From the moment you tell people that you are pregnant you become party to a wealth of information and advice, much of which is useful, some of which which is not. What you can and can’t (or should and shouldn’t according to some) eat in pregnancy is one of those sticking points that many people struggle with as there is so much contradictory information out there. So can you eat fish during pregnancy ?
When it comes to staying healthy and eating well during pregnancy we advocate a healthy and balanced diet and suggest looking up and adhering to the NHS guidelines for questions such as “May I eat fish during pregnancy?” to make sure that the advice that you are following is current / up to date and is based on fact rather than an old wive’s tales or rumour.
Currently guidelines from the NHS state that when you are pregnant that you can actually eat most foods and cetainly most fish. The same applies when breastfeeding. As part of a healthy and balanced diet it is actually good to enjoy portions of fish throughout the week as these offer a number of nutritional benefits including providing a significant amount of essential omega 3 fatty acids. Fish such as cod, haddock, hake, coley and plaice are fine to eat when pregnant provided that they are cooked properly.
What to Avoid
During pregnancy current guidelines suggest not eating ant marlin, shark or swordfish. The reason for this is that these examples contain higher quantities of mercury. Mercury has been proven to have a negative impact on the development of a baby’s nervous system and therefore these are on the “do not eat” list. Raw shellfish should also be avoided according to the NHS guidelines due to the increase risk of contracting food poisoning which is unpleasant at the best of times and more so during pregnancy.
What to Limit
Tuna also contains slightly higher mercury levels than fish such as cod or plaice and so your intake should be limited to four medium-sized tins of tuna a week or two tuna steaks (a cooked portion of tuna steak would be approx 140g and a drained medium sized can of tuna would weigh the same).
Limiting the number of oil fish portions you eat to a maximum of two portions a week is also advised. The reasoning behind this is that oily fish (examples being mackerel, sardines, salmon, trout and herring) contain dioxins and PCBs (Polychlorinated Biphenyls) which are pollutants. While giving up oily fish altogether means losing out on the nutritional benefits these foods offer limiting your intake is wise. Non-oily fish which have the same or similar pollutants as oily fish include crab, halibut, sea bream, turbot and dog fish and so these too should be limited to no more than two portions per week.
Eating Fish During Breastfeeding
Guidelines suggest not eating more than two portions of swordfish, shark or marlin a week during breastfeeding (and for all adults in order to maintain a healthy balance) and to reduce the oily fish intake to two portions (not including tinned tuna).
If you have any questions about what you can or can’t eat the NHS website is a great source of up to date information about current guidelines and the reasoning behind them. If in any doubt talk to your midwife / GP as appropriate. It is important that when it comes to looking after yourself and your baby during pregnancy that the advice you follow comes from a reputable source rather than rumour or similar.
You can find more information on foods to avoid and a healthy balanced diet in pregnancy here.