You have probably heard of omega-3 fatty acids, or fish oils. They have received a lot of attention for their anti-inflammatory action, and are commonly recommended for inflammatory conditions such as arthritis. But did you know these essential fatty acids are also vital for both a healthy pregnancy and to support the health of your baby?
In fact, essential fatty acids are one of the key building blocks for your baby’s brain and eye development, and an omega-3 deficiency during pregnancy can have significant effects on your child’s brain function. It has been shown that children whose mothers did not get enough omega-3 during pregnancy were more likely to score lower on tests of IQ, verbal intelligence, memory, fine motor skills, behaviour, social skills, and communication skills, compared with those whose mothers did get enough omega-3.
Studies have also linked adequate omega-3 consumption in pregnancy with greater memory and problem-solving ability in babies, and improved attention and hand-eye coordination in toddlers.
Furthermore, getting enough omega-3 consumption during pregnancy may lower your risk of premature birth. And since premature birth is one of the most likely causes of serious health issues for small children, ensuring you are getting enough omega-3 can make a big difference to the ongoing health of your child.
So how do you ensure you are getting enough omega-3 in your diet? The richest food source of omega-3 is fatty fish – such as salmon & tuna. However this needs to be eaten in moderation during pregnancy, due to the possible mercury contamination from these larger fish. Seaweed, algae and seeds like chia, hemp, flax and walnuts are also good sources of omega-3.
And of course – supplementation with a good quality omega-3 capsule or liquid is often an easy, effective solution. Both fish oils and algae oils (which is a vegan option) are both suitable to take during pregnancy.
I recommend capsules that have an enteric coating for my pregnant patients, as they are much less likely to give you those awful “fishy burps”, or to aggravate any pregnancy-related reflux.
As always, any supplementation should be carried out safely and effectively under the care of a qualified healthcare practitioner, as your dosage requirements and overall healthcare needs are as individual as you are.