Mercury Levels in Fish: Important Information for Expecting Mothers

fda fish guidelines

The United Stated Food & Drug administration has created a chart to help pregnant women in regard to safely eating seafood. Mercury is a serious issue in prenatal care and there are several species of fish known to contain much more mercury than others. Many expectant mothers choose to forgo seafood altogether just to play it safe, rather than eat the wrong seafood. However, by choosing their seafood wisely, moms-to-be should have no problem enjoying fish during their pregnancy, even on a weekly basis.

Seafood Mercury Guideline Chart

Mercury in fish guide servings
Source: US FDA

As a general rule, the fish higher up the food chain, like shark and swordfish contain the most mercury. Tilefish and king mackerel are also to be avoided during pregnancy. However, a nice salmon dinner once a week is not only allowed, but it also a good way to help development before birth. And when the newborn has arrived, a diet rich in seafood is beneficial for breastfeeding. Take a look at the chart above for guidelines on safe seafood consumption.

Seafood Harvested by Family or Friends

Should you partake in the steamed clams your friends dug up for the clambake? What about fish caught on vacation or in the local river? The FDA suggest to check for local advisories – if your friends have a clamming license, it’s pretty certain they know when it is safe to dig. If there is no advisory, FDA guidelines suggest to eat only one serving and no other fish that week.

The guidelines for larger fish and mercury still apply for locally caught fish. The bigger freshwater fish like carp, catfish and trout are more likely to have higher mercury and possibly other contaminants. If you are unfamiliar with the water quality where these fish are caught, it’s probably best to avoid while pregnant.