Omega-3 fatty acids (specifically DHA and EPA) are important for the baby’s brain and eye development, therefore a common lifestyle advice for pregnant and breastfeeding women includes regular consumption of fish. Seafood is also a source of protein, minerals, vitamin B12 and iodine. However, some types of fish contain contaminants such as mercury. In high doses, this metal is harmful to a baby’s developing brain and nervous system.

A study on fish consumption in pregnancy and mercury exposure to pregnant women and their children from the Republic of Seychelles showed that mercury in fish is less worrisome than was assumed in the past. 1265 mother-child pairs were enrolled in this study. Maternal blood samples and hair samples were analysed and the children were examined at 20 months with respect to communication skills, behaviour and motor skills.

This study concluded that there was no association between methyl mercury exposure from prenatal fish consumption and neurodevelopmental outcomes. The authors are of the opinion that the benefit of fish consumption may outweigh or mask the potentially negative effect of mercury.

Until more data can confirm these findings, it is still prudent to stick to fish that is less contaminated with mercury and other heavy metals.

The following fish have low mercury levels and are also high in omega-3 fatty acids:

  • Mackerel
  • Silver Warehouse
  • Atlantic Salmon
  • Canned salmon & canned tuna in oil
  • Herrings
  • Sardines

Other seafood with low mercury levels include:

  • All prawns, lobsters and bugs
  • All squids and octopus
  • Snapper
  • Salmon and trout
  • Trevally
  • Whiting
  • Herring
  • Anchovy
  • Bream
  • Mullet
  • Garfish