Fish provides beneficial protein, essential nutrients and omega-3 fatty acids which are all important for your health. For pregnant women, it is important for the growth and development of your baby. Some studies have found that women who eat fish during pregnancy have better pregnancy outcomes than women who do not eat fish.
Methyl Mercury Risks
Methyl mercury is a toxic form of mercury found in the environment. You can be exposed to it by eating contaminated fish. Fish that are large, have long life spans, and eat other fish are more likely to contain higher amounts of methyl mercury than small fish. Fish that have the highest levels of methyl mercury and should be avoided during pregnancy include shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tile fish. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises pregnant women, women who are planning to become pregnant within one year, nursing mothers, and children under the age of 6 years to avoid fish that contain high levels of methyl mercury.
What is Safe to Eat During Pregnancy?
FDA suggests that you may safely eat 12 ounces a week (340 grams, or two average meals), of most types of low-mercury, cooked fish such as salmon, pollock, shrimp, canned light tuna and catfish. One week’s consumption of fish probably would not greatly change the level of methyl mercury in your body. If you eat a lot of fish during one week, you can limit your fish consumption for the next week or two.
Fishing is a wonderful way to enjoy the beautiful landscape and weather here in Utah. It is good practice to always check the environmental reports on the mercury levels of local waterways before consuming fish caught in them. Up-to-date mercury advisories for local bodies of water can be found at www.fishadvisories.utah.gov.
What to Avoid During Pregnancy
- High-mercury fish such as swordfish, shark, mackerel, tile fish and other large predatory species
- Raw fish and shellfish
- refrigerated smoked fish (salmon – nova lox)
Tips to Use in Your Kitchen
Cook seafood to an internal temperature of at least 145 F . Use a clean meat thermometer to check the temperature in the center of the fish. The fish should flake easily and have an opaque appearance.
If shellfish (clams, mussels, oysters) does not open naturally in the cooking process, discard that particular piece and do not eat it.
Although low-mercury containing fish are the best source of omega-3 fatty acids, they can also be found in flax seeds, walnuts and olive oil.
Last Thoughts About Mercury
Alternative sources of contamination include broken thermometers and light bulbs. Always dispose of these items carefully and safely.
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration, http://www.fda.gov/
- Natural Resources Defense Council, http://www.nrdc.org/
- Utah Department of Environmental Quality, www.mercury.utah.gov or 800-458-0145
- American Pregnancy Association, http://www.americanpregnancy.org/
- American Dietetic Association, http://www.eatright.org/