Erring on the side of caution: pregnant women's perceptions of consuming fish in a risk averse society
Background Fish and seafood are good sources of several nutrients that are important for foetal growth and development. Despite guidelines encouraging the eating of fish during pregnancy, research indicates that pregnant women may be limiting or avoiding these foods. Possible factors contributing to this include concerns regarding levels of mercury and other contaminants and pregnant women's purported heightened risk consciousness. The present study aimed to explore pregnant women's perceptions of consuming fish and seafood during pregnancy. Methods Semi-structured telephone interviews were conducted with 15 pregnant women across all three trimesters in New South Wales, Australia. Questions focussed on exploring nutrition information received during pregnancy, dietary changes made during pregnancy and, more specifically, perceptions of fish and seafood, as well as views on information of fish and seafood commonly provided to pregnant women. Data were collected, then transcribed and analysed using an inductive coding process, guided by the qualitative theory grounded approach. Results Multiple inter-related themes were found to shape pregnant women's perceptions related to fish and seafood consumption during pregnancy; namely, the understanding of fish and seafood as part of a healthy diet, external factors such as cost, individual preferences such as taste, and confidence in choosing and preparing fish. The context of a risk adverse society permeated these themes. Conclusions The present study provides insight into the inter-related factors that influence pregnant women's consumption or avoidance of fish and seafood.