Healthy, Natural Pregnancy: Something Fishy


I was spoiled when I was a kid. My step-grandfather worked on a fishing boat (as the chef- can I just tell you how much we like to be invited over to dinner at his house???), and so my childhood was filled to the brim with incredible, fresh Pacific ocean seafood.

Though I no longer eat seafood other than fish with scales (that means no clams, shrimp, oysters, etc.), I am still a big fish-lover at heart.

You've probably heard that fish is incredibly high in good omega 3 fatty acids, perfect not only for the pregnant mama's health but especially for developing that sweet little one (omega 3s are essential for proper brain development, among other things). You have probably also heard that, very sadly, our fish are being contaminated by heavy metals and other toxins (especially mercury) at an alarming rate, due to water pollution, making fish consumption a risky deal during pregnancy. Both are true.

So just what is a health-conscious, fish-loving pregnant mama to do?

From EWG, here is an excellent guide to choosing what to eat for dinner:

Avoid If Pregnant

King mackerel
Tuna steaks
Canned tuna
Sea bass
Gulf Coast Oysters
White croaker
Largemouth bass

Eat No More Than One Serving From This List Per Month

Mahi mahi
Blue mussel
Eastern oyster
Great Lakes salmon
Gulf Coast blue crab
Channel catfish (wild)
Lake whitefish

Lowest In Mercury

Blue crab (mid-Atlantic)
Fish Sticks
Flounder (summer)
Trout (farmed)
Salmon (wild Pacific)
Shrimp *

Please note that canned tuna is absolutely a no-no during pregnancy. It's sad, but true.

Making your fish choices based on this list is a wise thing to do. During this pregnancy, I am limiting myself to lots of wild Pacific and Alaskan salmon (canned and whole), haddock and trout (with the occasional cod or pollock) for white fish, and that's about it. Of these choices, I feel good about eating freely and knowing that my baby and I are receiving the most nutrients possible, through the safest options.

Another excellent option for ensuring sufficient omega 3 fatty acids, as well as Vitamins A and D, is to take Cod Liver Oil daily. For those wanting to know more about the benefits, as well as put to rest any concerns about Vitamin A toxicity, read this article on Cod Liver Oil, and then this one with some clarifications on the subject. Make sure that you choose a brand with third party testing to assure no heavy metal contamination.

Do you eat fish regularly? Does this list of which fish to avoid surprise you? Any other Cod Liver Oil takers out there?

About Stephanie Langford

Stephanie Langford has a passion for sharing ideas and information for homemakers who want to make healthy changes in their homes, and carefully steward all that they've been given. She has written three books geared to helping families live more naturally and eat real, whole foods, without being overwhelmed, without going broke and with simple meal planning. She is the creator of Keeper of the Home.

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  1. Yes, Heather, it is fine. All canned products have BPA in the lining, so we shouldn’t be depending too heavily on anything canned, but the salmon itself is definitely ok and even a good thing to eat (just make sure it’s wild, not farmed). Try to mix up your fish sources (canned, fresh, frozen) to minimize your BPA exposure, is all that I would really suggest. Enjoy your salmon patties- we love those around our house!

  2. Is canned salmon okay while pregnant? I was hoping to make salmon patties?

  3. I’m so glad I read this! My husband and I have decided recently that we need to up our fish intake, but I hadn’t taken the time to research which ones are best (and I live in Nebraska…where there isn’t a whole lot of fresh fish!!) Thanks for doing my research for me!

  4. We love cod liver oil around here! My kids take Nordic Naturals Kids DHA, which is a strawberry flavored Cod liver oil capsule. They would eat them like candy if they were allowed… the only problem is that they start to smell like fish if you don’t clean up really well. I’ve found much better prices at various online retailers than at a co-op or something.

  5. Alyssa, the reason that tuna is a no-no is because it is very highly contaminated with mercury, more so than many other types of fish or seafood.

    Arielle, I have also heard that the chunk light tuna has less mercury. EWG (which I linked to above, as they are the source where I got the list of safe/not safe fish) has a tuna calculator, which tells you how often it would be safe to eat tuna, and I believe that it does say that the light tuna can be eaten slightly more often. However, when it comes to pregnancy, I would still say avoid as it is still higher than many other types of fish and the risk isn’t worth it.

    Lisa, that’s really interesting- I would love to get the link to that study!

    Babychaser, yes, I’m sure they do have BPA! :)

    Raven, it’s true that some people can clear the heavy metals out of their bodies easier. There are also things you can take to help clear them out faster, such as chlorophyll, which binds to the toxins and removes them from your body. I think it’s just too risky in pregnancy, when we really have no idea how much even low exposure could be harmful to a small baby.

