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What Should Pregnant Women Do?

Hibbeln stopped short of saying that pregnant women should ignore the FDA-EPA guidelines, or that the federal agencies should change their recommendations.

"It is not the role of the NIH to advise anyone to revisit their recommendations," he says.

But, he adds, "There are many bright scientists and competent administrators within the FDA and EPA who may wish to evaluate these data."

While that may happen in the future, a spokesman for the FDA tells WebMD the agency has no plans to change the recommendations.

The FDA-EPA advisory warns pregnant women not to eat shark, swordfish, king mackerel, or tilefish. These are the fish more likely to have high mercury levels.

Commonly eaten fish low in mercury can be eaten up to 12 ounces a week and include shrimp, salmon, canned light tuna, and catfish. Albacore tuna consumption should be limited to no more than 6 ounces a week since it contains more mercury than canned light tuna.

In an editorial accompanying the study, Gary J. Myers, MD, suggests there is little science to back up the FDA's recommendation to limit seafood consumption while pregnant.

The University of Rochester professor of neurology tells WebMD policymakers should not narrowly focus on only one thing when they make health recommendations.

"You have to take a holistic approach when it comes to the health and development of children," he says. "That means considering the things that improve health as well as the things that might theoretically be detrimental.

"It is very clear that omega-3 fatty acids are very important for brain development," says Myers. "It is less clear that mercury at the levels you get from eating fish poses a risk."

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