As a pregnant or nursing woman, shouldn't I just play it safe and not eat fish during this period?
The nutrients in tuna and other fish – such as omega-3 fatty acids - are essential for both your health and for the proper development of your child’s brain and other tissues. The real question is what you give up when if you avoid tuna or other seafood during pregnancy. The science suggests you trade off giving your baby the best head start possible.
Why? Canned tuna and many other oily, ocean fish contains DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), an omega-3 fatty acid that is essential for the healthy development of the fetus and young child. According to scientific studies, DHA comprises approximately 40 percent of the polyunsaturated fatty acid content in the cell membranes in the brain and 60 percent of the cell membranes in the retina and is transferred from mother to the fetus at a high rate during the last trimester of pregnancy. Our bodies don’t make omega-3s and so we need to eat foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and fish is by far the best food source.
It is because fish is so important to a pregnant and nursing woman's diet that FDA and EPA issued their new seafood advisory, which tells them how to receive the benefits of fish while reducing their exposure to mercury levels. According to the government advisory: "Fish and shellfish are an important part of a healthy diet... So, women and young children in particular should include fish or shellfish in their diets due to the many nutritional benefits."