What fish can you eat when pregnant?  

Whilst there are some foods that you’ll need to avoid during your pregnancy, most fish are safe to eat during pregnancy. So, if this is a food you enjoy, there’s no need for you to miss out on some of your favourite dishes.

Rich in omega 3 fatty acids and other nutrients, eating fish when pregnant is known to support foetal development, including brain development and that of the eyes1 and nervous system2. However, it’s important to know that there are some types of fish that you should avoid during your pregnancy, and others that you should only eat now and again.

In this article, we’ll be exploring the various nutritional benefits of eating fish for you and your baby, which types of fish are best avoided, and which ones you should be adding to your healthy pregnancy diet.


What are the benefits of eating fish for you and your baby?  

Fish is an excellent source of protein and vitamin D2, and oily fish is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. You can read more about the vitamins and supplements you need during your pregnancy here.

The benefits of eating fish for you include2:

  • Supporting heart health and helping to prevent heart disease
  • Strong healthy bones - this is due to some types of fish containing bones that you can eat, meaning that they contain plenty of calcium and phosphorus
  • Helping you to maintain a healthy weight during your pregnancy, as white fish is also low in fat

There’s also some evidence to suggest that the nutrients contained in fish (specifically omega-3 fatty acids) can help to reduce the risk of preeclampsia, premature labour, and postnatal depression3.

As well as the benefits for you, eating fish can have benefits for your growing baby too. The omega-3 fatty acids it contains can help to support your baby’s brain development as they grow in the womb, as well as their eyes1 and nervous system2. Eating fish can also lead to your baby being born at a healthy weight3, strengthen their bones4 and reduce the risk of food allergies and eczema1.  

How much fish should I eat in pregnancy

According to the NHS, everyone should eat at least two portions of fish a week, one of which should be an oily fish such as salmon or sardines2

If you’re pregnant, or planning to have a baby, then you should avoid eating more than two portions of oily fish per week, as it may contain pollutants that can affect your baby’s development2.

Fish to avoid when you’re pregnant

Whilst eating fish comes with a number of health benefits, there are some varieties that are best avoided during your pregnancy.

Shark, swordfish, tilefish and marlin are good examples. This is because these are slow-growing types of fish, which makes them more likely to have high mercury content which can affect your baby’s developing nervous system5. All adults are advised to limit their intake of these fish to one portion a week, whilst pregnant women are advised to avoid them altogether. 

Fish that has been cold-smoked or cured isn’t suitable if you’re pregnant. That’s because there’s a chance it’s been contaminated with listeria, a bacteria that can cause listeriosis. Listeriosis can be dangerous in pregnancy and can make your baby very ill. In some cases, it can also result in miscarriage or stillbirth5.

If you want to eat this type of fish prior to your baby being born, ensure that you cook it until it’s hot to the point of steaming, as this will kill any bacteria5.  

Cod is a white fish, and you can eat as many portions of this as you like as part of a healthy pregnancy diet2. A good source of calcium and iron, cod can help to support strong bones and teeth, as well as providing you with much-needed energy6. White fish is also low in fat2.

Other white fish like haddock, monkfish and plaice, as well as cooked shellfish, are all safe to eat during your pregnancy. However, there are separate guidelines in place for some other types of white fish such as seabass, which shouldn’t be eaten too often. Shark, marlin, swordfish and tilefish should be avoided altogether. 

A good source of lean protein, sushi has become a popular lunchtime choice for many. As long as it’s been frozen first, the NHS states that you can eat sushi during your pregnancy, as long as it’s been frozen first. Freezing raw fish will ensure that any parasitic worms that it may contain are killed, making it safe for you to eat7

You can opt for cooked meat and fish and vegetable varieties of sushi instead.

Whilst tuna is safe to eat during your pregnancy, it contains more mercury than other types of fish. As such, it’s recommended that you limit your intake to no more than two tuna steaks (about 140g cooked or 170g raw each) or four medium-sized cans of tuna per week (about 140g when drained)2. This is in addition to your maximum oily fish intake of two portions a week, as tuna isn’t classed as an oily fish.

Albacore, also known as ‘white tuna’, has been found to have higher levels of mercury than other varieties of canned tuna such as skipjack. As a result, some countries (such as Canada) have advised that pregnant women avoid consuming more than 300g per week8.  

Yes, but anchovies are an oily fish so just be sure to limit your intake to two portions per week2. It’s also important to ensure that the anchovies you eat have been thoroughly cooked, and not simply cured. 

You can eat seabass during your pregnancy, but not too often. Although it’s a white fish, Seabass can contain similar levels of certain pollutants as oily fish, so it should be included within your maximum intake of two portions per week2.  

Classed as an oily fish, and a good source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, mackerel is safe to eat during your pregnancy. However, it should be counted as one of your twice weekly recommended intakes of oily fish5

Another good source of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, sardines are safe to eat as part of your weekly recommended intake of oily fish (two portions). Sardines also contain bones that you can eat, making them a source of phosphorus and calcium which is important for healthy bones2.  

FishSafe or not?
Smoked Salmon✓ But limit servings of oily fish to two portions per week
Sushi✓ As long as it has been frozen first
Tuna✓ No more than two steaks or four medium-sized cans per week
Anchovies✓ But limit servings of oily fish to two portions per week
Sea bass✓ But include it within your maximum intake of two portions of oily fish per week
Mackerel✓ But limit servings of oily fish to two portions per week

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  1. Coletta JM, Bell SJ, Roman AS. Omega-3 Fatty acids and pregnancy. Rev Obstet Gynecol. 2010 Fall;3(4):163-71. PMID: 21364848; PMCID: PMC3046737
  2. NHS. Fish and shellfish [online] 2022. Available at https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/food-types/fish-and-shellfish-nutrition/#:~:text=Long%2Dchain%20omega%2D3%20can,long%2Dchain%20omega%2D3. [Accessed November 2023]
  3. Middleton P, Gomersall JC, Gould JF, Shepherd E, Olsen SF, Makrides M. Omega-3 fatty acid addition during pregnancy. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2018 Nov 15;11(11):CD003402. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD003402.pub3. PMID: 30480773; PMCID: PMC6516961
  4. Koren N, Simsa-Maziel S, Shahar R, Schwartz B, Monsonego-Ornan E. Exposure to omega-3 fatty acids at early age accelerate bone growth and improve bone quality. J Nutr Biochem. 2014 Jun;25(6):623-33. doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2014.01.012. Epub 2014 Mar 12. PMID: 24746838.
  5. NHS. Foods to avoid in pregnancy [online] 2023. Available at https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/keeping-well/foods-to-avoid/. [Accessed November 2023]
  6. NHS Inform. Vitamins and minerals [online] 2023. Available at https://www.nhsinform.scot/healthy-living/food-and-nutrition/eating-well/vitamins-and-minerals/. [Accessed November 2023]
  7. NHS Chesterfield Royal Hospital. Foods to avoid during pregnancy [online] 2017. Available at https://www.chesterfieldroyal.nhs.uk/application/files/5515/4177/1651/Foods_to_avoid_in_pregnancy.pdf. [Accessed November 2023]
  8. https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/food-nutrition/food-safety/chemical-contaminants/environmental-contaminants/mercury/mercury-fish.html


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