Can Pregnant Women Eat Seafood

Can pregnant women eat seafood? Warnings about mercury and toxins may have you concerned. The good news is that some, but not all, seafood is safe, even when you're pregnant.

Mercury Cautions
Pregnant women can eat some seafood, but they should stay away from fish or seafood that is high in mercury. Fish become contaminated with mercury when water becomes polluted. The mercury is absorbed by plants, which are then eaten by fish. Larger fish eat smaller fish, which then transfers the mercury to the larger fish. The larger the fish, the more potential for mercury contamination, since mercury builds up in the body over time.

Mercury is a neurotoxin and it impairs fetal brain development. Some types of fish with high levels of mercury include shark, king mackeral, tilefish, swordfish and albacore tuna.

Safe Seafood
Because fish contains important Omega-3 fatty acids, it's a good idea to eat seafood that's low in mercury. For example, salmon does not contain mercury. For those who like tuna, light tuna packed in water is low in mercury, as are shrimp, pollock and catfish. Albacore, or white tuna, can be very high in mercury, but if only one other meal contains a low-mercury fish, you can still eat up to six ounces of albacore per week. 

If you eat more than the recommended amount of fish during the week, just cut back the next week. The amount of mercury you get by eating too much in just one week is not a substantial amount. You only get substantial amounts if you eat more than the recommended services every week.

Other Risks
Raw shellfish, including oysters and clams, should be avoided during pregnancy. Eating uncooked shellfish leaves you vulnerable to parasitic infections, salmonella and staph.

Pay careful attention to red tide warnings if you enjoy cooked lobster and shellfish. Plant-feeding shellfish can contain lethal levels of toxins. Health officials typically shut down fishing grounds when the algae blooms that cause red tide appear, but it's best to avoid shellfish during a red tide for optimum safety.

When it comes to mercury and toxins in other types of fish, the amount varies depending on water conditions. Some rivers and lakes may be far more polluted, yielding fish with higher concentrations of toxins. Limit consumption of fish caught by family and friends to a six-ounce serving once a week.

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