahi.
- White canned tuna.
- Sea bass.
These fish contain high amounts of mercury to be included in the diet of an expecting mother or children on a regular basis.
- Red tuna.
Fish rich in mercury should never be consumed by children or pregnant women.
How Much Fish Should a Pregnant Woman Eat?
Experts recommend future mothers to consume around 340 g of fish on a weekly basis.
If you want to taste some fish that has a higher amount of mercury, limit the amount to 170g per week to avoid any possible complications.
It`s good to respect these particular rules when consuming fish:
- To only choose fish species of mercury, if possible.
- Don`t consume raw fish at all (e.g. sushi, shells); the risk of getting contaminated with viruses or bacteria is too great.
- Cook the fish well at a minimum of 63° C – the fish is ready when separating in strips and gets an opaque color; the lobster and shrimps needs to be cooked until they get a white-sweet color; Cook the oysters, mussels and shells until the shells open on their own and remove those that haven`t opened.
The Level of Mercury Can Be Tested?
A hair test is able to determine the mercury amount that a woman has in the body and, thus the possible danger to which her future baby is exposed. When it comes to pregnancy, a level higher than 0.3 mg of mercury might have harmful effects on the baby.
Supplements with Fish Oil
There were lots of studies made on fish oil supplements containing mostly EPA & DHA that showed they offer many benefits, especially from a cardiovascular point of view. In terms of intrauterine life, docosahexanoic acid seems to have more brain related benefits, while eicosapentanoic acid offers benefits for other organs.
It`s essential to have knowledge about the fact that these supplements aren`t really necessary, meaning that mothers who choose not to take them won`t have children who are less intelligent.
Recommendations when Eating Fish while Pregnant
Think Small When Eating Fish during Pregnancy
Big and fat fish isn`t necessarily healthy as well! Pollutants in the atmosphere are found in ocean waters as well, so bigger fish are contaminated because they generally live longer and accumulate more toxins throughout life.
Mercury occurs in a natural way in small amounts in the environment. However, industrial pollution can produce it and it can accumulate in rivers, oceans and lakes. The microorganisms that live in these waters have a role in converting mercury to a toxic form of mercury, known as methyl-mercury. This form of mercury installs in the organs of fish when fish consume these particular microorganisms.
Add fish on your menu twice per week and combined with seafood in order to reduce the risk of getting ill. For instance, if you enjoy eating tuna, consuming it once per week as it`s a big fish. For the second meal, choose shrimp instead, if you want to stick with fish and seafood.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids & Pregnancy
Pregnant women are recommended to take capsules with fish oil, but they should make sure they purchase only the ones of the best quality. Cheap fish oil can be sourced from contaminated fish.
Flaxseed oil also has Omega-3 fatty acids in composition and is much better tolerated by expecting mothers. The reason involves the fact that flaxseeds, like soybeans seem to have an effect on the hormones that interfere with the body while pregnant. You should get in touch with your doctor in order to get recommendations about the best possible products.