Pregnant women may get more confusing recommendations about fish than almost anything else. Now, from the UK, comes a new warning that eating too little fish may actually be more dangerous for your baby than eating too much.
A 2007 study in the Lancet suggests that less than 340 grams, or two and a half portions, of fish a week ups a woman’s chances of having a baby with “low verbal intelligence”. New research also suggests that low levels of the nutrients found in fish oil might lead to ADHD and other behavioral issues. Meanwhile, women in the UK have been warned not to eat more than two servings of fish per week since 2004. The U.S. recommendation is slightly higher, but still women would have to eat the maximum 12 ounces of fish per week to get more than 340 grams.
When I think about fish and pregnancy I sometimes imagine a fish version of that push me pull you creature from Rudyard Kipling. A two headed fish, swimming both ways. Toward you, full of healthy omega 3s, and away from you, full of scary chemicals.
The fish situation is so complicated. Environmental and personal health concerns often point in different directions, creating a nightmare of cross referencing I won’t go near with a ten foot fishing pole. (At least not in this particular post). But if your primary worry is getting your fish oil while avoiding chemicals that are thought to be risky for the fetus, what you want is a small fish, either wild or farmed with chemical-free feed. And apparently, the jury’s still out on whether supplements provide the same benefits as whole fish, so you might want to try to develop a taste for anchovy pizza, or sardine sandwiches. Maybe not in the first trimester.