Even if you take your folic acid and have a healthy diet, there’s a lot missing from your pregnancy care regime if you don’t take Omega 3 fatty acids enriched fish oil during pregnancy. From conception to birth, fish oil can keep you healthy while you are expecting. They also play a crucial role in the development and growth of the baby. They also play a crucial role in growing and developing the baby.
How Fish Oil Benefits Your Baby
DHA, a kind of Omega 3 fatty acids is needed for the proper growth and development of the brains and the eyes of the baby. Consider that brains comprise 60% fat and 20% of these should be made of Omega 3 fatty acids. At the time of pregnancy and infancy, insufficient intake of DHA has been shown in a lot of research to impact the development of the baby’s brain. Research shows that babies whose mothers have fish oil deficient diets had half the number of synapses as compared to those who took Omega 3/DHA supplementation. A study of 12 thousand pregnant women found that children of those who consumed the least Omega 3 scored the lowest quartile on intelligence quotient tests.
Specifically, there are three main kinds of Omega 3 fatty acids – Alpha Linolenic Acid or ALA in vegetables and plant foods and supplements like chia and flax-seeds. Then there is EPA or eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid found in animal sources like fish oil. The best Omega 3 fatty acids during pregnancy can be had from fish like trout, salmon, and mackerel.
Omega-3 fatty acids can only be taken through these type of foods and are essential during pregnancy. These fatty acids are essential for fetal neural development and critical for the timing of birth weight and gestation as well. Many pregnant women do not get enough fatty acids because the major source of this is seafood restricted to around servings twice in a week. For women who are pregnant to obtain adequate omega 3 fatty acids, numerous sources should be consumed, such as vegetable oil, low mercury- servings of fish in a week and supplements like fish oil or algae-based DHA.
PUFA and Its Role in Fetal Development
In the field of nutrition, PUFAs or Poly Unsaturated Fatty Acids such as Omega 3 and 6 found n fish oil has become important in newborn and fetal neurodevelopment. Specifically, there are two different types of PUFA namely DHA and another kind. Arachidonic Acid which is critical to the infant and fetal CNS or Central Nervous System development and growth. It is embedded in the cell membrane phospholipids and plays a role in cell division, signaling neural pathways and serving as a precursor for eicosanoids.
DHA, also found in fish oil, on the other hand, is associated with retinal and brain linked membrane phospholipids and functions in impacting the visual and neural function apart from neurotransmitter metabolic rates. During the last three months of pregnancy, the fetus requires 50-70 mg of Omega 3 fatty acids. Both circulating DHA concentration and mother’s intake of DNA influence the fetal blood concentrations of DHA. DHA is accrued into the CNS until eighteen months of age. Research into PUFA pathways is still growing, but the conclusions for pregnancy and fish oil intake are paramount.
What are Fish Oils: Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Specifically, fish oils comprise Omega 3 fatty acids. From a list of 20 edible oils, only these two fatty acids cannot be synthesized in the body during fetal development. All Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids gathered by the fetus can be derived only from the maternal placental transfer. Omega is associated with the first double bond on a chain of fatty acids from the carboxyl end. A typical American diet has Omega 6 fatty acids. These are found in processed foods, salad dressing, and fried foods. In contrast to this, the intake of Omega 3 fatty acids is very little. Mostly, Omega 3 fatty acids are found in fish oil and selected vegetable oils.
Omega 3 fatty acid and 6 fatty acids AA are structured in every cell of the body. The AA and EPA are the chief catalysts in the formation of bioactive compounds eicosanoids. These fatty acids play a role in maximizing enzyme systems of a certain kind. Diets rich in Omega 6 fatty acids produce potent eicosanoids and a diet with a balanced intake of Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids are responsible for eicosanoids that are less inflammatory and immunosuppressive.
Role Played By Fish Oil in Pregnancy
Both DHA and AA are critical for fetal CNS development and the balance of eicosanoids produced. Not taking the right amount of AA to EPA can cause premature pregnancies and preeclampsia as well.
Most of the interest in fish oil intake and pregnancy emerged in the early 80s when Danish researchers found women on the Faroe Islands were known for heavier babies of 194 grams more with a longer gestation length by 4 days than Danish babies. Subsequent research found the diet of the islander women comprised more Omega 3 fatty acids found in fish oil and less Omega 6 fatty acids, than a regular Danish diet.
