Can you still eat seafood during pregnancy?

From packable lunches like tuna sandwiches to shrimp kabobs and fish tacos, seafood’s on the menu in the heat of summer. But if you’re pregnant, you may have been warned that seafood can be dangerous to a developing baby. Is it true? Our OB doctors say the answer’s not so cut-and-dry. Let’s dive into the facts about eating seafood while pregnant.

Seafood is actually a healthy choice!

According to Dr. Seale at our Women’s Center in McKay Dee Hospital, most seafood is nourishing to a developing baby. “Fish contains omega 3 fatty acids which are essential for baby’s developing eyes and brain,” says Dr. Seale. Other nutrients found in seafood—including protein, calcium, vitamin D and iron—help build bones and muscles.

Where do we run into problems?

Though the benefits of fish are many, there are a few types you should avoid during pregnancy due to the high levels of mercury contained in them. Rest assured though, most of the fish Americans eat contain relatively low levels of mercury.

High-mercury seafood (AVOID during pregnancy):

Avoid these larger “predator” type fish:

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

Low-mercury seafood (SAFE during pregnancy):

Most of the seafood Americans regularly consume is considered safe. This includes wild salmon, shrimp, catfish, tilapia, sole, sardines, flounder, haddock, halibut, pollock, cod, canned light tuna, crab, crawfish, oysters, lobster, clams, black sea bass, anchovies and trout.

Heard conflicting advice about salmon?

Salmon’s one of nature’s best providers of DHA. But to ensure you’re not also eating the high levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) often found in farmed salmon, opt for wild or organic farmed salmon (which also contains more healthy omega-3 fats).

How much fish can I eat while pregnant?

The FDA states that up to three servings of low-mercury seafood is safe to eat per week. Stick to the serving size of 4 ounces—or about the size of your palm.

What about sushi?

Sushi is not as concerning to your baby’s health as it is to your own. Dr. Seale says, “If sushi is not prepared properly, it can cause food poisoning.” Rest assured though. “Most people won’t run into any problems if they are getting sushi from a reputable restaurant or a grocery store that refrigerates it correctly,” Dr. Seale adds.

For more education on pregnancy and child rearing, check out our Women’s Health tab.