Frequently Asked Questions about Eating Fish for Women 18-49 years and Children 1-17 years

 

Mom and son holding fish they caught

Everyone should follow the tips for eating fish safely and understand the benefits and risks of eating fish, but there is additional advice for women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or might become pregnant (generally women 18-49 years) and children (1-17 years). 

 

Why should I eat Fish?

US Dietary Guidelines 2015-2020Fish (including shellfish) are an important part of a healthy, well-balanced diet.  Eating fish is good for you and your baby when you are pregnant or breastfeeding.  The U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend that pregnant or breastfeeding women eat “at least 8 and up to 12 ounces" of a variety of low-mercury fish and shellfish per week.

 

Why does OEHHA issue a different set of advice for women and children?

OEHHA provides separate advice in our fish advisories for women of childbearing age and children because some chemicals, such as mercury, can be especially harmful to children and babies, even before they are born.  Mercury can harm the brain and nervous system of babies and children.  This can affect their behavior and learning ability as they grow.

 

Are there certain types of fish that my children and I should avoid eating?

Yes!  Some species of fish usually contain higher levels of mercury.  Unless an OEHHA fish advisory* for a specific water body provides consumption advice for the following species, OEHHA recommends that women of childbearing age and children not eat:

*OEHHA’s fish advisories are only for fish caught recreationally from California’s lakes, reservoirs, rivers, and coast.  See the chart below for federal advice for fish from stores and restaurants.

 

What if I’m not pregnant or planning to become pregnant?

Mercury can build up in a woman’s body before she becomes pregnant, so OEHHA recommends that women of childbearing age choose low-mercury fish in case they become pregnant.

 

What about fish from stores and restaurants?

Follow the US Food and Drug Administration and US Environmental Protection Agency’s advice “for women of childbearing age (about 16-49 years old), especially pregnant and breastfeeding women, and for parents and caregivers of young children.”

US EPA and FDA joint Advice about Eating Fish for women of childbearing age (about 16-49 years old), especially pregnant and breastfeeding women, and for parents and caregivers of young chldren.