    Amy, I also use Twinlab for Vitacost, and yes, it is so reasonably priced! My absolutely favorite is the emulsified mint, but because you need to take a larger amount of it, it becomes much more expensive in the end. I don’t care for the cherry flavor, but we have liked the mint, orange and lemon.

  6. If you are looking for a good priced Cod Liver Oil, the Twinlab brand can be found on for around $4.00 for a bottle. Alot cheaper than other brands! And it is certified heavy metal/toxin free. I took it through both my pregnancies and it really helped me (and hopefully my babies too!!!) I like the mint flavored one and my husband likes the cherry flavored one.

  7. The thing about mercury I suppose would depend on your body’s ability to clear it. I hate anecdotal “proof”, but I have a cousin who is an extremely picky eater and would ONLY eat tuna sandwiches every day for lunch. I mean every day. For twenty years. He began to have neurological problems–headaches, mobility trouble, etc.– and his doctor found an extremely high level of mercury in his system. What the doc did was 1) tell him no more tuna and 2) make him eat a big portion of yogurt every day. Apparently the yogurt helps bind the mercury somehow and get it out of the nervous system. (I love yogurt.)

    All that said I do eat tuna sparingly and I think you’d have to have a fairly high level of exposure over a long time to have harm, unless there was some reason you couldn’t clear the metal quickly enough (liver damage, pregnancy, you’re a baby, etc.).

  8. I’m sure the tuna cans have BPA in them anyway… almost all of them do.

  9. I wish I could find the study that I read about this … I’ve looked and looked and I’ll let you know when I do find it! (I’ve lent out some of my good pregnancy books and it’s probably in one of them.) Maybe someone else has run across this and could chime in …

    There was a study done comparing women who ate lots of mercury-containing fish (because they lived right on the coast and it was readily available) with women who ate it only occasionally. The women who ate it a lot had LOWER levels of mercury in their systems than the women who ate it only occasionally. So that threw the “you can eat mercury-tainted fish, but only occasionally” theory out the window for me. What I did was take a Carlson Fish Oil supplement while pregnant, since they were not contaminated like fish could be.

    I also remember reading something about how if you have amalgam fillings, the daily leakage into your mouth and bloodstream is greater than if you ate a can of tuna. But I can’t remember where I read that either and don’t know if it has any validity!

  10. I like fish, but don’t tend to eat much of it, mostly due to the cost. We do eat salmon regularly-mostly canned.
    I have a question, though. You stated that canned tuna is an absolute no-no during pregnancy, but you didn’t say why.(Unless I missed it.) I’ve read that up to 6 oz. of light tuna/week is fine. I ate it during my last pregnancy(though not that often.) Just wondering if you could clarify, as I’m pregnant again and would like to know.
    I would love to take cod liver oil, but it’s so pricy. Maybe I’ll buy it soon and at least take a little here and there, even if not every day.
    Thinking of food is making me hungry! (Or is it the fact that I’m eating for three?!!)

  11. Fish….. scares me. Because I know it’s so contaminated. And being on the west coast, my family is HUGE on seafood… I grew up on clams, dungeoness crab (YUM), oysters, crawdads, shrimp, and every type of fish. But I was scared to eat any when I was pregnant! And when we TTC again, I will once again be scared to eat any fish at all! I don’t think I could stop eating salmon though (wild, of course)… we don’t eat it often, but when we do…. it’s oh so yummy! I don’t take anything to replace the necessary vitamins and minerals right now, but when I become pregnant and drastically cut back my seafood consumption, I will be taking everything. :)

  12. Have you investigated taking Life’s DHA?
    It’s a much safer source of Omega-3’s as it is vegetarian, from non-GMO algae.

  13. I have read that, while white or albacore tuna has dangerous levels of mercury, the pink chunk light tuna is fine in reasonable amounts. What do you think of this?

  14. My husband absolutely LOVES canned tuna. Personally, I can’t stand it. The smell, the oiliness. Yuck. So during both my pregnancies I’ve told him we can’t buy it because it’s bad for the babies. Granted he could still eat it, but the smell bothers me so much that it sends me straight to the toilet!

  15. We’re big on cod liver oil here. The kind we use has a fruit punch flavor, which I think is better than the lemon flavor. We add it generously to smoothies so it’s easy to take.

  16. We used to eat a lot of canned tuna, but a few years ago I found out about the high mercury levels and we stopped eating it. We do eat wild caught salmon and cod sometimes. I really miss fish, but it’s not worth the risk to me or my family. :-(

  17. We don’t eat a lot of ocean fish round here, unless it’s frozen, but we do have clean rivers and streams to fish in (it’s a huge tourist industry here in Montana, so they protect the streams with a vengeance). What do you know about eating wild-caught brook trout, etc? I always figured they were probably ok since they were from clean water and they were so tiny.