Story Highlights• NEW: Study contrary to previous advice that pregnant women not eat fish
• NEW: Lack of fish may cause poor motor skill development, researchers found
• Study conducted by British and American scientists
• 9,000 British women and their kids took part in 8-year study
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Eating seafood during pregnancy could help your child's development, according to a new study in the British journal Lancet.
The finding conflicts with a U.S. government advisory that pregnant women limit the amount of seafood they eat to 12 ounces a week (two or three meals), because of mercury levels.
Researchers at the National Institutes of Health, the University of Bristol in Britain, and the University of Illinois-Chicago say that advice to limit seafood consumption could actually be detrimental to a child's health.
After analyzing data from almost 9,000 British mothers and their children over an eight-year period, they found pregnant women who ate less than 12 ounces of seafood a week did not protect their children from adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes.
Rather, they increased their child's risk of poor verbal IQ development compared to mothers who ate more than 12 ounces a week.
The researchers said these children also had a greater risk of poor social development and poor motor control.
In 2004, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency issued a joint advisory recommending that pregnant women and nursing mothers eat no more than 12 ounces of fish and shellfish a week to prevent developmental problems in their babies or young children caused by toxins in the seafood.
The advisory recommended not eating shark, swordfish, king mackerel or tilefish, and advised not eating the same type of fish and shellfish more than once a week.
An FDA spokesman said the agency had not yet seen the study and would need to review it before commenting.
A joint British and American study says pregnant women should eat fish because it could improve a child's early development.