Yes, it is true that some seafood contains mercury which, if consumed in excess during pregnancy, could build up and cause damage to the developing baby’s brain and nervous system. However, this doesn’t mean that a pregnant woman needs to cut out seafood from her diet completely. There is plenty of seafood that is low in mercury and even the higher mercury products are fine in moderation.
Both the FDA and the EPA say a pregnant woman can safely consume 12 ounces of seafood per week. A similar recommendation from the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans states 8 to 12 ounces of seafood a week is safe for a pregnant woman.
- Canned light tuna
- King Mackerel
- Raw oysters and clams
Follow general safety precautions with seafood to avoid other risks. This includes properly cooking seafood to an internal temperature of 145 degrees. If consuming local fish, pay attention to advisories.
Seafood can be beneficial during pregnancy because it is a great source of protein and iron which are important for a baby's growth and development. Seafood also provides omega-3 fatty acids which can help to promote a baby's brain development.
The bottom line is that there is nothing wrong with consuming seafood in moderation during pregnancy. Just know how much is being consumed and prepare it properly to provide the maximum health benefits for both mom and baby.
For more special dietary considerations for pregnant women and other nutrition and health related information, visit MissouriFamilies.org.
Contributors: Kelly Hall, MU Dietetic Intern; Mary Wissmann, MS, RD, LD, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, St. Louis County, University of Missouri Extension, WissmannM@missouri.edu