Before my husband and I decided we were ready to start trying to have a baby, I scheduled a preconception checkup with my ob-gyn. The thought of having complications while pregnant gave me tremendous anxiety, and I wanted to be sure that I was as healthy as possible before we TTC.
During my appointment, my doctor suggested running a blood panel to make sure I wasn’t anemic. I asked him to test me for mercury poisoning, too, because I had been a pescetarian for many years. He looked at me like I was nuts and said, “No one has ever asked me to test for mercury poisoning before. Do you have symptoms?” I told him that I didn’t, but that I did eat fish often. And even though I didn’t eat the big mercury offenders like swordfish and tuna, I wanted to be extra cautious.
Getting the test involved a comedy of errors. Not only had my very well-respected and established doctor never actually had someone ask for their mercury levels to be tested, but the lab wasn’t sure if they had the right tubes and needles to administer it. After a few false starts and the wrong test or two, a technician took my blood to test it for mercury. Days later, my doctor called to say I had four times the healthy limit of mercury in my blood. I had no symptoms and yet he told me that the level of mercury in my blood wouldn’t be safe for a developing fetus.
“It’s a good thing you asked to take the test,” my doctor told me. He gave me a simple action plan to rid my body of the excessive levels of mercury. “Don’t eat fish for six months,” he said. “Then come back and we’ll do the test again. Simple as that.” And so for the next six months, I laid off the sushi and fish that I’d basically lived on before and let my blood clean itself out. Six months later, my mercury test came back normal and I was given the go ahead to try to get pregnant.
Here’s the thing: I’m not a doctor, nurse, or medical professional. I simply had a feeling that my mercury levels might be too high, based on the fact that I had been a pescetarian for so long, and I wanted to follow up on my hunch before getting pregnant. So I’m thankful that I trusted my gut, even though my doctor was a bit dismissive when I asked to get tested. I can’t imagine the anxiety and stress I would have felt if I found out I had mercury poisoning once I was already pregnant.
Although I do eat some fish now, I’m incredibly careful. I never eat swordfish and I limit my tuna intake (both fish are high in mercury). And I learned that if I have a feeling or intuition about my health I’ll pursue it, even if my doctor looks at me like I’m crazy.
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