Pregnant women, How to Minimize the Risk of Mercury in Fish? – Pregnant women are certainly no stranger to the suggestion of consuming fish that are full of nutrients, including high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. However, fish are also at risk of containing mercury which can harm pregnant women, you know! But, don’t worry, Ma’am, there are guidelines for pregnant women to continue eating fish in a healthy manner.

Fish is rich in protein, low in saturated fat, vitamin D and various nutrients needed by pregnant women. In addition, fish also contain docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) which is beneficial for baby’s brain development. So pregnant women are advised to consume at least 2-3 servings of fish every week.

Mercury Risk for Infants in the Womb

Although many fish contain nutrients for pregnant women, there is a risk of mercury content in fish. Especially the fish most exposed to mercury are sea fish. Marine fish can absorb mercury from the deep sea layers when it breathes and eats. Infants in the womb of pregnant women are most at risk of experiencing health problems due to mercury.

Continually consuming foods that are high in mercury in the long run will cause mercury to accumulate in the bloodstream. This condition can interfere with the development of the baby’s nervous system and brain. The effect may only be seen when the baby starts walking, talking, remembering, and paying attention.

However, please note that the mercury content in fish is different. Depending on the age, size, habitat, location, and food consumed by fish. The types of fish that pregnant women should avoid because they can contain high levels of mercury are large predatory fish species, the king mackerel, shark, swordfish, and baramundi.

As long as you avoid consuming fish that contain high levels of mercury, you can still get healthy benefits from fish without worrying about disturbing your health.

Tips for Eating Fish Safely

Not to be confused, these guidelines guide to consuming fish during pregnancy that need attention.

1. Choosing the right type of fish

Choose fish that are not too large, and are predatory. Some types of fish are considered safe or relatively low in mercury content, such as sardines, salmon, tilapia, catfish, anchovies, canned tuna and shrimp.

2. Limit the amount of seafood consumption

Because seafood is the type of food most susceptible to mercury exposure, seafood consumption needs to be limited. The recommended consumption limit is around 340 grams, which is about 2-3 servings of a variety of low-mercury seafood, in 1 week.

3. Avoid consumption of raw fish

This is important to reduce the risk of pregnant women being exposed to bacteria or viruses contained in fish. This includes sushi, sashimi, oysters, or any preserved and uncooked seafood, such as smoked or made jerky.

4. Fish must be cooked until cooked

Make sure the fish that you consume are cooked thoroughly with an internal temperature (the temperature in the dish) to reach 65 degrees Celsius. Characteristics of cooked fish is the meat is soft, grayish white, and easy to remove. Lobster and shrimp must be cooked until the meat is white gray and the skin is shiny. While the clams must also be cooked until the shells open.

In essence, you don’t need to worry too much. Apart from following the fish consumption guidelines above, the human body actually naturally removes mercury. Health problems due to mercury only occur when a person consumes fish or foods that contain high levels of mercury continuously for months, or in excessive portions.

For alternative fish as a source of omega-3 fatty acids, pregnant women can also consume sunflower seeds, edamame, canola oil, milk, yogurt, and omega-3-enriched eggs. It is recommended to consult a doctor if pregnant women feel they need pregnancy vitamins or supplements that contain DHA.