Finding Fish for Expectant Moms

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Learn how to get the nutrients fish provide without the risks of mercury.

Almost all fish contain small amounts of mercury. In high quantities, however, mercury is a neurotoxin—which is why certain kinds of high-mercury fish should be avoided while pregnant or breastfeeding, as the mercury can be harmful to the child’s development.

While it’s tempting to avoid fish altogether, it can provide plenty of benefits for you and your growing baby. Fish is high in protein, low in fat and contains omega-3 fatty acids, which provide a number of health benefits, including:

  • Cell growth
  • Baby’s brain development and mom’s memory
  • Decreased risk of depression during and post-pregnancy
  • Lower risk of heart disease
  • Reduced risk of preterm birth

Warning: Shark

While pregnant or breastfeeding, do not eat tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico, swordfish, shark or king mackerel. You should also avoid eating fish from contaminated waters, so make sure you know the source of any fresh-caught fish. Although safe from mercury, raw fish products—such as sushi and sashimi—can put you at risk for food-borne illnesses.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends you limit consumption to 8 to 12 ounces of low-mercury fish every week. This amounts to two to three servings. Many of the most commonly consumed fish are safe to eat during pregnancy, including:

  • Catfish
  • Tilapia
  • Sole
  • Flounder
  • Haddock
  • Halibut
  • Ocean perch
  • Pollock
  • Cod
  • Trout
  • Wild salmon
  • Shrimp

More Fish in the Sea

Tired of treating salmon as your go-to fish? A serving of wild flounder can have as many as 500 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acid per 3-ounce cooked portion. Try this recipe for a Thai-inspired fish dish:


1 ½ pounds flounder fillets
Black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 can sliced potatoes, drained
1 can low-sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon garlic, chopped
1 cup canned, light coconut milk
2/3 tablespoon Thai green curry paste
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Season fillets with pepper to taste. In a large skillet, heat oil and brown fish on both sides. Add potatoes, broth and garlic, then simmer for about five minutes (or until the fish reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit). Transfer fish and potatoes to a warm platter, then reduce liquid in the pan by half. Stir in coconut milk and curry paste. Simmer until lightly thickened, then add parsley. Pour over fish and potatoes.

Nutrition information
Serving size: 1 fillet. Makes 4 servings. 

Calories: 210
Total fat: 10g
Protein: 38g
Carbohydrates: 19g
Dietary fiber: 3g
Saturated fat: 3g
Sodium: 410 mg

Recipe courtesy of What’s Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl.

Your little one deserves the personalized care Helena Regional Medical Center offers. Call (870) 338-5800 for more information about our birthing center.