Women's Lifestyle

Can Eating Fish During Pregnancy Help Reduce the Risk of Having a Preemie?

Last year, when I was pregnant with Zephaniah the healthy foods I used to love eating were homemade salads, cottage cheese, asparagus, and sweet potatoes. I also enjoyed eating tilapia fish tacos and salmon. (Here’s my homemade fish taco recipe with sweet potato fries if you’d like to try it.)

After I gave birth, I found a new love for hard-boiled eggs and cooked spinach. I think I ate hard-boiled eggs and spinach for breakfast almost every day for three months straight! It was just SO good.

The great health benefits of eating all of these healthy foods were also a BIG bonus for me during my pregnancy and in my postpartum stage.

Seven months pregnant with Zephaniah

Healthy Diet During Pregnancy Essential to Baby’s Development

As you may already know, maintaining a healthy diet during pregnancy and while breastfeeding is very important for Mom and Baby. When you keep a healthy diet and exercise regularly, you are less likely to experience any pregnancy complications and more likely to have a healthy baby.

In the article “Maintaining a Healthy Pregnancy”, writer Tracy Stickler shared women who eat “a nutritious diet during pregnancy is linked to good fetal brain development, a healthy birth weight, and it reduces the risk of many birth defects.”

Stickler’s article, which was also medically reviewed by Kimberly Dishman, MSN, WHNP-BC, provides important information about what eating a well-balanced pregnancy diet includes and tips on how to maintain a healthy pregnancy.

The American Pregnancy Association encourages pregnant women to “fine-tune” their eating habits and eat an extra 300 calories per day. Now, those extra 300 calories per day don’t mean you can eat whatever you want. (Darn!) It’s very important to ensure you’re eating a variety of foods from each food group, including fruits and vegetables, breads and grains, protein sources, and dairy products.

Sorry, Mama, those fudge brownies you have been craving doesn’t count as one of the essential food groups. (I feel your pain. Trust me!)

So what about eating fish during pregnancy?

Does fish have any health benefits during pregnancy? The March of Dimes recently released study findings that concluded eating fish that are good sources of fatty acids EPA and DHA may help reduce the risk of preterm birth.

Sjurdur F. Olsen, M.D. from the Centre for Fetal Programming in Statens Serum Institut in Copenhagen, Denmark led a team to research how low levels of fatty acids are associated with preterm birth. The former March of Dimes grantee led the study with his colleagues at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

In other words, Dr. Olsen and his team know their stuff! (Also, did your mind just wander off to Dr. Jackson Avery from Grey’s Anatomy? No? Just me? Okay, back to the study!)


Here’s what Dr. Olsen’s study found:

The team examined data from the Danish National Birth Cohort, a nationwide study following 96,000 children in Denmark through questionnaires and registry linkages.

analyzed blood samples from 376 women who gave birth very prematurely (prior to 34 weeks of gestation) between 1996 and 2003

analyzed 348 women who did not

These studies were conducted during the first and second trimesters of pregnancy.

Conclusion: “Pregnant women in their 1st and 2nd trimester with the lowest blood levels of long-chain n-3 fatty acids – the kind found in fish oil – were at 10 times greater risk of early preterm birth compared with women who had higher levels.


Kelle H. Moley, M.D. and senior vice president and chief scientific officer at March of Dimes was “very impressed by the power of these results” and believes Dr. Olsen’s research findings can also help women who live outside of Denmark.

“March of Dimes recommends that women who are pregnant or thinking of having a baby eat fish that are low in mercury and good sources of EPA and DHA, like herring, salmon, trout, and anchovies, as well as orange juice, milk and eggs that have EPA and DHA added to them. Pregnant women should get 200 mg (micrograms) of DHA each day from food or supplements.” — Kelle H. Moley, M.D. and senior vice president and chief scientific officer at March of Dimes

So yes! Adding fish to your pregnancy diet can have really great benefits for you and Baby! Remember to make sure the fish are low in mercury and good sources of EPA and DHA. Here’s a graphic to help you.

Visit the March of Dimes official website or nacersano.org for more information. For comfort and support, visit shareyourstory.org.

Additional Reading:

“Plasma Concentrations of Long Chain N-3 Fatty Acids in Early and Mid-Pregnancy and Risk of Early Preterm Birth,” Olsen S.F., Halldorsson T.I., Thorne-Lyman A.L.,  Strøm M.,  Gørtz S., Granstrøm C., Nielsen P.H., Wohlfahrt J., Lykke J.A., Langhoff-Roos J., Cohen A.S., Furtado J.D., Giovannucci E.L., Zhou W., appeared online July 31, 2018, EBioMedicine, doi: 10.1016/j.ebiom.2018.07.009

Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids” | American Heart Association

“Mercury Levels in Fish” | American Pregnancy Association


Also, check out: 10 Summer Maternity Dresses and What to Do When Baby Bites While Breastfeeding.


Pregnancy Guides and Cookbooks for Healthy Eating During Pregnancy



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