Mercury - Reproductive and Developmental Impacts

Tools to help you talk to your patients about reproductive and developmental impacts from mercury.

Patient Handouts & Education
Image of Healthy Fish Guide

Provider Resources

Evidence-based Messaging

Reprinted from the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Vol 207 (6), Sheela Sathyanarayana, MD MPH et al., Environmental exposures: how to counsel preconception and prenatal patients in the clinical setting, pages: 463-470, 2012 with permission from Elsevier.


Key Points


  • Exposure to mercury can come from eating fish, contact with quicksilver, use of skin-lightening creams, or inhalation of mercury vapors at work.
  • Mercury is a potent neurotoxin; exposure during pregnancy can lead to adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes that include lower IQ and poor language and motor development.
  • Fish is an excellent source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to improve visual acuity and scores on the Denver Developmental Screen.
Exposure Reduction
  • Pregnant, preconception, and breastfeeding patients should follow US Environmental Protection Agency and state-specific fish consumptions guidelines.
  • To maximize the benefits of fish consumption, eat fish twice per week.
  • Choose a variety of fish; avoid shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tile fish.
  • Eat fish that are lower in mercury.
  • If you eat recreationally caught fish, access local fish advisories and follow the recommendations for consumption.
  • Do not use skin-lightening creams or home remedies that might contain mercury.

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