So after doctors spent all those years popping all that yang about how dangerous it is to eat fish while pregnant, a new study suggests that the developmental benefits to consuming seafood may actually outweigh the potential risk of mercury poisoning to the fetus.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidelines currently limit fish consumption to twice a week for pregnant women; scientists and doctors have long had concerns that the amount of mercury in fish may hamper fetal development. Still, developmental problems in fetuses and infants have never been conclusively linked to fish consumption during pregnancy.
Researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York, Ulster University in Belfast and the Republic of Seychelles Ministry of Health and Ministry Education worked together to conduct one of the largest studies in history, performing neurological tests and collecting specimens from more than 1,500 mothers and children in the islands of Seychelles over two decades. Residents there are known to eat fish up to 10 times more than folks in the US and UK.
What the researchers found: pre-birth mercury exposure is not associated with lower test scores, and there was no link between the consumption of fish and neurological impairment as the kids grew into adulthood. In fact, researchers believe that fish rich with omega-3 fatty acid may counteract any inflammation that could be caused by mercury. Children of mothers who had higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids even performed better on some tests.
“It seems that the relationship between fish nutrients and mercury may be far more intricate than formerly appreciated,” offered senior author of the study, Dr. Philip Davidson, professor emeritus at the University of Rochester. “These discoveries show that there may be an ideal harmony between the different inflammatory properties of fatty acids that promote fetal development and that these systems warrant further study.”
Man listen: that “no fish” rule doggone near killed me when I was pregnant with my daughters, considering just the thought of eating meat, much less smelling and tasting it, made me Usain Bolt to the nearest bathroom for long porcelain god prayers. What I would have done for some shrimp, a little crab, some roasted salmon or steamed monk fish. Sushi!
But nooooooooooooooooooooo. Seafood will KILL! THE! BABY! At least that’s what my brain heard when my ob-gyn and all those stupid pregnancy books and parenting magazines said to limit the amount I ate while pregnant. So I survived on—*whispers*—popcorn, broccoli, popsicles, ice cubes and pregnancy vitamins.
Don’t judge me.
Had I to do it all over again, I would have simply gone by the one simple rule I go by today: for the sake of my health and body, everything in moderation. I would have erased the fear I had of eating the wrong thing and hurting my babies and instead simply eaten what I could and what I liked, when I wanted, within reason. Thank goodness both of them, while underweight, were born healthy and thrived the moment they started breastfeeding. I hope this is a wake-up call for moms-to-be to ditch denial and embrace moderation on their pregnancy journey, too.
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.