Should Pregnant Women Eat Fish?

This is officially the last aquatic health post of the week. However, the issue of pregnancy, mercury contamination and fish consumption is just too important to skip. In an about-face, experts are now recommending (really pretty much begging) that women consume fish during pregnancy. They say that the fat in fish is crucial to proper fetal development and this far outweighs any concerns about possible birth defects due to chemical contamination. 90% of women don’t eat sufficient amounts of fish during pregnancy, and the consequences are severe: impaired cognitive function in babies and depression in mothers. It’s a stand-off between environmental groups and public health advocacy groups, with the FDA just trying to stay afloat as usual.

What do you think?

Further reading:

Best Brain Foods

16 Ultimate Super Foods (capes not included)

Semantic Salmon

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14 thoughts on “Should Pregnant Women Eat Fish?”

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  1. How bout if pregnant women just take a quality fish oil supplement and thereby avoid the whole contaminated fish issue? That is probably what I would do, were any pregnancies looming in my future, but they are not. I don’t think I would avoid a good salmon meal, but I don’t think i’d go out of my way to increase my fish intake. Doesn’t make sense to risk the mercury if a supplement is just as good w/out the metal!

  2. My youngest is 6 years old. When I was pregnant, I was given fun reading material. I remember reading that I should avoid big fish such as swordfish, but they never said why.
    If I was pregnant now, I would probably invest in Mr. Slankers grass-fed meat. I’d probably have some fish, maybe wild salmon occassionally.
    We could worry about everything during pregnancy, and that’s not good either.

  3. I will certainly eat fish when I get pregnant. Flax seed and oil is another great way to get your Omega-3s.

  4. My Youngest Daughter Is Just Pregnant Again. I Will NOT Tell Her NOT To Eat Fish. Her And Her Husband Are Fishermen, Just As I Am. Catching “Fresh” Fish I’m All For. I Believe It’s O.K. For A Pregnant Woman To Eat Fresh Fish. Salmon And Trout,I Believe Would Be Best For My Daughter To Eat. What I Am Saying Is My Belief Is While Pregnant Choose WHICH Kind Of Fish Carefully, But, Totally “Eliminate” Fish, I SAY NO!

  5. Good post, Mark.
    Newsweek recently released an article about how ones diet while pregnant may “actually improve their unborn babies’ chances of growing into healthy adults.” It includes how we should eat whole grains, food rich in protein, and cutting out sugars. It also recommends the inclusion of Omega-3 rich foods as well as fruits and vitamins.

    Take a look:

    Donna? Is your keyboard broken or do you purposely type like that? Its hard to read! 🙂

  6. I will eat fish when I’m pregnant, but I’m generally suspicious of the modern paranoia about perfect fetal nutrition. Women have brought zillions of healthy babies into the world without such scrupulous attention to the details of their diet. I will try my best to follow the guidelines and do all the “right” things when I’m pregnant, but these articles are almost enough to scare a woman out of reproduction! Give us a break.

  7. Flying Trapeze:

    Though you make a good point, scientists and epidemiologists tend to look at birth-defect rates, or trends based on certain variables. Chances are, your baby will be healthy, but the focus is how many babies per thousand will be healthy. Research is done to ensure that birth defects are minimized.

  8. we is likely already suffused with mercury anyways so it might be a mute point.

    Why not eat small oily fish to reduce bio-polu’s and stop fretting about every little thing.
    it started to go down hill 40000 yrs ago when we became efficient hunters !

  9. Considering mercury gets lodged in the brain and does not come out…..I would say everyone avoid excessive fish. Heavy metal detox is not something that can be done with fruits and veggies. Eat farmed raised fish and add in fish oil supplementation that is mercury free. Eating and poisoning yourself with heavy metals is one thing….if you are caring for another life (aka a baby) you are 100% responsible to make it as healthy as possible. Brain disorders and autism are ever increasing….possibly due to lots of toxins, heavy metals and deficient omega 3s for brain development.

  10. Mark, Did you see that NPR did a little digging and discovered that the “study” was actually funded by the seafood industry? On top of that, the American Association of Pediatrics, the March of Dimes, and most of the other respectable organizations involved with the HMHB coalition have said they don’t support the new recommendation.

    Omega 3s are definitely important, and eating up to 12 ounces of low-mercury fish during pregnancy is one thing, but unlimited amounts? Sounds fishy to me!

  11. I did see that, Amanda. Personally, I’m an advocate of wild fatty fish consumption in moderation. I’m also (of course) in favor of fish oil supplementation.

    Great comments all of you – I don’t think there is a “perfect” answer here, unfortunately.