Food Safety for Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women

Eating fish while you are pregnant or breastfeeding

Food Safety: Eating seafood while you are pregnant or breastfeeding

Seafood (fish and shellfish) can be part of a healthy diet for you and have benefits for your unborn child or breastfed baby.  Omega-3 fats in seafood have important health benefits. These benefits can outweigh concerns about chemicals that may also be in seafood.  Learn about making wise choices below.

Healthy Fats in Seafood

The nutritional value of seafood is particularly important for pregnant or breastfeeding mothers.  Seafood provides important nutrients, including omega-3 fats that are good for your health and your baby's health.  Omega-3 fats from seafood are healthy fats shown to improve the development of the nervous system of an unborn child or young baby.  Seafood choices that are higher in omega-3s include salmon, herring, mussels, trout, sardines, and pollock.  Seafood can be part of a healthy diet for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Eat at least 8 and up to 12 ounces of cooked seafood each week.   

Mercury in Seafood

Seafood may contain unhealthy chemicals, like mercury.  Seafood has varying levels of mercury. Choices that are lower in mercury include salmon, flounder, tilapia, trout, pollock, and catfish.  You should not eat fish high in mercury like shark, swordfish, tilefish, and King mackerel. Canned “white” tuna (albacore) is higher in mercury than the “light” variety; limit canned white tuna to less than 6 ounces per week. Mercury can harm the developing nervous system in an unborn child or young baby. Choose fish lower in mercury to get the health benefits of seafood with the least risk.  Learn more about Mercury in Fish.

Seafood from Local Waters. 

In addition to mercury, fish may contain other harmful chemicals, including fish caught in local waters.  Check local advisories to learn about the safety of fish caught in your local lakes, rivers, and coastal areas.  Advisories may recommend that people limit or avoid eating some types fish caught in certain places. If no advice is available, you may eat up to 1 meal (6 ounces) per week of fish from local waters, but don't eat any other fish during that week.

Wise Seafood Choices.

To get the most out of seafood choices, pick those that are higher in omega-3 fats and lower in mercury more often-like salmon, herring, sardines, pollock, and trout.  Check a list of more seafood choices -in Appendix 11 of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans-- to see where your favorites stack up.

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