There is a huge variety of fish to choose from, but pregnant women need to make sure they eat the right ones. Low in fat and rich in protein fish contains omega-3 fatty acids and other useful nutrients, which may help protect your heart and if you're pregnant, boost your baby's brain development.
However some seafood contains high levels of a form of mercury called methylmercury, which can cause brain and nervous system damage in pregnant women.
The Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency's proposed guidelines suggest that expecting mothers and women who are nursing eat between 8 and 12 ounces (about two to three servings) of lower-mercury seafood that includes chunk light tuna a week.
AdvertisementConsumer Reports however disagrees with the FDA's guidelines and advised pregnant women to avoid tuna altogether. Jean Halloran, Director of Food Policy Initiatives for Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer reports said, "We're particularly concerned about canned tuna, which is second only to shrimp as the most commonly eaten seafood in the United States." In an analysis by an EPA researcher published in 2007, canned tuna accounts for 28 percent of Americans' exposure to mercury.
High-mercury fish, swordfish, shark, king mackerel and tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico top the list of fish to avoid for young children, women who are pregnant, breast-feeding, or might become pregnant advises the government. The Food and Drug Administration is also considering adding marlin and orange roughly to the list. Consumer Reports said grouper, Chilean sea bass, bluefish, halibut, sablefish, Spanish mackerel and most species of fresh tuna also have high concentrations of mercury.
None-the-less consumption of fish, including shellfish, has been found to have a number of health benefits because it is packed with protein and nutrients but low in saturated fat, the FDA and EPA said.
In a statement to Consumer Reports, the FDA explained the rationale for its advice. "Based on a review of the latest science, we have concluded that it is possible for pregnant and breast-feeding women, and women who might become pregnant, to increase growth and developmental benefits to their children by eating more fish than these groups of women typically do," the agency said. "This can be done while still protecting them from the potentially harmful effects of methylmercury in fish."