There has recently been some conflicting information in the media about whether or not it’s okay for pregnant women to eat seafood, especially tuna, while pregnant.
We asked Ascension Medical Group maternal-fetal specialist Michael Wolfe, MD, for some insight into the issue.
“The concern over eating seafood during pregnancy is the exposure to mercury,” said Dr. Wolfe. “If you eat seafood that has too much mercury in it, it could damage your unborn child’s brain and nervous system.”
Eating some fish is beneficial to pregnant women as it is a great source of lean protein and omega-3 fatty acids.
Dr. Wolfe explained that it’s important to know the mercury levels in seafood if you are considering eating it.
Fish with the highest levels of mercury include marlin, orange roughy, tilefish, swordfish, shark, king mackerel, and bigeye and Ahi tuna.
Fish with high levels of mercury include Chilean sea bass, bluefish, grouper, canned white albacore tuna and yellowfin tuna.
Fish with lower levels of mercury include striped, black bass, carp, Alaskan cod, white pacific croaker, pacific and atlantic halibut, lobster, mahi mahi, and snapper.
Fish with the lowest levels of mercury include anchovies, butterfish, catfish, clams, domestic crab, flounder, haddock, tilapia, shrimp and calamari.
“I typically tell my pregnant patients that it’s generally fine to eat fish known to have low levels of mercury up to twice a week,” Dr. Wolfe said. “This would typically be a fish such as chunk light tuna.”
Dr. Wolfe suggests pregnant women use the National Resources Defense Council’s mercury calculator, which allows you to estimate your average daily mercury dose based on the types and quantities of fish you eat.