WOMEN who do not eat fish during pregnancy are more likely to experience high levels of anxiety during that time, researchers have revealed.
Experts have found a link between the types of diet, particularly whether this includes fish, and stress in pregnancy.
The researchers suggest that eating fish during pregnancy could help reduce stress levels.
Most women experience some anxiety during pregnancy, but excessive stress is not good for the mother’s long-term health and can result in their baby being born prematurely and/or having a low birth weight.
Researchers at the University of Bristol and the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, looked at the fish intake of more than 9,500 pregnant women
They categorised women’s diets by the frequency with which different types of foods were eaten and identified five dietary patterns. They are roughly described as: health-conscious, traditional, processed, confectionery and vegetarian.
The researchers found that women who never ate seafood had a 53% greater likelihood of having high levels of anxiety at 32 weeks of pregnancy compared with women who ate seafood regularly.
The results suggest that two meals of white fish and one meal of oily fish each week would be an adequate amount of fish to consume. This was the case after taking into account 14 different factors that could affect anxiety, including drinking, smoking and family adversity during pregnancy.
When the researchers investigated the dietary patterns, women in the top third of the vegetarian type of diet were more likely to experience anxiety than women in the bottom third. There was also evidence that women in the top third of the health-conscious dietary pattern were less likely to have high levels of anxiety when compared with women in the bottom third. Women in the top third of the traditional diet pattern were also less likely to have high levels of anxiety when compared with women in the bottom third.
These findings may be due to the lack of fish and meat in a vegetarian type of diet and because a pregnant woman’s nutritional requirements increase during pregnancy.
Dr Juliana Vaz, the report’s senior author, said: “An important message from this research is that in order to have a healthy pregnancy, women need to follow a healthy diet and not something special for pregnancy.
“It means a diet containing whole cereals, vegetables, salad, fruit, dairy foods, meat, poultry, pulses and fish – three portions per week with at least one of oily fish, such as salmon, sardine or tuna.
“Sweets and fast foods should be kept to a minimum because they are low in nutrients.”
Dr Pauline Emmett, a senior dietician and the co-author of the report, said: “It is possible, but not proved, that this association with fish is due to the omega-3 fatty acid content of the fish.”
“Some vegetarians are happy to eat fish from time to time and we would encourage this, especially as we are not sure what ingredient in fish is the most effective,” Dr Emmett added.
Childhood cancers increase fertility problems
WOMEN who suffered cancer as children are 50 per cent more likely to experience problems getting pregnant than those who did not have the disease, research suggests.
A study in the United States of more than 3,500 women who had childhood cancer found that they were more likely to take longer to get pregnant compared to unaffected siblings.
Professor Richard Anderson, from Edinburgh University, said that the findings highlighted the importance of addressing fertility issues at the time of diagnosis.
However, the study, in the The Lancet, found that in spite of taking longer, 64 per cent of the women did eventually succeed in getting pregnant.