If reports of high mercury levels have you skipping seafood, it's time to reconsider. Fish have essential fats called omega-3 fatty acids, which your body needs for optimal fertility – and seafood is the best source.
Omega-3s are important for a baby's brain and eye development and have many other pregnancy-related benefits, including lowering your risk of preterm birth, reducing your chance of preeclampsia, and easing depression. It's important to get omega-3 fatty acids from food because your body doesn't make them.
Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in a variety of marine- and plant-based sources. Just remember that the omega-3s in seafood have long-chain fatty acids that plant-based omega-3s (like walnuts and flaxseed) don't. To get the most out of omega-3s, eat cold water fatty fish like salmon, tuna, sardines, or herring a couple of times a week.
Still, it's hard not to worry about mercury contamination in fish. Mercury is toxic to a developing fetus and can linger in a woman's bloodstream for more than a year.
The good news is that not all fish contain the same amount of mercury. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that women trying to conceive can safely eat up to 12 ounces (roughly two entrées) a week of low-mercury fish, such as shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, or catfish.
The FDA advises avoiding canned albacore (white) tuna as well as fresh or frozen swordfish, tilefish, king mackerel, tuna steaks, shark, orange roughy, Spanish mackerel, marlin, and grouper because they have the highest mercury levels.
Check out our article on fish safety for more advice on finding your way through the mercury maze.
If you don't like the taste of fish, try fish oil supplements. But be sure to talk to your healthcare provider first to find out how much you need to take.