What should I know about eating fish when I'm pregnant?

Our experts answer your pregnancy questions.

Fish has a lot of good things going for it. It’s a great source of protein. It’s packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which are especially good for the development of your baby’s brain, eyes and nervous system. It has vitamins, like D, which a lot of women don’t get nearly enough of. It has many other minerals you need. 

For all those reasons, by all means enjoy fish when you’re pregnant. Just know what kinds of fish to avoid and when to limit the amount you eat.

Raw fish: Don’t eat it. Period. It could have a bacteria called listeria that could be really harmful to you and the baby. If you’re going out to a sushi bar, stick with the veggie or cooked options.

Rare fish: In a restaurant, they typically cook tuna steak rare, because that’s how it tastes best. If you order that, ask them to cook it more. 

Smoked fish: The smoking process really doesn’t heat up the fish enough to kill any bacteria. So it’s no safer than raw or rare. Don’t do smoked salmon or whitefish, and skip the lox on your bagel.  

Fish high in mercury: For fish you buy, that would be swordfish, shark, king mackerel, tilefish, marlin, orange roughy and one kind of tuna called bigeye. There is some mercury in salmon and the albacore type of tuna you get in a can, but in smaller amounts. Those are safe if you’re eating only six ounces per week, which would be about one serving.

Local fish: Look up the body of water you fish in to find out how much of what species of fish you can eat while you’re pregnant. Mercury and other contaminants like PCBs are what you need to be careful about. The Minnesota Department of Health keeps tabs on that for rivers, Lake Superior and other lakes


Melissa Kitzman, certified nurse-midwife 
Fairview Clinics – Bloomington, Oxboro
Fairview Center for Women – Edina 

To learn more:

Make an appointment with a midwife or OB doctor or book a tour at The Birthplace.

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