Consuming Tuna during Pregnancy: Health Benefits and Risks

Eating Tuna During Pregnancy – Safe or Unsafe?

Medically Reviewed By
Megha Mukhija (Paediatric Nutritionist)
View more Paediatric Nutritionist Our Panel of Experts

Giving birth to a child requires effort, and precautionary measures need to be taken care of, right from conception. Whatever a pregnant woman consumes has to be checked for its nutritional importance and safety to the mother and her foetus.

Can You Eat Tuna Fish During Pregnancy?

During pregnancy, you need to be extra cautious of your food intake, for your good health and proper growth of your baby. If you are a seafood lover, you are certain to wonder, ‘can pregnant women eat tuna’. The answer is yes. Tuna is a highly nutritious fish and can be consumed but in moderation.

How Much Tuna Can Pregnant Women Eat?

The amount of tuna that you may consume must be adjusted based on whether you have any other seafood during the same week. As per the US FDA (Food and Drug Administration), pregnant and nursing women are allowed to have 8 to 12 oz of seafood, and specifically:

  • 12 oz of light tuna a week (low in mercury)
  • 6 oz of albacore tuna a week (high in mercury)

Benefits of Tuna in Pregnancy

  • Boosts the development of your baby by providing essential minerals, Vitamin D and omega-3.
  • Tuna a rich source of protein which helps in growth.
  • The omega-3 fatty acids in tuna assist in the proper development of baby’s eyes, brain and nerves.

Risks of Eating Tuna While Pregnant

  • Excess tuna builds up the mercury levels in your system, enters your bloodstream and, thus, affects the development of the brain and nervous system of the foetus.
  • Mercury can lead to physical deformities, developmental delays and weakened immune response.
  • Mercury can also be a cause of heart damage.
  • Tuna contains some environmental pollutants, dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which are known to be harmful to a baby’s development.

Common Tuna Types and Their Eating Rules During Pregnancy

Tunas come in different varieties as listed below and should be consumed in either broiled or baked form. Any uncooked or raw food may harbour bacteria, which can be harmful to your foetus. Make sure to cook your Tuna to a minimum temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit, so that any potential parasites or pathogens in the tuna get killed.

  • Albacore Tuna: White tuna is available in cans or pouches. It’s safe to have albacore tuna while pregnant, limited to 6 ounces or 2 medium-size cans per week. You may consume it in the form of a tuna salad during pregnancy.
  • Yellowfin Tuna: It is also known as light tuna and has a more profound flavour. Available in cans and pouches, yellowfin tuna in pregnancy should be cut down to 2 or 3 servings per week.
  • Skipjack Tuna: Skipjack tuna has moderate levels of mercury. It is safe, but limit consumption to 1 or 2 servings a week.
  • Ahi Tuna: Popular as bigeye, this tuna is available as sashimi or steak. It has high levels of mercury and, hence, should be limited to less than 6 ounces of serving a week.
  • Bluefin Tuna: Bluefin Tuna is available in the form of sashimi and contains large amounts of mercury. It’s advisable to limit its intake to 6 oz a week.

Common Tuna Types and Their Eating Rules During Pregnancy

Is Fresh Tuna Good for Pregnancy?

Fresh tuna feels oily, but it has the best nutritional values and is considered safe for pregnant women. It contains vitamins, minerals and proteins, and is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. These help in proper growth and development of the brain in the foetus.

Is It Safe to Have Canned Tuna During Pregnancy?

Canned tuna is permissible for a pregnant woman as long as it is had in a limited amount. Regular consumption of canned tuna has certain health risks to your growing foetus.

  • The lining of metal cans contain the substance Bisphenol A (BPA), which may enter your system and affect foetal brain development
  • Canned tuna has salt that can cause a rise in the sodium levels in your body and increase the risk of high blood pressure.

Tuna Types to Eat and Avoid

Here, we provide you with a list of safe and unsafe tunas to be had during pregnancy and nursing.

Safety Level Name of the Tuna variety
Safe When Eaten in Moderation
  • Fresh/frozen skipjack
  • Skipjack light tuna
  • Fresh/frozen albacore
  • Canned albacore
  • Fresh/frozen big-eye
  • Fresh/frozen yellowfin or ahi

In pregnancy, you need to be careful with your intake of seafood like tuna, because high levels of mercury in the bloodstream of your foetus can be harmful to its brain and nervous system. Tuna is a nutritious fish and is beneficial for a pregnant woman, only when taken in judicious amounts.

Also Read:

Eating Fish during Pregnancy
Consuming Fish Oil during Pregnancy
Eating Prawns during Pregnancy

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