This question can spark many a debate: some say yes, some say no and some sit this discussion out on the fence. Obviously, vegetarians or vegans won’t have to worry about this one, but for the fish and meat eaters, it is a question to ponder when you are pregnant.
Mercury is the biggest issue when it comes to eating tuna. It is hard to ascertain exactly how much mercury is in one can from another, and there are huge variances. While it won’t necessarily harm you, it can harm a baby’s developing nervous system and if consumed in large quantities, can stifle a baby’s development. Tuna also contains Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) which can build up over time and have detrimental effects on your baby’s development. Since the levels of mercury have increased by 30% in the last twenty years, it does give some cause for concern.
Eating fish is recommended as part of a healthy and balanced diet for pregnant women as it is packed to the brim with protein, fatty acids, omega-3, vitamin D, selenium and other nutrients. Some think the good stuff outweighs the bad. However, the jury seems to be out at present.
Canned tuna particularly, is in the high-risk category – but if you eat it in limited quantities, then it is safe to consume and won’t harm your baby. If you cannot seem to get enough fish to satisfy your cravings, then it is best to opt for smaller non-predatory fish the majority of the time. Avoid swordfish, king mackerel tilefish, and shark at all costs when pregnant.
Try to limit yourself to a few medium-sized cans of tuna or if you prefer fresh fish, no more than two tuna steaks per week. The FDA recommends about 12 ounces a week in total, but this can vary depending on body weight and height. This applies to breastfeeding moms too. If given the choice, opt for fresh tuna over canned as it is better for you and your baby. Canned tuna has fewer omega-3 fatty acids because of the canning process.
Studies seem to confirm that tuna in limited qualities is safe but if you feel hesitant about it, then it won’t hurt to avoid it altogether. Use your gut instinct and do what feels right for you personally.