Nutrition During Pregnancy: 8 Big Myths and Facts

While pregnant, you’re also going to be bombarded with a ton of conflicting—and unsolicited—advice, much of which involves what you put in your mouth. Let me help set the record straight.

Myth No. 4: You should can the fish.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) advise pregnant and breastfeeding women (and also women of childbearing age) to eat up to 12 ounces of low-mercury fish a week and steer clear of swordfish, tilefish, king mackerel, and shark.

However, many women think it's just too confusing to understand which fish are OK to eat, so they avoid all types of fish, to the detriment of their child. Women with a low seafood intake (less than 12 ounces a week) had children who scored lower on tests for fine motor, communication, and social development skills from ages six months to eight years, according to a 2007 paper published in the Lancet. And when women ate more than the government-recommended 12 ounces a week, their child's neurodevelopment and verbal IQ scores benefited.

Fish contains DHA (docosahexanoic acid), an omega-3 polyunsaturated fat, that is essential for your baby's brain and eye development. Our bodies don't make it, so we need to get it from the food we eat. It's found mainly in fatty cold-water fish, like salmon, herring, tuna, trout, and oysters, but now you can find DHA in everything from orange juice to yogurt.

Unfortunately, most pregnant and breast-feeding women only get about 50 mg of DHA a day. Low levels of DHA in breast milk and low seafood consumption levels have been linked to postpartum depression, which affects 10–15% of mothers. So make sure to get 200 mg a day while you're pregnant and also throughout breast-feeding.

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Frances Largeman-Roth, RD
Last Updated: April 27, 2009

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