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Pregnant? Get the facts about fish

When you're pregnant, you want to eat foods that are good for you and your growing baby. And fish is one of those foods.

Fish provide important nutrients for developing babies, and it's a good source of vitamins, minerals, protein and healthy fats that help protect mom's health too.

That's why it's recommended that pregnant women eat 8 to 12 ounces of fish (2 to 3 servings) every week.

But those recommendations come with a caveat: Some types of fish have high levels of mercury, which can hurt a growing baby, and should be avoided. And some fish with more limited amounts of mercury should be eaten less frequently than others.

On the menu

When shopping for fish, there are a number of fish that are low or lower in mercury and are safe to eat while pregnant. Those include:

  • Bluefish— limit to 4 ounces and don't eat any other fish that week.
  • Cod.
  • Flounder.
  • Halibut—limit to 4 ounces and don't eat any other fish that week.
  • Herring.
  • Pollock.
  • Salmon.
  • Sardines.
  • Tilapia.
  • Freshwater trout.
  • Canned, fresh or frozen white (albacore) tuna—limit to 4 ounces and don't eat any other fish that week.
  • Light canned tuna.

If you have someone in the family who likes to fish and bring their catch home, pay attention to the fish advisories from the streams, rivers or lakes where the fish were caught. If advice isn't available, only eat 4 ounces of those fish per week and don't eat any other fish that week.

Off the menu

There aren't that many fish you need to avoid while pregnant. But there are a few key ones that are considered too high in mercury:

  • Bigeye tuna.
  • King mackerel.
  • Orange roughy.
  • Shark.
  • Swordfish.
  • Tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico.

Also, raw fish of any kind should be avoided while pregnant or breastfeeding.

Sources: FoodSafety.gov; U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Reviewed 3/16/2021

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The information found in the Health Library is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice nor does it represent the views or position of WHMC. Readers should always consult with their healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment, including for specific medical needs.