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Pregnant women encouraged to eat some varieties of fish
Dr. Caro “Cricket” Garlich consults Jodi McCollum, a front office assistant as well as a patient who is 13 weeks pregnant, about how much seafood is safe to eat during pregnancy Friday at the Center for Women’s Health at The Longstreet Clinic. - photo by SARA GUEVARA
Healthy Monday
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Contrary to popular belief, it’s OK to eat shrimp and other seafood during pregnancy.

“It’s safe to eat shrimp, you just want to make sure it’s cooked thoroughly,” said Dr. Caro “Cricket” Garlich of the Center for Women’s Health at Longstreet Clinic in Gainesville.

As a matter of fact, Garlich says it’s not only safe to eat most shellfish and small fish during pregnancy, it’s recommended.

“The omega-3 fatty acids in fish are believed to lead to improved nerve and brain development in the fetus,” said Garlich, who holds an American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology certification.

With the summer officially here, most people can’t wait to sample the abundant fare offered by the ocean and while pregnant women can eat most things, there are some water-dwelling delights they may want to shy away from.

“Because of the high levels of mercury in big fish like shark, swordfish and mackerel, we recommend that women stay away from those during pregnancy,” Garlich said.

Ingesting too much mercury during pregnancy can impair the fetus’ brain development and have lasting impacts on fine motor skills and speech.

While it’s safe to indulge in seafood during pregnancy, expectant mothers should be sure not to go overboard.

“We generally recommend that women stick to 12 ounces of fish, usually two servings, per week,” said Garlich. “If they are eating albacore tuna, we recommend that they don’t eat more than 6 ounces, or one serving, per week. However, light, canned tuna is safe to eat twice a week.”

Besides staying away from sushi, pregnant women also want to use caution when eating local catches and only eat those once a week, Garlich says.

While dining on seafood, pregnant women want to be sure that things like shrimp, lobster and scallops are cooked until they’re milky white and that clams, mussels, and oysters are cooked until their shells open. Fish should be cooked until it reaches an internal temperature of around 145 degrees.