(Family Features) - The typical pregnant woman in America eats less than two ounces of fish per week, but a significant new study shows this may increase her risk of developing symptoms of depression. Researchers found that moms-to-be who ate no seafood were nearly 50 percent more likely to have symptoms of depression than those who ate seafood at least three times per week (12 or more ounces weekly).
"This study reminds us of yet another benefit of eating seafood during pregnancy," said Ashley Roman, M.D., MPH, OB/GYN and mother of two. "I tell my patients to strive for at least two to three fish meals per week."
Published in July's issue of Epidemiology, the study of more than 14,500 pregnant women shows that those who ate fish at least three times per week had the lowest level of risk for symptoms of depression. Most American women, however, miss out on this important benefit because they eat on average only one-sixth this amount. Depression during pregnancy can have serious effects on a woman's health and that of her baby; emerging science suggests that depression during pregnancy may increase the risk of:
- Having a caesarian section
- Delivering a premature or low-birth-weight baby
- Lowering cognitive test scores and babies' brain and behavior development
- Having depression after pregnancy
Not eating seafood during pregnancy appears to be associated with high levels of depression because marine foods like fish are the only naturally rich source of a special omega-3 fatty acid called DHA. In addition to better mental health in adults, DHA is needed for the very best possible brain and eye development in babies.
Seafood also has many other nutrients that benefit pregnant moms and their growing babies. It's an excellent source of lean protein and is rich in vitamin D and calcium which are needed for a healthy pregnancy. In addition, seafood like canned tuna and salmon are affordable and convenient options for moms eating lunch on the go or making a quick meal for the family. For more information on the health benefits of eating seafood, visit www.hmhb.org/pnwg.