OBJECTIVE: To analyse the relationship between maternal intakes of fish and other seafood during pregnancy and child neurodevelopment at age 4 years. Although pregnant women are advised to limit seafood intakes because of possible neurotoxin contamination, several studies suggest that overall maternal seafood intakes are associated with improved child neurodevelopment, perhaps because of higher DHA intakes.

DESIGN: The study uses data from a prospective birth cohort study. Maternal seafood intakes were assessed using a semi-quantitative FFQ administered shortly after delivery. Multivariate linear regression was used to estimate associations between seafood consumption and scores on the McCarthy Scales of Children's Abilities (MCSA). Analyses were stratified by breast-feeding duration as breast milk is a source of DHA during the postnatal phase of the brain growth spurt.

SETTING: Menorca, Spain, 1997-2001.

SUBJECTS: Full-term children (n 392) with data on maternal diet in pregnancy, breast-feeding duration and neurodevelopment at age 4 years.

RESULTS: Among children breast-fed for <6 months, maternal fish intakes of >2-3 times/week were associated with significantly higher scores on several MCSA subscales compared with intakes < or =1 time/week. There was no association among children breast-fed for longer periods. Maternal intakes of other seafood (shellfish/squid) were, however, inversely associated with scores on several subscales, regardless of breast-feeding duration.

CONCLUSIONS: The study suggests that moderately high intakes of fish, but not other seafood, during pregnancy may be beneficial for neurodevelopment among children breast-fed for <6 months. Further research in other populations with high seafood intakes and data on additional potential confounders are needed to confirm this finding.