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Seafood And Pregnancy

Seafood and Pregnancy: A Comprehensive Guide


Seafood is a nutritious and versatile food source that provides essential nutrients for both pregnant women and their developing babies. However, certain types of seafood may contain contaminants or high levels of mercury, which can pose risks to fetal development. This article provides a comprehensive guide to the benefits and risks of consuming seafood during pregnancy, including specific recommendations from health organizations and tips for making safe choices.

Benefits of Seafood During Pregnancy

Seafood is a rich source of:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids: Essential for brain and eye development in the fetus.
  • Protein: Supports fetal growth and development.
  • Iron: Prevents anemia, which is common during pregnancy.
  • Vitamin D: Important for bone health and immune function.
  • Iodine: Crucial for thyroid hormone production, which supports fetal brain development.

Risks of Seafood During Pregnancy

Certain types of seafood may contain contaminants or high levels of mercury, which can harm the developing fetus. These include:

  • Mercury: A neurotoxin that can damage the fetal brain and nervous system.
  • Toxins: Some types of shellfish, such as raw oysters, clams, and mussels, can contain harmful bacteria or toxins that can cause food poisoning.
  • Parasites: Raw or undercooked fish can harbor parasites that can infect the mother and fetus.

Safe Seafood Choices

To minimize risks and maximize benefits, pregnant women should follow these guidelines:

  • Limit high-mercury fish: Avoid or limit consumption of fish high in mercury, such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish.
  • Choose low-mercury fish: Opt for fish with low mercury levels, such as salmon, tuna, shrimp, and cod.
  • Cook seafood thoroughly: Cooking seafood to an internal temperature of 145°F (63°C) kills harmful bacteria and parasites.
  • Avoid raw shellfish: Raw shellfish, such as oysters, clams, and mussels, can contain harmful bacteria or toxins.
  • Limit canned tuna: Canned tuna contains lower levels of mercury than fresh tuna, but pregnant women should limit consumption to 2-3 servings per week.

Specific Recommendations

The following organizations provide specific recommendations for seafood consumption during pregnancy:

  • American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG): Recommends eating 8-12 ounces of seafood per week, with a limit of 6 ounces per week for high-mercury fish.
  • Food and Drug Administration (FDA): Advises pregnant women to avoid or limit high-mercury fish and to choose low-mercury fish instead.
  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): Sets limits on mercury consumption for pregnant women and recommends eating fish with low mercury levels.

Tips for Making Safe Choices

  • Read seafood labels: Check the labels of canned and frozen seafood for mercury content and avoid high-mercury varieties.
  • Ask your doctor or a registered dietitian: Consult with a healthcare professional for personalized advice on seafood consumption during pregnancy.
  • Choose sustainable seafood: Opt for seafood from sustainable sources to minimize the risk of contamination.
  • Follow safe handling practices: Wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling seafood, and refrigerate or freeze seafood promptly to prevent spoilage.


Seafood can be a nutritious and beneficial part of a pregnant woman’s diet, providing essential nutrients for both the mother and the developing baby. However, it is important to be aware of the potential risks associated with certain types of seafood and to follow safe consumption guidelines. By choosing low-mercury fish, cooking seafood thoroughly, and avoiding raw shellfish, pregnant women can enjoy the benefits of seafood while minimizing potential risks.

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