Thursday, August 14, 2008

Should You Eat Fish During Pregnancy?

According to a recent review from the Journal of Midwifery & Women's Health, there is no question that eating fish is good for everyone, even pregnant women. Unfortunately, there are also risks, as fish may contain high levels of methylmercury and polychlorinated biphenol’s (PCB’s), having a negative impact on embryonic development and maternal health. When combined, these contaminants may act synergistically causing an even greater health risk. (1)

Omega 3 fatty acids are beneficial during pregnancy, helping with fetal brain development, promoting higher IQ’s in children, and decreasing the risk of premature labor and delivery and hypertension.

The author of the current review, Tiffany Dovydaitis, RN, APN writes, “...all women of childbearing age should be informed of both the benefits and risks of fish consumption.” Several conflicting studies have been conducted, but the conflicting results make it difficult to know whether the benefits outweigh the risks”. According to the author’s review, …”current fish consumption recommendations from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are based in part on the assumption that there is a threshold where potential risk outweighs benefit. One major problem with such an approach is that the scientific community does not agree on what this threshold level might be. Secondly, there are no regulatory mechanisms to ensure that the amount of contaminants contained in species of commercially caught or farmed fish is homogeneous throughout the country. A 2006 study found that methylmercury levels in fish available in Illinois supermarkets far exceeded the FDA reference levels.”

Given the confusion regarding safe levels of contaminants from consuming fish during pregnancy, combined with the risk of inadvertently consuming fish that exceeds safe levels of contaminants, the only conclusions that can be drawn are that Omega 3’s are important, and should not be completely avoided during pregnancy. Suggestions include keeping women informed about the risks of fish consumption, and which fish to avoid. Safe fish oil capsules can be obtained , but should be guided by physician recommendation because they are not FDA regulated. Pre-natal vitamins can be taken containing vegetarian sources of Omega 3 fatty acids, though the benefits of Omega 3’s from plant sources, versus marine Omega 3’s are not as well documented.



Fish Consumption During Pregnancy: An Overview of the Risks and Benefits