The red blood cell fatty acid content was higher in the Islander women than Danish mothers. The Danish researchers conducted a randomized study for pregnant women at thirty weeks of gestation, where women were either given a fish oil supplement, no oil or olive oil. Women in the group that took the fish oil had gestational periods which were 4 days longer than women taking olive oil or no supplements. The babies born to women who took fish oil were 107g more than babies born to women in the group that took olive oil. They were also 43grams heavier than those mothers who took no supplementation. Omega 3 fatty acids supplements or fish oil consumed was 90% higher than the usual amount. So, it is clear that fish oil needs to be consumed to impact fetal weight and gestation.
In a Norwegian study, pregnant women between 17-19 gestational weeks took Omega 3 fatty acid supplements from cod liver oil or corn oil from that point up till 3 months post the baby’s birth. The infants with the highest DHA quartile concentration in the cord blood had a longer gestational period than those in the lowest quartile. Increased delivery of DHA to the fetus is related to the intake amount.
The fatty acid content of the blood of the mothers and babies in one research study found maternal plasma Omega 3-fatty acids and the ratio of Omega 3 to 6 were higher in those mothers who had cod liver oil as against corn oil. Fetal DHA umbilical cord plasma phospholipids were 23 percent in babies born to those mothers who took cod liver oil, as against corn oil. Healthy mothers who took 1 gram of DHA per day from fish oil supplements delivered more DNA to the fetus than those not given fish oil.
4 years later, children of mothers who had taken cod liver oil scored higher on mental processing tasks and tests as compared to those who took corn oil. Rich in EPA and DHA, Omega 3 PUFAs during lactation and pregnancy as against children of mothers who supplemented with corn oil was the key differentiator.
Additionally, an Australian study has studied how infant cognition is directly impacted by the ingestion of fish oil during pregnancy by the mother.
Around 98 women were randomized to receive olive or fish oil. At birth, mothers who had fish oil supplements had infants with higher EPA and DHA levels and lower levels of AA in the cord blood as against children born to mothers in the olive oil supplement group. Children of mothers who took fish oil also scored higher on tests of hand-eye coordination compared with the olive oil group. Tests of mental acuity correlated with Omega 3 levels in cord blood erythrocytes and inversely correlated with Omega 6 levels.
DHA Only Supplements: Benefits of A Maternal Diet Rich in Fish Oil
The most rapid retinal and neural development takes place in the second pregnancy half during the third trimester. It is on this basis, supplementation of the maternal diet later in pregnancy with DHA and other components of fish oil are critical and important. A sample research of the pregnant women in the Inuit tribe in Arctic Quebec was studied. Maternal DHA blood concentrations are directly linked to cord plasma levels of phospholipids. The link between DHA and AA ratio in the maternal and cord plasma were boosted. In this study, it was found that those with higher DHA blood concentration in the cord were associated with longer gestation, improved visual acuity, and psychomotor and mental skills at 11 and 6 months. Raising DHA concentrations yields a lot of benefits.
Inuit women have a dietary intake of DHA and EPA which is higher than most other nations on account of the regular intake of marine and fish animals. Another study found large DHA amounts impacted not just the pregnancy but the fetal cognition at a later date too. From the 16th week of gestation till delivery, Canadian women not taking supplemental fish oil capsules took either algae-based DHA or corn and soybean oil blend. This study found that DHA in supplemented groups was higher than a control group. Infants were thrice more likely to have lower scores on visual acuity tests in the placebo than the DHA group.
Another Danish investigation found high-risk pregnant women had dietary omega 3 fatty acids that were inversely linked to chances of preterm delivery. Women having less than 150 mg of omega 3 fatty acids which are less than 0.5 oz of fish oil in a day were most likely to deliver prematurely. Of those who ate no seafood, and did not have fish oil supplements, the rate of preterm delivery was around 7.1 percent. This is as against 1.9 percent in those who ate fish. For high-risk pregnant women, Omega 3 fatty acids have been found to reduce spontaneous preterm births. Danish women who ate fish as against the supplements did not require the supplements.
There is also a lot of research which shows that lack of seafood consumption impacts pregnant women negatively. The Project Vive study found that those born to mothers eating more than two weekly servings of fish performed better on visual and language as well as motor tests at three years of age as against children whose mothers ate less than this amount. Additionally, maternal consumption of fish lower in mercury had a lot of benefits for pregnant mothers.
Pregnant women need at least as many fish oil supplements like Omega 3 fatty acids and benefit considerably from this. As DHA is the main fat in the human brain and eyes, representing 93 percent of Omega 3 fats in retinas and 97 percent of Omega 3 fats in the brain, it plays a critical role in fetal brain and retina development during the third trimester and around 18 months. The balance between Omega 6 and 3 is also important. EPA plays a role in DHA circulation and intracellular absorption.
Pregnant women have increased need for Omega 3 fatty acids as against those not pregnant.
