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Fish Safe for Pregnant Women to Eat
Date:10/5/2007

Too many aren't consuming recommended levels, experts say

FRIDAY, Oct. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Since 2001, when U.S. health officials warned pregnant women to eat no more than 12 ounces of fish a week because of potential mercury contamination, many women have been confused, and fish consumption has dropped.

Now, a group of experts says that that warning by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was misguided. The potential problems caused by mercury pale in comparison with the harm caused to developing fetuses from a lack of omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in many fish and are essential for brain development. Women should eat at least 12 ounces of fish a week, the group recommends.

"We found that the FDA/EPA advisory was scaring a large number of women away from eating any fish," said Dr. Ashley S. Roman, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at New York University Medical Center and a member of the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition. "Fish is an important part of a well-balanced diet during pregnancy."

The new recommendations were presented Thursday during a press conference at the National Press Club, in Washington, D.C.

The coalition is a nonprofit group whose members include the American Academy of Pediatrics and the March of Dimes, as well as federal agencies such as the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"There is scientific evidence that fish leads to better outcomes in babies," Roman said. "It leads to better brain development, improved cognitive and motor skills, and some evidence suggests that it might reduce the risk of premature delivery and postpartum depression. Studies have shown that if you eat 12 ounces or more fish per week, you are doing better for your baby than if you eat less than that amount or no fish at all."

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