Fishy facts for mums-to-be

Fishy facts for mums-to-be

Fishy facts for mums-to-be

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  • Author: MyVillage

Fishy facts for mums-to-be


Many women remain confused over what fish they can and can’t eat during pregnancy. Some you can eat freely, such as white fish, but others, such as mackerel, tuna and swordfish, need to be controlled.

Midwives and doctors generally don’t recommend dietary supplements during pregnancy, but UK experts from a number of medical fields are backing new advice following study results by Harvard University, published in New Scientist, that pregnant women should take pure fish oil supplements.

Omega 3 essential fatty acids, found in oily fish, are vital for the successful growth and development of a foetus, but doubts have recently been cast upon the safety of some types of fresh fish for expectant mothers.

The Harvard School of Public Health investigated the levels of mercury found in the blood of pregnant women who consumed oily fish. Not only did those who ate more fish tend to carry higher levels of mercury, but women who gave birth prematurely were three times as likely to have a high mercury level, nearly double that of those who carried babies to term.

High mercury levels in some fish can damage a baby’s developing nervous system. As a result, the British Food Standards Agency currently recommends that pregnant women consume no more than two portions of oily fish a week.

Following Harvard’s discovery, the lead researcher told New Scientist that although oily fish is beneficial, it is also a potential source of hazard. Until the risks become clearer, Harvard recommends taking fish oil supplements instead. By taking a pure omega 3 supplement, mothers-to-be can ensure their babies get all the omega 3 essential fatty acids they need for healthy development, without the toxin risks associated with fresh oily fish.

Another issue is that many pregnant women experience food aversions towards strong flavoured fish rich in omega 3 when they are feeling nauseous in the first trimester, which often means the supply of natural omega 3 fatty acids is limited. In this case, and when women simply don’t like fish, supplements may offer the best solution.

Dr Sarah Brewer is one of several nutritional experts backing the new advice. “Taken at the usual doses, fish oil supplements are safe to take during pregnancy and help avoid the risks associated with eating fish,” she says. “Omega 3 essential fatty acids are important for the optimum development of a baby in the womb, especially for the formation of a healthy brain, eyes and nervous system.”

When choosing a fish oil supplement, pregnant women are advised to avoid cod liver oil, which contains high levels of vitamin A. If you take a prenatal multivitamin, make sure you read the content of both the fish oil supplement and your multivitamin, as both many contain vitamin E.

Experts recommend that you source a pure omega 3 fish oil supplement from a reputable pharmaceutical-grade manufacturer that uses the most bioavailable triglyceride form of omega 3 and double distills the oil to ensure all toxins and pollutants, including mercury, are removed.

For more information about omega 3 essential fatty acids in pregnancy and details of how to get hold of pure fish oil supplements, visit or call freephone 0800 7312377. Always speak to your midwife or GP before supplementing with omega 3 fish oil.

Picture caption: Health in pregnancy – new advice on fish supplements.

MyVillage, 14th February

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