Fish is a source of many nutrients that can be beneficial during pregnancy, as well as a source of neurotoxicant contaminants such as methylmercury. Previous investigations of fish intake in relation to neurodevelopment have focused on possible damage from contaminants, whereas potential benefits of fish consumption have been relatively unexplored
We evaluated the association between maternal fish intake during pregnancy and offspring's early development of language and communication skills in a cohort of 7421 British children born in 1991-1992. Fish intake by the mother and child was measured by questionnaire. The child's cognitive development was assessed using adaptations of the MacArthur Communicative Development Inventory at 15 months of age and the Denver Developmental Screening Test at 18 months of age. Mercury was measured in umbilical cord tissue for a subset of 1054 children
Total mercury concentrations were low and were not associated with neurodevelopment. Fish intake by the mother during pregnancy, and by the infant postnatally, was associated with higher mean developmental scores. For example, the adjusted mean MacArthur comprehension score for children whose mothers consumed fish 4 or more times per week was 72 (95% confidence interval = 71-74), compared with 68 (66-71) among those whose mothers did not consume fish.
When fish is not contaminated, moderate fish intake during pregnancy and infancy may benefit development.