Unless you are a vegan or vegetarian, it’s ideal to have seafood feature in your diet regularly! This may include white fish, pink/oily fish and shellfish such as prawns, lobster, bugs as well as scallops and mussels. Eating seafood provides a valuable source of protein, B vitamins, iron, zinc and especially iodine and omega-3 fatty acids. The iodine and fatty acids are particularly important for your baby’s growing brain, which is actually made up of around 70% fat. Studies are ongoing about the many important benefits both iodine and fatty acids may provide, especially surrounding neural development and future intellect.
Many women are confused about the guidelines for including seafood in their diet due to concerns regarding food safety. The main issue is surrounding mercury, which is a heavy metal that can build up in the tissues of bigger fish when they eat smaller fish. In Australia, however, there are very few fish that present this concern. Tinned fish is also considered safe, and often a very convenient way of getting your intake up!
Below is a table from Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) that outlines the guidelines for you in pregnancy:
Keep in mind a small tin of salmon, sardines or tuna may only provide just over half of this serving size, so having tuna most days of the week as a lunch option is not a concern – although variety is always advised. It is preferable to include seafood in your diet several times per week, as opposed to taking fish oil supplements.
In pregnancy, raw seafood can carry the Listeria Bacteria which can cause Listeriosis and be very harmful to your baby during pregnancy. It is important that when you consume seafood in pregnancy, ensure it is well cooked. That means no sashimi or items such as chilled prawns (even though they are pre-cooked) and shellfish. Hot prawns or shellfish are safe as part of a hot dish, however they need to be cooked thoroughly to at least 63 degrees and eaten whilst hot.
Oysters and other raw shellfish in pregnancy should be avoided, as these types of seafood can be contaminated with harmful bacteria and viruses.
If you have further queries regarding your seafood intake, please contact our rooms or ask at your next appointment. The NSW Food Authority Website is also a helpful guide to food and nutrition in pregnancy.