What you need to know:
Fish, especially those that live longer such as Tuna or sharks, or those found in mercury polluted waters, especially oceans may have high levels of mercury that may be toxic to the unborn child
Is it true that pregnant women should not eat fish even when we know fish is nutritious? Mustapha
Fish is a nutritious food for everyone, including children and pregnant women. Unfortunately, due to human activity and natural reasons, mercury compounds may find their way in water bodies where fish may be inhabiting, leading to fish taking in mercury from the foods they eat or even direct entry into the fish through the gills used to breathe.
Fish, especially those that live longer such as Tuna or sharks, or those found in mercury polluted waters, especially oceans may have high levels of mercury that may be toxic to the unborn child. Therefore, it may be prudent to avoid eating these types of fish in pregnancy.
That said, mercury is a highly toxic element with no known safe level of exposure. Fortunately, the most consumed fish in Uganda, the Tilapia, do not seem to have toxic levels of mercury in them and, therefore, can be consumed in pregnancy unless one’s antenatal clinic advises otherwise.
However, tilapia should not be undercooked or eaten raw because of the likelihood of causing infections such as listeria or E. coli since pregnant women are usually susceptible to infections.
In the same vein, pregnant women should avoid eating undercooked, raw meat or eggs, hotel or town made vegetable salads or fruit juice, and raw (unpasteurised) milk, to avoid getting several infections including Toxoplasma, E. coli, listeria, and salmonella since they can affect both the mother and foetal health.
Also, they should avoid eating liver because of its high content of Vitamin A, which can lead to foetal abnormalities.
Of course, pregnant women should avoid alcohol and should limit the amount of coffee (caffeine) they take.