Eating Fish During Pregnancy

5 min read

Written by Pradeep


pregnant women and plate of fish

Pregnancy nutrition is restrictive and confusing. Fish during pregnancy is one such food where people are confused as it is one of the best ways to consume Omega-3 fatty acids. The scary part is every fish has some kind of mercury in it.

If you are pregnant and confused about eating fish during pregnancy, you are not alone. This article discusses whether it is safe to consume fish during pregnancy, the advantages, shortcomings, and the different types of fish that are safe to eat during pregnancy. Let us get started.

In This Article

Can Pregnant Women Eat Fish?

The answer is Yes. But, there are a lot of considerations to be looked upon behind the simple ‘yes.’ According to the Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA), pregnant women can eat eight to twelve ounces of low-mercury fish every week.

The Omega-3 fatty acids in many fish help promote the baby’s cognitive ability. While consuming fish, you need to ensure that you do not eat fish high in mercury or contaminated with pollutants.

Fish To Avoid During Pregnancy

You need to avoid all kinds of fish high in mercury. High mercury in your blood could hinder the development of the brain and nervous system of the baby. The following are a few types of fish that you need to avoid.

  • Shark
  • Orange roughy
  • Swordfish
  • Tilefish
  • Marlin
  • King Mackerel
  • Bigeye Tuna

How Much Fish Is Safe To Eat During Pregnancy?

How Much fish Is Safe During Pregnancy_

During pregnancy, women can consume fish lower in mercury at the safe levels mentioned by the FDA. The high-level mercury in seafood restricts the brain and nervous system development.

The following are some seafood that is lower in mercury.

  • Salmon
  • Anchovies
  • Herring
  • Sardines
  • Freshwater Trout
  • Pacific Mackerel
  • Shrimp
  • Pollock
  • Tilapia
  • Cod
  • Catfish
  • Canned light tuna

It is suggested to restrict the albacore tuna and tuna steaks to about 170 grams or six ounces a week.

How Much Mercury Is Safe During Pregnancy?

Mercury is a natural element that forms in the environment through various human activities, and it gets collected in the ocean and becomes methylmercury in the sediment. This is the mercury that is present in all kinds of fish.

So, how much mercury pregnant women can eat is a naive question, and none of the health regulatory bodies across the world has mentioned the exact mercury levels to be consumed during pregnancy. But, the following table gives a reference based on body weight levels
Bodyweight Mercury doses to eat per day (In mcg) Mercury doses to eat per week (In mcg)
100 pounds / 45 kgs 4.5 31.5
125 pounds / 57 kgs 5.7 39.9
150 pounds / 68 kgs 6.8 47.6
175 pounds / 80 kgs 8 56
200 pounds / 91 kgs 9.1 63.7


The following table describes the level of mercury available in different kinds of fish. The mercury levels are measured in terms of parts per million or micrograms.

Name of the Species Mercury in PPM Mercury (In mcg) per 3 ounces (85 grams)
Light Tuna (canned) 0.126 10.71
Skipjack Tuna (Fresh or Frozen) 0.144 12.24
Albacore tuna (Canned) 0.350 29.75
Yellowfin tuna (fresh or frozen) 0.354 30.09
Albacore tuna (Fresh or Frozen) 0.358 30.43
Bigeye tuna (Fresh or Frozen) 0.689 58.57

What Are The Benefits Of Eating Fish During Pregnancy?

benefits of eating fish

There are so many benefits of eating fish during pregnancy. Let us look at each of them in detail.

  • Seafood – mainly fish and shellfish- is the best protein, iron, and zinc source. These are crucial nutrients for the baby`s growth and development.
  • The Omega-3 fatty acids present in all the seafood help enhance and promote the baby’s brain development.
  • Fish helps keep the blood pressure under control, especially if the mother is prone to hypertension.
  • Fish also helps in reducing the blood clot and blood fat levels that reduce the risk of cardiac arrest in women.
  • The risk of preterm birth is lower in women who consume fish regularly during pregnancy.

What Are the Guidelines for Eating Seafood During Pregnancy?

During pregnancy, even food needs to be taken care of under proper guidance and control. Let us look at a few of them.

  • Do not choose large and predatory fish, especially shark, swordfish, king mackerel, or tilefish are high in mercury. It is better to avoid them.
  • Ensure you do not eat uncooked shellfish, including sushi, oysters, sashimi, to avoid the harmful bacteria.
  • Before consuming the fish from local waters, make sure you go through the guidelines provided by the local advisories. If no such guidelines are available, limit fish consumption from local waters to six ounces or 170 grams per week.
  • Explore the art of cooking seafood. You need to cook them properly at 145 F. When the fish separates into flakes, it is cooked well. A cooked fish appears opaque throughout.
  • Seafood is not the only source of Omega 3 fatty acids. You can get them from supplements, fortified foods, and seeds. If you are confused about eating seafood, you can take any of these to get the same nutrition.

Side-effects of Fish during Pregnancy

The primary concern for eating fish during pregnancy is mercury. If you consistently keep eating fish with higher mercury levels, your bloodstream might contain higher levels of the substance. When the mercury begins to accumulate in your bloodstream, your baby`s development could be at risk. This not only applies to pregnant women but also to women who are planning to become pregnant.


When to Stop Eating Fish During Pregnancy?

As far as fish is concerned, if you follow the recommendations of the FDA, you can continue eating fish unless and until specified by your doctor to cut it down.

Can You Eat Rohu During Pregnancy?

You can eat rohu during pregnancy as it is enriched with proteins, Omega 3 fatty acids, vitamins A, B, and C.

Can You Eat Fish Caught In Local Waters?

The local waters are prone to contamination with the advent of industries that release their chemicals into the rivers. While you are pregnant, it is wise to avoid fish caught in local waters without proper monitoring.

What To Do If You Have Consumed Fish With High Mercury Levels During Pregnancy?

You should first stop panicking and inform your doctor about it. After checking the chelation levels, your doctor might suggest chelation therapy to eliminate the metal from the organs.


There are conflicting statements about eating fish during pregnancy. But, if you choose safe fish cooked to perfection, you cannot find better food that can enrich you with loads of nutrients. Studies have proven that children whose mothers ate fish during pregnancy have achieved the milestones on time and sometimes earlier. It helps in better nervous and brain development.

Make sure you follow the proper techniques of cooking the fish and consume them fresh. Also, do not forget to follow the guidelines mentioned by the FDA. Happy pregnancy and have a safe birth.


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