Pregnancy Articles

Playing it Safe: Eating Fish

Safety Issues You Need to Know

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Whether you catch it yourself or reel it in at the grocery store, eating fish can be part of a healthy diet during pregnancy. Research suggests that there are significant health benefits to eating fish. It's extremely nutrient dense, rich in high quality protein, and low in saturated fat and sodium. Not to mention the fact that it contains omega-3 fatty acids, a unique kind of fat that's extremely beneficial. Eating a variety of fish during pregnancy may:
  • prevent high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia. Pre-eclampsia is a combination of symptoms during pregnancy that include high blood pressure, edema, swelling, and changes in reflexes.
  • enhance the baby's brain development.
  • promote the birth of a full term baby with a higher and healthier birth weight.
There is a caution, though. Because of environmental pollutants, some varieties of fish may be contaminated with mercury or PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), pollutants which can cross the placenta and be harmful to your baby. To safely include fish in your diet during pregnancy, follow these tips:
  • Never eat raw fish or raw shellfish such as oysters, clams, mussels, or sushi. They can harbor several serious viruses.
  • Avoid swordfish, shark, king mackerel, and tilefish because of mercury contamination.
  • Limit golden or white snapper, tuna steak, and albacore tuna ("white" tuna) to 1 serving per month.
  • Limit canned light tuna to 1-2 6-ounce cans a week. (It's considered safer than fresh.)
  • Be adventurous in sampling the wide variety of fish available, including bass, catfish, clams, cod, crab, croaker, flounder, freshwater perch, haddock, herring, lobster, mackerel, marlin, ocean perch, orange roughy, oysters, halibut, pollack, red snapper, salmon, scallops, shrimp, and sole.
  • Limit your consumption of fish caught by friends and check local safety advisories for guidelines. If you can't obtain safety information, limit your total fish consumption to 6 ounces per week.
Seafood and listeria
Listeria is a type of bacteria found everywhere. Listeria can cause a food-borne illness called listeriosis, which is extremely dangerous for a pregnant women and her unborn baby. Listeriosis can cause premature delivery, miscarriage, and fetal death. A pregnant woman is more susceptible to Listeriosis because of the normal pregnancy changes that affect your immune system.

Listeria are unusual because they can grow at refrigeration temperatures of 40 degrees or below. Only cooking kills them. Therefore follow these food safety tips:
  • Do not eat refrigerated smoked seafood unless it is in a cooked dish, such as a casserole. Examples of refrigerated smoked seafood include salmon, trout, whitefish, cod, tuna, and mackerel which are most often labeled as "nova-style," "lox," "kippered," "smoked," or "jerky." This fish is found in the refrigerated section or sold at deli counters of grocery stores.
  • Canned fish and shelf-stable smoked seafood is safe to eat.
  • Clean your refrigerator regularly.
  • Use perishable, ready-to-eat, and precooked items as soon as possible.
Listeriosis may cause flulike symptoms with fever, chills, muscle aches, diarrhea, and upset stomach. It can take a few days or even weeks to appear. Consult your healthcare provider if you have these symptoms or believe you have eaten a contaminated product.
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About The Author

Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. She teaches prenatal classes and counsels individuals, helping women eat right and stay fit before, during and after their pregnancies.
Becky Hand

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