Background: Fish consumption is beneficial for foetal neurodevelopment due to the presence of omega-3 fatty acids and other micronutrients. The Ministry of Health provides recommendations regarding restricting fish/shellfish consumption in pregnancy due to concerns regarding food safety and mercury contamination.
Aims: To determine fish/shellfish intake in women before and during pregnancy.
Methods: Pregnant (66) and breastfeeding (87) women were recruited throughout New Zealand. Fish/shellfish intake was determined by a researcher led, food frequency questionnaire. Pregnant women recalled fish/shellfish consumption prior to pregnancy, while breastfeeding women recalled intake during pregnancy.
Results: Seventy percent were Caucasians and 85% had university degrees. All women ate fish/shellfish pre-pregnancy and 91% during pregnancy. Few women reported having fish/shellfish less than once weekly before pregnancy (9%) increasing to 24% during pregnancy (p=0.018). Around half (46%) of women ate fresh fish more than once a week before pregnancy, decreasing to 30% during pregnancy (p=0.041). Conversely, 39% of women ate canned fish more than once weekly before pregnancy, non-significantly rising to 47% during pregnancy. Of the participants, 37-45% consumed shellfish.
Conclusions: The majority of women consumed fish while less than half of women ate shellfish. Most women tended to eat fish/shellfish more than once a week. Fish intake decreased in pregnancy compared to before pregnancy. Further research is required to understand the reasons for reduced fish/shellfish intake in pregnancy.
Funding source: Massey University Research Fund