Eating Fish During Pregnancy: Safety, Benefits, And Risks

Eating Fish During Pregnancy: Safety, Benefits, And Risks

4 Jan 2023 | 6 min Read

Sudeshna Chakravarti

Author | 799 Articles

Are you unsure about the rules of eating fish during pregnancy? Well, you are not alone. There have been many conflicting views about the effects of eating fish during this crucial time. While certain varieties of fish are considered nutritious as they have high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, proteins, vitamins, and minerals, some are unsafe for pregnant women as they contain high levels of mercury.

So what types of fish can you eat, and which ones should you avoid during pregnancy? Keep reading to find out all the details. 

Benefits of Eating Fish During Pregnancy

Benefits of Eating Fish During Pregnancy
Fish is rich in fatty acids and essential nutrients and can help aid in your baby’s healthy growth and development / Image credit: Pexels

The good news is that fish offers a ton of benefits to expecting mums and their developing babies. So if you really enjoy seafood, you can look forward to consuming fish that have low mercury levels to gain the following benefits.

  • It supports fetal growth: Fish is an excellent source of lean proteins and amino acids that aids in the cell formation of your baby’s skin, muscles, hair, and bones.
  • It enhances your baby’s brain development: Certain varieties of fish, in particular, salmon, are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids and DHA, which help boost your baby’s brain power. Consuming fatty fish in the third trimester is considered more crucial as during this time your baby’s brain growth is at the peak level.
  • It boosts your memory: Consuming sufficient amounts of omega-3 fatty acids can help improve your memory as well and is especially beneficial if you are experiencing pregnancy brain
  • It improves your mood: An adequate intake of fish rich in fatty acids and DHA can also help decrease the risk of depression during pregnancy, as well as postpartum blues.
  • It supports your heart health: A diet rich in fish can help lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases by keeping your blood pressure level in control and reducing the levels of triglycerides or blood fat.
  • It may reduce the risk of preterm birth: A study conducted by the National Library of Medicine deduced that the rates of preterm birth were lower among women who consumed an adequate amount of fish during pregnancy. 

How Much Fish Can You Eat During Pregnancy?

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), you can eat 226-340 grams of fish a week. This amounts to 2-3 servings of low-mercury fish, such as salmon, cod, tuna, tilapia, and catfish.

Quantities of Fish That You Can Safely Consume During Pregnancy

Eating Fish During Pregnancy
Fish which have low levels of mercury, such as salmon, catfish, and cod are safe for consumption during pregnancy / Image credit: Pexels

Consume fish that is low in mercury and high in fatty acids like omega-3 and DHA. We have compiled a list of fish that you can safely consume during pregnancy, along with their servings.

Type Of FishHow Often You Can Eat 
Cod, catfish, herring, crab, salmon, pollock, sardines, shrimp, scallop, tilapia2 servings per week
Lake herring, halibut, bass, lobster, sea trout, mackerel, tuna1 serving per week

Fish to Avoid During Pregnancy

You should avoid having fish containing high levels of mercury as the chemical converts into methylmercury upon consumption, which could be toxic to your nervous system and harm your baby’s growth and development. It can also adversely affect your baby’s cognitive skills, motor skills, language, and vision. Hence, make sure to stay away from the following kinds of fish during pregnancy.

  • Striped bass
  • Bluefish
  • Chilean sea bass
  • King Mackerel
  • Marlin
  • Shark
  • Orange roughy
  • Spanish mackerel
  • Swordfish
  • Tilefish

Safety Tips to Follow While Having Fish During Pregnancy

Even when you are eating fish that is considered safe during pregnancy, ensure to follow these measures to avoid exposure to potential contaminants.

  • Always purchase commercially caught fish and avoid fish from local waters as they are prone to harmful chemicals. 
  • Buy fresh and properly refrigerated fish. Store them in a steel container and freeze them until cooking.
  • Avoid consuming raw or undercooked fish as they harbour food poisoning bacteria, such as listeria and salmonella. 
  • Cook the fish until its flesh turns opaque and the fillets peel off with a fork. 

Best Ways to Include Fish In Your Pregnancy Diet

Best Ways to Include Fish In Your Pregnancy Diet
Try different grilled or steamed fish recipes and have them with a side of veggies / Image credit: Pexels

Here are some delicious ways you can relish fish during pregnancy.

  • Grilled fish: Brush the grill plate with a little bit of oil and place the marinated fish on it. Flip and cook it until both sides turn brown. Serve it with a side of sauteed vegetables and a bowl of rice.
  • Poached fish: Pour vegetable stock or water into a vessel and place the fish pieces. Once the fish is thoroughly cooked, remove it, and have it with rice or bread.
  • Steamed fish: Brush the fish fillet with marinade and mild spices. Place it in a steamer basket and let it cook fully. Enjoy fresh with a side of veggies and rice. 

Alternate Ways to Get Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are an essential part of your pregnancy diet. If you do not consume fish, you can add alternatives to your diet, such as

  • Mixed greens such as kale, spinach, and other dark leafy vegetables
  • Flaxseed oil or flaxseeds with any kind of cereal, oatmeal, or yogurt
  • Soybean oil, soybean, tofu
  • Walnuts or walnuts oil
  • Eggs
  • Enriched dairy foods


Eating fish during pregnancy is highly beneficial as it contains essential nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, proteins, and vitamins that are foundational to your baby’s growth and development. However, remember, not all types of fish are considered safe for pregnant women, and you must avoid fish containing high levels of mercury. 

To enjoy the benefits and taste, cook the fish until it’s thoroughly cooked, and enjoy steamed or grilled fish recipes. Also, avoid eating undercooked or raw fish as they contain harmful bacteria.  

Also read:

Foods to avoid during the first trimester of pregnancy: Check out this list of foods that you must avoid during the first trimester of pregnancy. 

Kiwi during pregnancy: Is it safe to eat kiwi during pregnancy? Find out all the details in this post. 

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