There are hundreds of species of fish that can be eaten by humans. For pregnant women, it is important to include fish in the diet as they contain a lot of protein and nutrients while being low in saturated fat.
Indeed, it is recommended to eat fish two to three times when you are pregnant or breastfeeding because of the positive effects on the development of the fetus. But how do you know which types of fish are safe and good to eat and which are dangerous? Let’s find out!
The benefits of fish for pregnant women
Eating fish is important for everyone especially pregnant women because they contain a number of nutrients that are found in very little in other products. For example, fish are full of iodine, vitamin D, and fish fats, which are good for both your own body and your baby’s development.
- Iodine is essential for the production of thyroid hormone and supports the growth of your baby.
- Vitamin D helps keep your bones strong and build your baby’s skeleton.
- Much of the fat in fish is omega 3 fatty acid DHA. The DHA ingested by the mother is an important building block for the development of your child’s eyes and brain.
Therefore, it is not recommended to eliminate fish from your diet when pregnant. However, it is important to know which species to go for as some species are more likely to be contaminated with toxic substances than others.
Also, pregnant women are advised to vary the species and places of supply of the fish they consume.
The risk of eating fish for pregnant women
High Mercury Content
Mercury is a transitional metal that fish get through the food they eat. They do not excrete it, so it continues to accumulate in their body. This concerns in particular methylmercury.
By eating fish that contains mercury, we humans also get it in our bodies. About 95% of it is absorbed and enters the bloodstream.
However, excess mercury can lead to brain damage and nerve damage. In children, this can lead to speech and sleep problems and impairment of fine motor skills. It is therefore very important to avoid mercury-rich fish!
A risk of listeriosis
While listeriosis is a rare infection in healthy adults, it is dangerous for pregnant women: fetuses are particularly vulnerable to it. During pregnancy, listeriosis can cause miscarriage, neonatal infection, or even premature labor.
Listeria monocytogenes can infect all kinds of raw foods: cheese, fruits, vegetables, meat, and fish. It is for this reason that a pregnant woman cannot eat unpasteurized cheeses, poorly preserved or unwashed raw vegetables, as well as undercooked meat and fish.
To make sure that your fish is not infected with Listeria monocytogenes, a few rules should be followed:
- Make sure that the cold chain has been respected
- Make sure the fish is cooked through (to the center) and eat it immediately after cooking.
- Do not eat fish that you have stored for more than 12 hours in the refrigerator after cooking, preparing or after opening the package.
- Wash your hands after handling these foods.
- When eating out, ask for the fish to be cooked properly
What fish can you eat duing pregnancy
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency have compiled a list that categorized fish into 3 categories with corresponding recommended weekly amounts:
Best choices (2 to 3 servings per week)
- Atlantic croaker
- Black sea bass
- and spiny
- Pacific chub
- and ocean
- Trout, freshwater
- Tuna, canned
- light (includes
Good choices (1 serving per week)
- Chilean sea bass
- Spanish mackerel
- Striped bass (Ocean)
- Tilefish (Atlantic Ocean)
- Tuna, albacore
- canned white tuna
- White croaker
- Pacific croaker
Choices to avoid
- King mackerel
- Orange roughy
- Tilefish (Gulf of Mexico)
- Tuna, bigey
During your pregnancy, you will therefore have to say goodbye to raw fish: no sushi, sashimi, or fish carpaccio for nine months, therefore. It is also best to avoid smoked fish. On the other hand, you can eat fatty fish, rich in omega-3s, if it is well cooked. That is to say, salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, trout, eel.
Tuna is an oily fish but due to its size, it may contain mercury: consume it in moderation.
The risk of listeriosis also exists with shellfish and crustaceans. However, they are not to be banned from your diet but make sure that they are well cooked before consuming them.
If you are an oyster lover, you will have to do without them if you like them fresh (and therefore raw). You can consume them if they are made au gratin in the oven.
Erica is an experienced nurse working in the central Florida area. She focuses on subjects related to pregnancy and infant health. She is a mother of two with hobbies ranging from dancing to playing the piano.