So Can I Eat Fish During Pregnancy?
Fish during pregnancy? Our nutrition expert Dr Pamela von Hurst dispels the myths
5 min read
We often hear the term Omega-3 bandied around, and probably most of us have a general understanding that Omega-3 is a good thing, and it is, especially for growing brains. The long chain omega-3 fatty acids that are found in fish are essential for the development and health of the brain from conception through to old age
The misconceptions around eating fish during pregnancy
There are a lot of misconceptions about eating fish during pregnancy, causing expectant parents much confusion. The advantages of eating fish are numerous: fish, especially oily fish, are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, along with vitamin D, iodine, selenium, iron, protein, and even calcium.
Some of the concerns that we hear about eating fish focus on the minerals such as mercury that may accumulate in fish, but this is not a problem in the bulk of fish available in New Zealand. Metals like mercury will only accumulate in large, long-lived fish such as shark and swordfish, or fish that live in waters near geothermal outlets.
The New Zealand Ministry of Health guidelines recommends that pregnant women eat a variety of high-quality foods such as meat, eggs, fish, poultry, nuts and legumes.
Recommendations for consumption of fish during pregnancy are dependent on the type of fish eaten, but generally, pregnant women should eat fish at least twice a week. .
Why should you eat fish while pregnant?
The importance of DHA
There are many reasons that DHA is so important, especially during fetal development. DHA is concentrated in the retinal and neuronal cell membranes; this means that it plays a critical role in both vision and nerve growth in the fetus.
During the last trimester of pregnancy and the early months of postnatal life, the young brain is undergoing quite a growth spurt. During this time, the concentration of DHA in the brain increases dramatically, accumulating at the rate of 65-70mg per day!
Ideally a breastfeeding mum will provide approximately 80mg of DHA per litre of milk to her baby, but this can only happen if she is getting enough in her own diet. In most cases, the pregnant or breastfeeding woman doesn’t even have as much in her diet as she should be providing the fetus or infant.
Which fish should pregnant women avoid?
- Dogfish (excluding rig)
- Lake Rotomahana trout
- Lake trout from geothermal regions
- School shark (greyboy, tope)
- Marlin (striped)
- Southern bluefin tuna