Women and Children
Advice for Women Ages 18-45 Years 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 low-contaminant 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 years (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 2015-2020
The advice relating to seafood consumption states, in part:
“For the general population, consumption of about 8 ounces per week of a variety of seafood, which provide an average consumption of 250 mg per day of EPA and DHA [omega 3s], is associated with reduced cardiac deaths among individuals with and without preexisting CVD [cardiovascular disease]. Similarly, consumption by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding of at least 8 ounces per week from seafood choices that are sources of DHA is associated with improved infant health outcomes.
The recommendation to consume 8 or more ounces per week (less for young children) of seafood is for the total package of nutrients that seafood provides, including its EPA and DHA content. Some seafood choices with higher amounts of EPA and DHA should be included.
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should consume at least 8 and up to 12 ounces of a variety of seafood per week, from choices that are lower in methyl mercury.
Obstetricians and pediatricians should provide guidance on how to make healthy food choices that include seafood. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding and young children should not eat certain types of fish that are high in methyl mercury.”
More detailed information can be found in the full report, Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020