What Fish is Safe to Eat During Pregnancy?

September 28, 2017

Fish is one of the healthiest forms of protein and fat around. However, polluted oceans make it increasingly difficult to consume fish that isn’t laden with mercury and other toxins that are less than ideal for your body – not to mention your developing baby.

It’s important to note, however, researchers have determined not eating fish is more detrimental to your baby’s brain and neural development than consciously consuming those on the safe list.

Fish to Look For While You’re Pregnant

In fact, according to the American Pregnancy Association (APA), “…the FDA now recommends that women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or plan on becoming pregnant consume more fish.” This is because they contain healthy:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Proteins
  • Nutrients
  • Minerals (like the ever-important iron)

Ideally, pregnant women should consume two- to three-servings of fish per week – that’s a total of 8- to 12-ounces of low-mercury fish.

But not all fish are created equal when it comes to your health as well as the sustainability of our oceans. For this reason, the FDA and reputable nutritionists advocate…

Avoiding large-mouthed fish with long lives

Some of the worst offenders are large-mouthed fish that live long lives and/or are found in the Gulf of Mexico, such as:

  • Marlin
  • Shark
  • Sword fish
  • Ahi Tuna
  • King Mackerel
  • Tilefish

These have the highest mercury levels, which can contribute to brain damage and other neurological disorders.


Tuna is one of the most prevalent forms of fish in the United. If you love tuna sandwiches or salads, opt for canned, light tuna – and limit white, albacore tuna consumption to no more than 6-ounces per week.

Be diligent about fresh fish caught in local rivers or streams

If you have access to fresh fish from your local rivers and streams, that’s great –assuming those bodies of water aren’t polluted. Check with local fish and game or the health department to verify whether it’s safe to eat fish caught from a specific body of water before putting it on your plate.

Think SMASH – and focus on low mercury fish

Have you heard of S.M.A.S.H. fish? This acronym is great for remembering low mercury fish that are on the safe list:

  • Salmonfish during pregnancy
  • Mackerel (Atlantic or Norwegian mackerel is safe and not the same thing as the King mackerel listed above)
  • Anchovies
  • Sardines
  • Herring

These fish have the healthiest levels of fat, protein and Omega-3 fatty acids, sans mercury and other metals/toxins.

Cod, tilapia, catfish and shrimp are also good options (assuming they’re water source is clean), but shrimp is higher in cholesterol so be mindful of that when ordering or preparing seafood dishes.

If you have consumed a high-mercury fish or two since you got pregnant, not to worry. The APA says it’s very unlikely a single serving or two would pose a risk. It’s simply best to avoid these during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Worried your pregnancy diet isn’t up to par? Schedule a prenatal exam with us here at Women’s Health Associates and we’ll get you on the right track.