Fish and pregnancy

When you eat fish during pregnancy, you give your child improved intelligence and help prevent your own postnatal depression.

It is in the nature of things that during pregnancy you are eating for two. Fish offers a number of beneficial effects to both mother and child:

  • Eating more fish during pregnancy helps you prevent postnatal depression. During the final months of pregnancy, your body is drained of the marine omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA because they are being concentrated in the child’s brain. Research shows that women who consume extra doses of marine omega-3 fatty acids during this period experience less postnatal depression. You can increase your intake of marine omega-3 fatty acids by eating fatty fish such as salmon, trout, herring and mackerel, and even a cod dinner gives you a good dose.

  • Studies also show that your child gains improved intelligence and better motoric and social skills later in life if you consume more marine omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy.

  • Eating fatty fish during pregnancy gives your child a strong skeleton because fatty fish contain vitamin D, which ensures the take-up of calcium.

  • Iodine is also necessary for normal growth and development in the child, and this is available in abundance in seafood.

The Norwegian Directorate of Health recommends pregnant women to eat more seafood, both for dinner and in sandwiches. Below are answers to the most commonly asked questions in connection with pregnancy:

  • How can I increase my consumption of seafood during pregnancy?
    Given that seafood is such an important part of one’s diet during pregnancy, it is a good idea to think of ways to eat seafood in between regular meals. There are many options for making a delicious fish sandwich: mackerel in tomato sauce, pickled herring and smoked salmon are all good to eat for breakfast or as an evening snack. And for lunch, why not try a tasty fishburger or salmon salad?

  • Are there certain types of seafood that are more important than others during pregnancy?
    Different types of seafood have differing quantities of the most important nutrients. Fatty fish such as salmon, herring and mackerel are good sources of marine omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D in particular. Lean fish such as cod contain a lot of iodine, and a dinner portion of cod also gives you your daily dosage requirement of marine omega-3 fatty acids. The best advice is therefore to eat both lean and fatty types of fish.

  • Can I eat sushi during pregnancy?
    At the request of the Norwegian Food Safety Authority, the Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food Safety has examined this very question and concluded that pregnant women can safely eat sushi. The vast majority of sushi meals contain a generous amount of salmon, which is full of marine omega-3 fatty acids. For those who make their own sushi, it is advisable to freeze the fish before use in order to destroy any parasites.

  • Can I eat smoked salmon during pregnancy?
    Yes, smoked or brine-cured salmon can be eaten during pregnancy. The Norwegian authorities recommend that you buy and eat the freshest possible smoked salmon, in other words well before the ”eat by” date. Remember that every slice of smoked salmon that you eat means more vitamin D and marine omega-3 fatty acids for the foetus.

  • Can I eat herring in sandwiches during pregnancy?
    Yes, you most certainly can! For pregnant women and all others who make their own sandwiches using fresh herring, it is advisable to freeze the fish before use in order to destroy any parasites.

  • Can I eat lye-soaked fish during pregnancy?
    There is no reason to avoid lye-soaked fish during pregnancy.

Further information can be found at

Sources: Richardson and Montgomery: “The Oxford-Durham Study: A Randomized, Controlled Trial and Dietary Supplementation With Fatty Acids in Children With Development Coordination Disorder”. Hibbeln: “Seafood consumption, the DHA content of mothers’ milk and prevalence rates of postpartum depression: a cross-national ecological analysis”. Åberg et al: “Fish intake of Swedish male adolescents is a predictor of cognitive performance”. Hibbeln et al: “Maternal seafood consumption in pregnancy and neurodevelopmental outcomes in childhood (ALSPAC study): an observational cohort study”. Norwegian National Council for Nutrition report: ”Dietary guidelines to promote public health and prevent chronic illnesses in Norway – Methodology and scientific knowledge basis”, chapter 25: ”Diet and prevention of neurodegenerative illnesses and mental health”.