The Final Verdict on Eating Fish While You’re Pregnant



Once there’s a bun in the oven, everything you eat and drink can influence your baby’s development. And while some post-conception diet upgrades are obvious, such as ditching alcohol and upping your fruit and veggie intake, others aren’t so cut and dry—especially when it comes to seafood.

“There’s still a lot of concern over whether eating fish during pregnancy is safe,” says Niket Sonpal, M.D., assistant professor of clinical medicine at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine in New York. You want to eat enough fish to score the health perks for your baby but not so much that the potential pollutants mess with his or her development. As for where to draw the line, though, scientists are still trying to figure that out.

On one hand, omega-3 fatty acids, which are abundant in seafood, are important for brain development, says Sonpal. In fact, a recent study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology observed a link between eating more fish during pregnancy and an increase (of 2.8 points) in the children’s IQ scores. It also found that fish consumption can contribute to a decrease in symptoms of autism.

The most surprising discovery? The types of fish mothers-to-be are told to avoid due to high mercury levels—such as tuna and tilefish—were the ones linked to the most developmental benefits. What’s more, children whose moms ate an average of three to four servings of fish every week during pregnancy showed no signs that the mercury levels messed with their development, compared to moms who ate less fish. This could be because these types of fish also contain high levels of a compound called docosahexanoic acid (DHA), which may outweigh the negative effects of the mercury, the study authors note.



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