Every mom-to-be wants a healthy baby. Many women, having heard about heavy metals and other toxins in fish, therefore avoid eating fish while pregnant. But if you’re expecting, there are good reasons to put fish back on your plate. A recent meta-analysis, which analyzed the results of 19 European studies, indicates eating a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids may help promote healthy birth weight and full-term pregnancies.*
Healthy birth weight is defined as weighing five and a half pounds or more at birth. Full-term pregnancy is defined as giving birth at or after 37 weeks’ gestation. Both are associated with good health outcomes later in a child’s life.
Published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the meta-analysis crunched data from a total of 151,880 mother-child pairs to see what effect eating fish during pregnancy had on infant health. Women who ate at least three servings of fish per week gave birth to babies who weighed, on average, 15 grams more than those whose mothers ate less than one serving.* But even enjoying just one fish meal per week made a difference too, increasing the likelihood of a full-term pregnancy.*[i] The results were more pronounced in women who ate fatty fish, which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids.*
But what about the risks of toxins in fish? As long as you are judicious about your consumption, you’ll reap more benefits from eating fish during pregnancy than avoiding it. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends two servings of fish per week as a safe and healthy amount for pregnant and nursing women to consume, while cautioning them to avoid high-mercury species such as shark, tilefish, swordfish, and king mackerel. If you don’t care for fish, or if you’re a vegetarian, purified fish oil or flaxseed supplements are another good way to get omega-3s into your diet.
* This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent any disease.
[i] Leventakou V, et al. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014 Mar;99(3):506-16.