Seafood Consumption During Pregnancy

cooked salmon on a plate with vegetables

As the Lent season continues, many people in the Christian faith are abstaining from eating meat on Fridays during the 40 days before Easter. Pregnant and lactating individuals, however, may have some concerns about fish and other seafood consumption due to potential side effects from heightened mercury intake. Teresa Baker, M.D., the co-director of the InfantRisk Center at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Amarillo, says eating fish is an excellent way to get much-needed nutrients.

“It's actually really good for people to eat fish on a regular basis,” Baker said. “In fact, in our area, probably people under-consume fish, and fish is good for developing brains in babies, both for pregnancy and lactation, as long as you're careful about the fish intake.”

Baker says seafood is low in saturated fat and a good source of high-quality protein and micronutrients including vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium, iron and zinc. It is also an important dietary source of polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids that the human body is unable to make. These nutrients improve cardiovascular health and better infant health  when included in the diet of pregnant people.

The concern for some pregnant and lactating individuals involves excess mercury consumption. Mercury is found naturally in the air, water and soil. However, developing fetuses, young infants and children are particularly sensitive to the toxic effects of methylmercury on the brain and nervous system.  

Teresa Baker, MD

“Really there are a few fish that we know are traditionally high in mercury and that can be dangerous for a developing baby,” Baker says. “Tuna is probably the biggest one that we deal with, and then swordfish, shark and king mackerel.”  

Advice from the FDA is available in an online chart. Based on that advice, the InfantRisk Center suggests that pregnant and lactating individuals incorporate no more than two to three servings per week of fish like salmon, tilapia, scallops or shrimp. Individuals should eat no more than one serving per week of fish like halibut, mahi-mahi or snapper. Fish like swordfish, king mackerel, marlin, orange roughy, shark, tilefish, tuna and bigeye should be avoided.

Consuming a variety of seafood from the FDA’s best and good choices categories is recommended. If a pregnant person happens to have a serving of fish from the choices to avoid category, reducing and limiting seafood intake to those from the other two categories in the subsequent week may help to balance out methylmercury exposure.

“What we try to aim for is two to three servings a week of fish, and that's a lot for people around here,” Baker says. “I really do think the fear of fish is overdone and that we probably should encourage fish consumption more than anything.”  

For more information on fish and fish oil supplement consumption visit the InfantRisk Center's website. ​The InfantRisk Center (IRC) is a world-wide call center that is used by physicians, nurses, lactation consultants and mothers in every part of the world. IRC staff help people evaluate the risk to the infant from exposure to multiple drugs and work to keep moms breastfeeding.

Related Stories


TTUHSC Receives CPRIT Grant to Begin New Outreach Effort

CPRIT recently awarded a $1 million prevention grant to Rakhshanda Rahman, M.D., Rebeccah Baucom, M.D., and John Kidwell, M.D., from the TTUHSC School of Medicine.


Alzheimer's Awareness and Prevention

Becky Mahan, PharmD, BCACP, FASCP, realized her passion for geriatrics while helping care for her grandmother. Since then, it has grown into a career. The Walk to End Alzheimer’s will take place on October 8 in Abilene.


Using Sound-Level Meter Apps to Prevent Hearing Loss

Noise-induced hearing loss affects almost 24 percent of adults and 12 to 15 percent of school-aged children in the United States. Leigh Ann Reel, Au.D., Ph.D., CCC-A, spoke about using apps to prevent such loss.

Recent Stories


TTUHSC Receives CPRIT Grant to Begin New Outreach Effort

CPRIT recently awarded a $1 million prevention grant to Rakhshanda Rahman, M.D., Rebeccah Baucom, M.D., and John Kidwell, M.D., from the TTUHSC School of Medicine.


Startups Begin Here! Four Startups Awarded $50,000 from TTUHSC President

The Innovation Hub at Research Park today (September 26, 2022) announced the winners of its annual Presidents' Innovative Startup Awards. The award recognizes startups that have a high potential for growth and an economic impact in West Texas.


Fifth Graders Become Doctors for a Day

Fifth graders from Bean Elementary School became doctors for a day. The Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) Student National Medical Association (SNMA) hosted the Doctors for a Day Minicamp on Sept. 23.