Pregnancy and Seafood - What's the Real Deal?

So first we'll start with all the necessary disclaimers.  I'm no doctor.  I'm a first-time pregnant lady just like a lot of you out there.  Second, as one of the first employees of i love blue sea, I already have a firm belief about how important delicious sustainable fish is to a healthy diet.

That being said, I would love to share an anecdote about my first prenatal appointment. I was ready to hear about how fish is dangerous for pregnant women and that I should limit consumption. And even though I LOVE fish, I was willing to give it up for the health of my baby.  After all, it's only 9 months, right?

So imagine my surprise when my doctor told me it was not only ok to eat fish, it was recommended - up to four servings per week!  And then she completely floored me by handing me a Monterey Seafood Watch booklet and telling me to eat sustainable seafood. My overly hormonal mind thought the clouds had parted and the angels were singing!

Now this was enough for me, I didn't need to hear anything further - I bought it hook, line and sinker. But once I started thinking about talking to you all, I thought doing some research would be extremely helpful.

So this is what I've found.  The American Pregnancy Association recommends that no more than 12oz of high mercury fish be consumed weekly (about 2 servings). And it recommends that even with the low mercury fish options, you should only eat 12oz per week.  The math just doesn't seem to add up to me, so I delved a little further.

And then there's the Mayo Clinic, who cites recommendations from the EPA, FDA, and the 2010 Dietary Guidelines that pregnant women can safely eat up to 8-12oz of fish per week (about two servings).  There was no clarification on high mercury or low mercury seafood, which I found even more confusing.

Then there's a study out of Great Britain that says that children born to women who eat more seafood have higher IQs and a lower chance of behavioral issues.  This seems so contradictory to what we're hearing form the EPA and FDA.

So if our doctors are recommending DHA supplements, why not get that essential oil from fish itself - along with all the other benefits of eating actual fish that have Omega 3's and protein?  After all, one 6oz serving of swordfish (mercury of .995 parts per million) is not the same as one 6oz serving of sardines (at only .0013 parts per million of mercury).  And where is your DHA supplement actually coming from?  Is the fish coming from a sustainable fishery?  There is no regulation on supplements by the FDA, so it really could come from anywhere at all.

Now, those of us in the sustainable seafood movement already know that eating large predatory fish is bad for the environment and our health.  We avoid swordfish, tilefish, shark and king mackerel.  We also know that eating lower on the food chain is better for us (more Omega 3's, less pollution) and for the oceans.  And while canned tuna is consumed most in this country, there are a ton of other fish options out there too that are lower in mercury and higher in those essential fatty acids.

So while I would be the last person to tell another mother what is best for her child, I personally think I owe it to my son to eat the best food for his development, and I will continue to eat sustainable seafood that's low in mercury. After all, it's a tasty way to get essential nutrients I need while I'm responsible for this little life.

Now if only I could get my doctor to approve raw oysters! But that's another blog for another day...


Posted Jun 6th by Jessica