When a woman becomes pregnant, her diet becomes even more important because she has to consider the nutrition of her developing fetus. The pros and cons of eating fish while pregnant have been widely reported by media in recent years. One recent research finding appears to support both sides.

A study published in 2012 in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine by Sharon Sagiv, a Boston University School of Public Health assistant professor of environmental health, and Susan Korrick, an internist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston appears to support both sides. The study found links between a pregnant women’s exposure to low-level mercury, primarily from eating fish, and an increased risk of their children exhibiting behaviors related to attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Yet, the study also found that eating fish during pregnancy had a protective effect, reducing the risk of ADHD-related behaviors in children.
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What does this seemingly conflicting advice mean for pregnant women?

“To eat fish—absolutely—as long as it’s not fish containing high levels of mercury. There are certain fish that fall into the high-mercury category, such as swordfish, shark, fresh tuna, or king mackerel. Fish that are low in mercury include flounder, haddock, and salmon. It’s important to think about what kind of fish you are eating,” study researcher Sharon Sagiv said.

Mayo Clinic obstetrician Roger Harris, M.D. concurs. He says eating fish can be beneficial.

“Seafood can be a great source of protein and iron — crucial nutrients for your baby’s growth and development. In addition, the omega-3 fatty acids in many fish can promote your baby’s brain development.”

But, he also says you should avoid eating large fish that are high in mercury, like mackerel, shark, swordfish and tilefish.

What do you make of this information? Are the developmental benefits of eating fish greater than the mercury exposure downsides? Let us know what you think.

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