Fishy Fears

June 7, 2006

I like to think I had a very carefree pregnancy.

All my memories are warm and fuzzy. In my mind’s eye I felt great, looked great and savored each and every kick. Except for some minor back pain and a few sleepless nights because I could no longer sleep on my stomach, it was a wonderful time in my life, one I hope to repeat some day.

But hearing this story on NPR today reminded me that it wasn’t all sunshine and puppies.

Consumer Reports is recommending that pregnant women not eat any canned tuna at all, contrary to prior advice:

In 2004, the FDA urged women and young children to eat no more than 12 ounces of a variety of fish and shellfish with lower levels of mercury (including canned light tuna) or 6 ounces of white tuna (albacore) per week to minimize mercury risks. Canned light tuna on average contains lower mercury levels, the agency said.

But the Consumer Reports analysis of the FDA’s data shows that 6% of cans of light tuna contained at least as much mercury as white tuna, also known as albacore. It wasn’t enough to skew the average beyond white tuna, but enough to warrant concern for pregnant women, Rangan says.

“We’re not telling you not to eat tuna. But for pregnant women in particular where you are talking about potential fetal exposure — and it’s an avoidable risk — we’re saying go ahead and take some extra measures to reduce your Hg [mercury] exposure at all costs,” she tells WebMD.

There’s debate over whether Cosumer Reports is being alarmist or skewing some anecdotal data. But this got me to thinking about all the precautions I took when I was pregnant.

I gave up my beloved Diet Coke, eschewing caffeine and all artificial sweeteners until I stopped nursing. I took my prenatal vitamins religiously. I ate no tuna. I avoided secondhand smoke like it was the plague. I didn’t eat anything that wasn’t pasteurized. I stayed at least 10 feet away from the microwave oven whenever it was on. I didn’t drink a drop of alcohol. I gave up rigorous exercise, opting for walking, yoga and light weightlifting.

Doesn’t sound very carefree, does it?

In retrospect, it all seems to be a bit much. Logically, I know there are plenty of women who don’t take as many precautions, or even live unhealthy lives and still give birth to healthy babies.

But logic had very little to do with it, at least not for me. My pregnancy was a long time coming, and I was happy to take every precaution that I could. It didn’t feel like a burden.

Instead, making all those healthy changes only seemed to add to the experience in some strange, almost romantic way.
“Of course I can’t have a drink; I’m growing a baby! Decaf please; I’m drinking for two!”

Silly? Probably. But I guess I agree with Dr. Rangan: why not go the extra mile for the health of your unborn baby?

Did you make many lifestyle changes while pregnant? Take the poll…