Pregnancy’s Fishy Waters
I think it is safe to say that most pregnant women obsess about food. I know I did during my first two pregnancies, and now, as I head down the road to mommyhood for the third time, I can report that some things never change.
My youngest daughter is four and a half, so it's been a while since I had to remember what I should, may occasionally, and absolutely-under-no-circumstances, eat. I quickly gave up my nightly cup of tea, my morning cup of coffee (I'll have decaf every once in a while) , and my sushi. I became super-aware of the amount of water I drink. I also went right back into my first trimester staple foods -- ginger ale, saltines, mashed potatoes, and gummy bears (not exactly the healthiest food, but they really help with my queasiness).
Most of it hasn’t been hard to give up, but oh do I miss my sushi. As compensation, I turned to cooked fish, and quickly realized I had jumped into waters that are tricky to navigate.
Fish is a natural source of protein, omega-3, and B-vitamins. Nutrients in fish can help with visual and brain development in babies, and have recently been linked to helping to alleviate allergies in children, as well boost IQ levels.
Fish, however, also contain varying levels of mercury, which can be harmful to both mother and child. Exposure to mercury can create hearing problems, brain damage, or damage to the nervous system of a developing fetus.
So whether it's your first or fifth pregnancy, it's worth the time to refresh yourself about safe fish to consume, and in what amounts and frequencies.
The Internet is full of information of this topic, some of it contradictory. Thankfully, during my first prenatal checkup with my OB, I was given a handy one-page reference guide. It features three columns, each with a happy cartoon fish at the top holding a placard that says:
Stay Away! (High Mercury Levels)
Once in a While! (Less Mercury Levels)
Canned tuna fish
Go For It! (Minimal Mercury Levels)
I checked the list against recommendations on The American Pregnancy Association website, and found it to be consistent. The APA site also offers information on frequency of fish consumption, especially tuna fish. There's even a breakdown of chunk light tuna versus solid white albacore tuna.
You can never be too careful about anything when you're pregnant, right? Ask your doctor about what fish he or she recommends is best for you to eat on a regular basis. I've decided to stick to wild salmon and flounder, once a week, and canned tuna on occasion (usually when I give it to my kids). If you feel that you absolutely can't eat any fish, ask about taking a fish oil supplement.
Of course, moderation is key to eating all foods (except chocolate), so be aware of what you're eating, and how much. And don't forget to enjoy your food, fish and all!
Did you have any food issues during your pregnancy? Leave a comment -- it's always great to hear from other Nation members!