Eating fish and shellfish during pregnancy

Roasted salmon, boiled potatoes and vegetables on plate

Fish and shellfish are good sources of protein and essential nutrients such as heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids, but they can also contain high levels of potentially brain-damaging mercury.

FDA fish guidelines

To protect babies, the federal government has issued new guidelines for women who are pregnant, nursing or planning to conceive.

These women should eat no more that two servings of fish each week.

Safe seafood

You can safely have 12 ounces (two average meals) a week of a variety of fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury. These include five of the most commonly eaten fish:

  • Shrimp
  • Canned light tuna
    (White albacore, as well as fresh or frozen tuna, is higher in mercury.)
  • Salmon
  • Pollack
  • Catfish

Flounder, sole, oysters, clams, scallops, crab, herring, cod and mahi mahi are also low in mercury. Fast food fish and fish sticks are commonly made from fish that are lower in mercury.

Unsafe seafood

Do not eat

  • Shark
  • Swordfish
  • King mackerel
  • Tilefish (golden bass or golden snapper)

These fish contain high levels of mercury.

Officials say you should contact local advisors about safety of fish caught by family and friends in local lakes, rivers and coastal areas. If no advice is available, eat up to six ounces per week.

These same recommendations should be followed for feeding fish and shellfish to young children except in smaller portions.

For further information about the risks of fish and shellfish call U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s food information line toll free at 1-888-SAFEFOOD or visit the FDA website.