Benefits of Fish Oil: Pregnancy Factors
From stretch marks to depression post the birth, fish oil combats a lot of pregnancy conditions. Links between DHA Omega 3 in pregnancy and a healthy child are well known. DHA is needed for the development and growth of baby eyes and brains. Fish oil can even make it less likely your baby will be prone to allergies or asthma. Pregnant women who took more fish found babies suffered from eczema in the first year of life.
Maternal fish oil intake during pregnancy improves the hand-eye coordination and brain development. Studies show babies of mothers who took fish oil supplements during the last trimester of pregnancy were also likely to have toddlers with better hand-eye coordination as against those who consumed olive oil supplements rich in other Omega fatty acids.
The type of long-chain Omega 3 fatty acids in fish are needed for normal brain and vision development. Research shows that a high dose of fish oil during the last twenty weeks of pregnancy is not just safe, but has benefits for both mother and child.
In one study, 98 healthy mothers were given either 4 grams of fish oil or olive oil supplements from week 20 to delivery. Once the children were 2.5 years old, researchers found hand-eye coordination was better when there was maternal fish oil supplementation even taking mother’s age and breastfeeding into account. High levels of Omega 3-fatty acids in cord blood samples were linked with excellent hand-eye coordination. Studies indicate supplements during the second half of birth and pregnancy may impact the baby’s neurological development positively. Oxford University scientists have also found the pregnant maternal intake of fish oil impacts the child’s development and health across the lifespan.
In a 2003 study, children whose mothers took DHA fish oil pregnancy supplement scored more on intelligence testing evaluations at age 4. Another study found babies where maternal blood DHA levels, were high displayed advanced attention spans at age 2. As with folic acid, it is essential to take Omega 3 fish oil pregnancy supplements before you give birth. Taking fish oil six months before conception, the body builds the essential store of fatty acids. These are needed right from the start, and fish oil supplementation in the first trimester is very important. This is because the nervous system and the brain are the first stages of the fetal development.
DHA found in fish oil is also essential for maternal health. Being pregnant can deplete Omega 3 fatty acids store, which is why women may be prone to postnatal depression. According to NIH scientists, the minimum dietary goal for pregnant women when it comes to fish oil is 300mg of DHA.
How It Can Help During Pregnancy
Whether it’s maternal health or even stretch marks, pregnancy problems can be combated through fish oil. At the time of pregnancy, the skin becomes weaker and less elastic. This leads to stretch marks. Taking fish oil supplements boosts collagen, soothes swelling and moisturizes the skin from within. But do avoid fish oils from marlin and sharks, according to scientists who have studied the benefits of fish oil supplements. Cod liver oil is also not recommended during pregnancy. Instead, the most beneficial fishes to consume are salmon, tuna, and mackerel.
For pregnant and lactating women, EPA supports the heart, inflammation reduction and immune system while DHA supports the development of CNS, eyes, and brain. Additionally, prostaglandins can regulate important functions like blood clotting, blood pressure, nerve transmission and inflammatory as well as allergic responses and GI tract as well as the production of hormones. Prostaglandin is influenced by fish oil ingestion.
How to Take Fish Oil During Pregnancy
Best EPA and DHA sources are cold water fishes like salmon, anchovies, tuna, sardines, and herring. Many are concerned about mercury and toxins in fish. For this reason, 100% pure fish oil supplements should be taken. A high-quality fish oil supplement benefits EPA and DHA without risking toxicity. Flaxseed contains shorter chain omega 3 ALA which is tough to convert to EPA and DHA. So fish oil is the best supplement for a reliable source of DHA and EPA.
Quality fish oil supplements are essential during pregnancy. Fresh fish can contain toxins. This is why fish oil with advanced refining process is essential. Certain brands of fish oil are of better quality. Purity levels of fish oil should be assessed down to particles per trillion level.
Consider the manufacturing process, whether fish oil is smelly and the oil is pure. Check the taste too. Fish oil should not have strong or artificial flavors as this means it has chemical additives. Fish rich in omega 3 fatty acids include trout, mackerel, salmon, kippers, sardines, and anchovies. Remember that fresh tuna counts as an oily fish but tinned tuna does not. Further, the canning process depletes the oil. Crabs and prawns contain omega 3 fatty acids too. Whitefish such as cod and haddock contain lower amounts of Omega 3. Make sure the supplement is safe for pregnant women.
Avoid high dose supplements and how much EPA and DHA are contained. There are two beneficial long chain omega 3 fatty acids in oily fish. Close to 450 mg of DHA and EPA is equivalent to one to two portions of oily fish per week. Choose fish oil supplements after consulting your gynecologist and doctor.