Women and Children
Advice for Women Ages 18-45 and Children 1-17 Years
- Babies and children need nutrients like omega-3s in fish for healthy brains and eyes
- It is important for women to eat fish while they are pregnant because omega-3s help the baby’s brain develop.
- Some fish have chemicals like mercury and PCB that can cause learning problems in babies and children
- Mercury builds up in the body, so women ages 18-45 should eat low mercury fish to protect their baby in case they become pregnant
Children and fetuses are more sensitive to the toxic effects of methylmercury (the form of mercury in fish) as they grow. For this reason, OEHHA's advisories based on mercury provide special advice for women ages 18-45 (childbearing years) and children 1-17 years. They should be especially careful to follow the fish advisories.
The best choices are fish low in mercury and other chemicals and high in omega-3s. Salmon and trout are good choices.
It is also important for women to eat low-mercury (and high omega-3) fish during pregnancy to support the fetus as it develops.
Recommendations from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015
“Seafood contributes a range of nutrients, notably the omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).”
“In addition to the health benefits for the general public, the nutritional value of seafood is of particular importance during fetal growth and development, as well as in early infancy and childhood.”
Omega-3 fatty acids, in particular DHA, from at least 8 ounces of seafood per week for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding can improve infant health.
Therefore, it is recommended that women who are pregnant or breastfeeding eat at least 8 and up to 12 ounces (cooked, edible portion) of a variety of seafood per week, from choices that are lower in mercury.
Seafood varieties commonly eaten in the U.S. that are higher in the omega-3s EPA and DHA and lower in mercury include:
- Pacific oysters
- Atlantic and Pacific mackerel (not king mackerel, which is high in mercury)