This article is written by Kirsten Bradley, any opinions stated are her own and do not represent the views of Leeds Beckett University, Bath Spa University or the NHS. Information gathered online should not replace medical advice – if you are unsure, please consult a health care professional.
You may have heard that it is best to avoid fish, oily fish and shellfish in particular, if you are pregnant? In a similar way to how you might have heard not to eat peanuts (more about that below) during pregnancy, this information is outdated, however you should avoid swordfish, marlin, shark and raw shellfish if you are pregnant because of the risk of mercury contamination, other fish will be discussed below.
Many people may include tuna in the list of fish to avoid but you can have up to two tuna steaks a week (170g raw weight) or 4 tins. Fresh tuna counts as oily fish and so if you have two tuna steaks you shouldn’t have any more oily fish that week. It is encouraged that you eat oily fish whilst you are pregnant (and in general really), as long as you stick to no more than two portions a week. White fish and smoked fish are safe and have no limits. If you thoroughly cook shellfish it is fine to eat if you are pregnant as cooking kills pathogens that might be present and commercial fish producers are required to test their shellfish for toxins. Sushi is a bit of a risky game though; if you are making your own it is safe to eat the fish raw, provided it has been frozen first. Generally, shop bought sushi will be shipped in ready made and as you don’t know their practices it’s best avoided.
Here is where the peanuts come in – people typically avoided peanuts because they believed at the time that eating them during pregnancy would lead to allergic children. In fact, what they found was that following this advice being issued more children were being diagnosed with a peanut allergy. So they have made a U-turn and now it is considered completely safe (and debatably protective) to eat peanuts when pregnant. Why do I bring this up in an article about fish you wonder? Well… fish and shellfish are also allergens and so IF there is a chance that eating them now, will mean your baby won’t have an allergy, its worth considering.
So… there we have it, fish is on the menu.
You should not eat peanuts, shellfish or fish if you, yourself have an allergy to these foods.