Fish is a healthful food that is the primary dietary source of elongated n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), nutrients essential for optimal neurodevelopment. Most pregnant women in the US do not consume adequate n-3 PUFA. However, fish also may be contaminated with methylmercury, and approximately 10% of women of childbearing age in the US have mercury levels higher than recommended. Because the same food contains both essential nutrients and harmful contaminants, substantial confusion reigns about the best course of action for pregnant women. Additionally, it is not clear what fish consumption advice would be most effective in changing women's fish consumption habits. The goal of this pilot study is to perform formative work to allow us to develop and refine an intervention to promote consumption of fish low in mercury and high in n-3 PUFA among pregnant women. This project, together with a pilot RCT already funded, will serve as preliminary data to support a larger RCT to evaluate the effects of the intervention on pregnancy outcomes and postpartum maternal and infant health.
Specific Aims Aim 1. Among pregnant women, identify: 1) knowledge of the potential risks and benefits associated with fish consumption during pregnancy; 2) awareness of current recommendations for fish consumption by pregnant women; 3) the sources of information from which they are learning about the health effects associated with fish intake; and 4) facilitators and barriers to fish consumption, such as cost, availability, taste, and habits. To achieve this aim, we will conduct focus groups with pregnant women in the Boston area who are infrequent consumers of fish (defined as <= 2 monthly fish servings).
Aim 2. Develop materials for a planned intervention to increase consumption of fish high in n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and low in methylmercury among pregnant women who are infrequent consumers of fish at baseline. We will use results from Aim 1 to inform the development of these materials.