Is eating fish during pregnancy safe?

Is eating fish during pregnancy safe?

Being pregnant is the best feeling especially if you are expecting the baby for the first time. That way, you may plan on doing everything possible to make the baby healthy even if it means eating yourself out. When it comes to feeding, most pregnant women are choosy in their diet because they only think of those foods that will benefit the unborn child. In reference to fish, there has always been contradicting comments on whether it is safe to eat them during pregnancy or not. The answer to this question could be yes and no, but don’t worry as we present facts about fish eating and pregnancy to ensure that as you finish reading this article, you will have the right answers on whether it is safe to eat fish during pregnancy or not.

The chemical composition of fish

Before we even dive into answering your question, it is important to understand the nutritional component of a fish. They include;

  • 65-90% water
  • 10-22% Proteins
  • 1-20% fat
  • 2-5% carbohydrates
  • 0.5-5% mineral and vitamins

The positive side of eating fish during pregnancy

Now that we already know the chemical composition of fish, it is clear that they are low in fat, high in minerals such as calcium and zinc, and contain many nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, all of which are essential during pregnancy. The common fishes we know of are safe and include shrimp, tilapia, salmon, cod, pollock and catfish and any of them could make a perfect choice for pregnant women.

The negative side of eating fish during pregnancy

Fish has unfriendly toxins such as mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) which can damage baby’s brains. The chemistry behind this is that mercury is released into the air by power plants, chemical industries, cement industries and pollutes the water. The bacteria in the water convert it into methyl-mercury which is swallowed by the fish as they swim or when they feast on other organisms. The mercury binds with fish muscles and remains even after cooking. The fish perceived to have high levels of mercury include swordfish, tilefish, bigeye tuna, shark, king mackerel, and marlin. The methyl-mercury once consumed moves via the placenta to the baby and may affect things like motor skills, vision, language, and cognitive skills.

Is it safe to consume fish during pregnancy?

Now that we already know the chemical composition of fish as well as the negative and positive side of eating fish, let’s now answer this question exclusively. When pregnant, eating fish can make your baby smart. Fish are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids important for brain development and also helps your unborn child in language development. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a joint statement in 2016 encouraging pregnant women to eat pregnancy-safe fish and gave a recommendation of two to three servings (8 to 12 ounces) every week. With that statement, we already have the answer to our question, right? If these international agencies FDA and EPA recommended fish for pregnant women, then it is safe to consume them during pregnancy.

How to excellently prepare fish

Pregnancy is very delicate and you should prepare fish properly to reduce your baby’s exposure to potential contaminants. Here is how to prepare fish;

  • Never reuse marinades
  • Ensure you buy fresh and properly refrigerated fish
  • For hygienic purposes, use different chopping board for meat & fish and veggies
  • Cook the fish until 75 degrees Celsius to eliminate possible contaminant
  • Open the shells of some fish such as mussels and oysters for proper cooking or avoid them
  • Always avoid under cooked or raw fish
  • Stick to commercial fish and stay away from those caught by friends or family

Why you should eat fish during pregnancy

If you are expectant and enjoy seafood, we have some good news that what you are so fond of eating has tremendous benefits for both you and the unborn child. These are;

  • It supports fetal growth: Fish contains high levels of lean protein and amino acids that play a huge part in creating the cells of the baby from bone and hair to muscles and skin
  • It’s perfect for baby’s brain: Fish is a perfect source of DHA and omega-3 fatty acids that play a huge part in boosting baby’s brain power
  • It boosts your memory: Omega-3 fatty acids play a vital part in improving mother’ memory particularly when battling cases of pregnancy brain
  • It boosts your moods: Omega-3 fatty acids and DHA improve your moods by decreasing dangers of depression during pregnancy
  • Fish is a medicine to the heart: Consuming fish regularly during pregnancy lowers blood clotting, blood pressure, and triglycerides levels thus lowering risks of cardiac diseases which may also affect the baby
  • Consuming fish reduces dangers of preterm birth

Final thoughts

Even though mercury can be dangerous to your unborn child’s brain, consuming fish in average amounts of fish with low mercury levels is perfect for both of you. Omega-3 fatty acids are very crucial to that life you are carrying because it promotes their healthy cognitive development. And now that FDA and EPA have approved fish consumption for pregnant women, who are you to be left out? It goes without saying that you care so much about your unborn child and you may opt not to eat fish, but eating the recommended amounts and avoiding the high-mercury fish as highlighted above will be the first step towards giving birth to a smart and healthy baby.


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