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Omega-3 And Pregnancy

Omega-3 And Pregnancy

Why are Omega-3s particularly important during pregnancy? Learn more about why you need them and why supplementation may be key.
Lifestyle insight
Reading time: 3 minutes

How does Omega-3 affect your pregnancy?

Whether it’s your first baby or your third, one thing doesn’t ever change—that’s wanting to be best prepared to deliver a happy and healthy baby. Pregnancy requires a lot from your body, especially proper nutrition at certain times to make sure you and your foetus have what you need to stay strong. One of the best ways to ensure this is by monitoring your nutrition and adding supplements when necessary. 
 

Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are vital for your body and play an important role during pregnancy, for both you and your foetus.1 Oily fish are your best source of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), Omega-3s that are crucial for development.1 DHA is known to support development of the brain, eyes and central nervous system, while EPA also supports brain development, it is known for its role in supporting the heart, immune system and anti-inflammatory response.1,2 Not only are omega-3 fatty acids important, but making sure you have the right balance of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids can provide protective benefits to you by helping to prevent some pregnancy complications, such as depression1,3, preterm labour and preeclampsia.2 Learn more about omega 3- fatty acids.
 
During pregnancy, DHA and EPA add additional benefits because of their crucial roles in development.
 

Has Omega-3 been shown to help during pregnancy?

In a study conducted in 2007 in nearly 12,000 pregnant women, it was found that women that consumed a little more than the recommended amount of oily fish (approximately 2.5 servings of fish a week) proved beneficial for their child’s neurodevelopment.3 Since the brain is made mostly of fat, during early stages of development it may be wise to supplement with these Omega-3s to see the developmental benefits.
 
During pregnancy, because of their importance to a developing foetus, omega-3s are diverted away from the mum-to-be and prioritised in the foetus. This can leave pregnant women more likely to have an omega-3 deficiency.1
 

What about fish?

Without question your best source of Omega-3s will come from oily fish. Studies have shown that the benefits that fish bring to your pregnancy, not only in the form of Omega-3s, but also in protein, iron and zinc outweighs any risks. However, when choosing your fish, here are a couple precautions to keep in mind.
 
  1. Choose low in mercury and high in Omega-3 fish
    • Such as salmon, anchovies, herring, sardines, trout and mackeral
  2. Avoid large, predatory fish
    • Such as swordfish, which may have higher amounts of mercury
  3. It matters how you cook fish
    • How you cook your fish can play a role in how much Omega-3 is in your fish. For example, fried fish may have less Omega-3 compared to grilled fish.

Are you getting enough fish?

If you don’t think you are getting an adequate amount of fish in your diet, Omega-3s can also be found in flaxseed, canola oils, walnuts, but most easily through fish oil supplements. Learn more about sources of omega-3s and omega-6.
 
References
  1. American Pregnancy Association. Omega-3 fish oil and pregnancy. Available at: http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/omega-3-fish-oil/. Accessed September 2018.
  2. Akerele OA, et al. J Nutr Intermed Metab. 2016;5:23-33.
  3. Psychcentral.org. The importance of Omega-3 fatty acids in pregnancy. Available at: https://psychcentral.com/lib/the-importance-of-omega-3-fatty-acids-in-pregnancy/. Accessed September 2018.
  4. Mayo Clinic. Pregnancy week by week. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/pregnancy-and-fish/art-20044185. Accessed  September 2018.
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