On eating fish when pregnant and how stress hormones affect our bodies

Dr. Elaine Chin answers your health questions


On eating fish when pregnant and how stress hormones affect our bodiesIt seems there’s a lot of conflicting advice about whether pregnant women should eat fish, or avoid it due to concerns over high mercury levels. What do you think?
The concern is real.  Pregnant women should not eat fish that are high in mercury. It is also good to rotate and eat different types of fish in your diet.

1. Which fish in this “Watch Out list” contains the highest mercury levels?
a. Tuna
b. King Mackerel
c. Shark
d. Swordfish
e. Tilefish

2. Of the fish listed here, which have the highest concentrations of Omega 3 Fatty Acids?
a. Salmon
b. Trout
c. Herring
d. Sardines
e. Pollock

(Answers are at the bottom of the page)

What is the “stress hormone” cortisol, and how does it affect our bodies?
Cortisol is your “stress response hormone.” Your body secretes it in response to physical or emotional stress. It prepares your body to meet physical or emotional challenges by increasing your heart rate, blood pressure and level of alertness.  It helps us defend against an “attack.” While cortisol is a survival hormone, chronic stress creates a high level of this ‘fight or flight’ hormone, which causes undesirable mental and physical effects. It engenders survival instincts–quick decisions based on minimal analysis. Sharp strategic thinking ability is impaired. Caffeine is a major stimulator of cortisol secretion. Too much caffeine might make you more alert but not a smarter thinker! Insulin–secreted in response to cortisol–causes sugars (from ingested carbohydrates) to move out of our blood stream and stored in the form of fat–increasing overall body fat and weight. As blood sugar levels decline, ‘brain fog’ ensues.

Send your questions for Dr. Elaine Chin, chief medical officer of the Scienta Health Group, to macleanshealth@rci.rogers.com

In the meantime, find out how healthy you are by doing this quiz:

The quiz: How healthy are you? Click here to find out

Quiz answers:

1. Tilefish – the highest – 1.45 parts per million mercury concentration
Shark – next highest – 0.99 parts per million
Swordfish – 0.98 parts per million
King Mackerel – least of this group – 0.73 parts per million mercury concentration
Tuna, fresh – not the worst! – 0.383 parts per million; canned chunk light tuna 0.118

2. Herring – the highest – 1 gram of omega-3 fatty acids per 1 oz! (1:1)
Salmon – the wild variety – close 2nd – 1 gram per 2 oz (1:2)
Sardines – also high – 1 gram per 2 to 3 oz (1:2.5)
Trout (freshwater) – 1 gram per 3 to 4 oz (1:3.5)
Pollock –least of this group – 1 gram per 6.5 oz (1:6.5)


On eating fish when pregnant and how stress hormones affect our bodies

  1. Missing from this article, and necessary to make sense of these numbers:
    1. What maximum level of mercury is advised for pregnant women, and how does that translate into maximum amounts to eat per day/week?
    2. What amount of omega-3 consumption is advised per day/week?

  2. Medical science with the help of God through them should try to make better drugs to treat stress,depression and anciety disorders such OCD.Drugs to lessen or even stop stress hormones such as ACTH.

  3. I was hoping to see, in the answer to the fish question ("On Eating Fish when pregnant") the rest of the answer, which is how often should one eat fish when pregnant. I thought the numbers were truly fascinating – thanks for that.

  4. So, I think tuna and salmon are still good for pregnant mother.

  5. A good diet is very important during pregnancy. We should eat some fish too.