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Understanding Fish Consumption Habits During Pregnancy

This study has been completed.
HSPH-NIEHS Center for Environmental Health
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)
Information provided by:
Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Identifier:
First received: August 3, 2010
Last updated: August 9, 2010
Last verified: August 2010
Many pregnant women in the US do not consume enough docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an essential nutrient found in fish. Apparently conflicting findings that fish consumption is beneficial for the developing fetus, yet potentially toxic because of mercury contamination, have created uncertainty about the appropriate fish consumption advice to provide pregnant women. The investigators objective was to determine knowledge, behaviors, and received advice regarding fish consumption among pregnant women who are infrequent consumers of fish.


Study Type: Observational
Study Design: Time Perspective: Cross-Sectional
Official Title: A Qualitative Study of Fish Consumption During Pregnancy

Further study details as provided by Harvard Pilgrim Health Care:

Enrollment: 22
Study Start Date: October 2009
Study Completion Date: March 2010
Primary Completion Date: March 2010 (Final data collection date for primary outcome measure)
Detailed Description:

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.


Ages Eligible for Study:   18 Years and older   (Adult, Senior)
Sexes Eligible for Study:   Female
Accepts Healthy Volunteers:   Yes
Sampling Method:   Non-Probability Sample
Study Population
Women aged 18+ who are currently pregnant and who consume <2 weekly fish servings

Inclusion Criteria:

  • currently pregnant
  • age at least 18 years

Exclusion Criteria:

  • unable to speak or understand English
  • consuming 2 or more weekly fish servings
  • unable to eat fish (e.g. allergy, dietary restriction)
  Contacts and Locations
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Please refer to this study by its identifier: NCT01178398

United States, Massachusetts
Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute
Boston, Massachusetts, United States, 02215
Sponsors and Collaborators
Harvard Pilgrim Health Care
HSPH-NIEHS Center for Environmental Health
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)
Principal Investigator: Emily Oken, MD, MPH Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute
  More Information

Responsible Party: Emily Oken, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute Identifier: NCT01178398     History of Changes
Other Study ID Numbers: 0613
P30ES000002 ( U.S. NIH Grant/Contract )
Study First Received: August 3, 2010
Last Updated: August 9, 2010

Keywords provided by Harvard Pilgrim Health Care:
focus group
omega-3 fatty acid
docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) processed this record on September 21, 2017