Fish, mercury and pregnancy?


Fish supplies us with great nutrients, it is high in protein and minerals as well as high in omega 3s, which aid development of a baby’s central nervous system before AND after they are born.  It is an important source of nutrition during pregnancy and breastfeeding but it also important to know which fish are safe for consumption.

If you are trying for a baby, pregnant or have pregnant friends, you have probably heard the talk of mercury and fish.  Mercury is a naturally occurring element which accumulates in the aquatic food chain in the form of methylmercury.   All fish contain methyl mercury and it will be where the majority of us will consume mercury from in our diet.  Most fish, however, contain low levels of methylmercury and the benefits of eating fish far outweigh the potential risk due to the majority of fish being safe for consumption in modest amounts.  Fish that are high in methylmercury are those which are longer living and predatory fish, being exposed to more methylmercury of the food chain.  High levels of mercury can affect the development of the nervous system.  It particularly puts unborn babies at risk as their brains are developing rapidly.  These fish with higher levels of mercury include Catfish; Orange Roughy (Deep Sea Perch), Shark (Flake) or Billfish (Swordfish, Marlin) and serves of these fish need to be limited in pregnant and breastfeeding woman.  It is also essential for infants and children to limit these fish.

The table below is a guide to the fish quantities you can consume safely from Food Standards Australia and New  Zealand  (FSANZ).  Remember, it is important to continue to consume fish as it is a wonderful source of nutrition and full of health benefits but keep to the recommendations below.


Pregnant & breastfeeding women & women planning pregnancy Children up to 6 years
1 serve = 150g 1 serve = 75g
Eat 2-3 serves per week of any fish and seafood not listed below:
Eat 1 serve per week of these fish and no other fish that week:
Catfish or Orange Roughy (Deep Sea Perch)
Eat 1 serve per fortnight of these fish, and no other fish that fortnight:
Shark (Flake) or Billfish (Swordfish, Marlin)


For additional advice or help, please consult your Obstetrician or an Accredited Practicing Dietitian for further information.

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