Mercury exposure has been touted as being one of the main causes of foetal developmental problems and due to the quantity found in fish, it is suggested to most women to avoid this food product. Recent studies have shown though that the beneficial qualities of fish during pregnancy may outweigh the mercury-related risks associated with it. For this reason, there is soon to be a revision by the FDA regarding the guideline around fish consumption in pregnant women to better reflect the nutritional value of fish in their diets.
The previous limitations to fish consumption in a pregnant woman's diet was due to the amount of free mercury in the environment that ends up in the waters where the fish are caught from. Exposure to this chemical has never been conclusively proved to affect a child's development but the consequences of raised mercury levels in pregnant women has always been a cause of concern. On the other hand, there are many beneficial nutrients that can be found in fish and essential fatty acids such as omega 3 that is good for neurological development. A recent study showed that mercury exposure did not affect the intelligence of children that were monitored into their adulthood. In fact children of mothers who had higher levels of omega 3 fatty acids from fish performed better in logical tests and had improved motor skills.
In general terms, Western diets are severely deficient in Omega-3s, and as the foetus in the womb used omega 3s to grow properly neurologically the levels in the woman herself are depleted. Breast milk that is important in providing essential nutrients during the early stages of a child's birth is also made through Omega-3s. Studies also show that high consumption of foods with omega-3 acids could reduce the risk of allergies in babies. Fish oil is not only available in fish; it is also available in food such as vegetables, walnuts, tuna, and salmon. Certain supplements could even help provided the required amount.