Reading Time: 11 minutes
Even if you took folic acid and had a healthy diet, there’s a lot missing from your pregnancy care regime if you don’t take Omega-3 essential fatty acid enriched fish oil during pregnancy. From conception to birth, fish oil can help you stay healthy while you are expecting. They also play a vital role in the development and growth of the baby. They also have crucial role in growing and developing the baby.
How Fish Oil Benefits Your Baby
DHA, a type of Omega 3 essential fatty acid is needed for the proper development and growth of the brains and the eyes of the baby. Consider that brains comprise 60 percent fat and 20 percent of these should be comprising Omega 3 essential fatty acids. At the time of pregnancy or infancy, insufficient DHA intake has been shown in a lot of research to impact baby’s brain. Research reveals 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 kids of those who had the least Omega 3 scored the most low quartile on intelligence quotient tests.
Specifically, there are three main categories of Omega 3 fatty acids – Alpha Linolenic Acid or ALA in vegetables and plants plus supplements like chia and flax-seeds. Then there is EPA or eicosapentaenoic acid and DHA/docosahexaenoic acid found in animal-based sources like fish oil. The top Omega 3 essential fatty acids during pregnancy can be had from fish like trout, salmon, and mackerel.
Omega-3 essential 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 right birth weight and gestation period as well. Many pregnant women do not obtain enough fatty acids because the big source of this is seafood restricted to around servings twice in a single week. For women who are pregnant to obtain adequate and essential omega-3 fatty acid, numerous acid sources should be consumed, such as vegetable oil, low mercury- servings of fish per week and supplements like fish oil or algae-linked DHA.
PUFA and Its Role in Fetal Development
In the arena of nutrition, PUFAs or Poly Unsaturated Fatty Acids such as Omega 3 plus 6 found in 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 development and growth. It is embedded in the phospholipids of the cell membrane and plays a role in cell division, signaling neural pathways and serving as an eicosanoids precursor.
DHA, also found in fish oil, on the other hand, is associated with brain and retinal phospholipids and functions in impacting the visual plus neural function apart from neurotransmitter metabolic rates. At the last three months of pregnancy, the fetus requires 50-70 mg of Omega 3 essential 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 undergo synthesis in the body during fetal development. All Omega 3 and 6 essential fatty acids gathered by a fetus can be derived only from the maternal placenta transfer. Essential fatty acid Omega is associated with the first double bond on a chain of fatty acids from the end of the carboxyl. A typical US diet has Omega 6 essential fatty acids. These are found in foods that are processed, salad dressing, and fried foods. In contrast to this, the intake of this fatty acid is very little. Mostly, Omega 3 essential fatty acids are found in fish oil and specific 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 compound known as eicosanoid. These fat-rich acids play a role in maximizing enzyme systems of a certain kind. Diets rich in Omega 6 essential fatty acids produce potent and strong eicosanoids and diets with a balanced intake of Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids are responsible for eicosanoids that are less inflammation and immunosuppressive capabilities.
Role Played By Fish Oil in Pregnancy
Both AA and DHA are critical for fetus CNS development and the remainder of eicosanoids produced. Not taking the right amount of AA to EPA can cause premature pregnancies and preeclampsia as well.
Most of the attention on fish oil intake and pregnancies emerged in the early 1980s when Danish researchers found Faroe Island women 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 followed by islander women comprised more Omega 3 found in fish oil and less Omega 6 than a regular Danish diet.
The RBC fatty acid content was more in the Islander women than Danish mothers. The Danish researchers conducted a randomized study for pregnant ladies at thirty weeks of gestation, where women were either given a supplement of fish oil, no oil or olive oil. Women in the group that had fish oil had gestational periods which were four days more than those taking olive oil or no supplements. The babies of women who took fish oil were 107g more than babies of women belonging to the group that took olive oil. They were also 43-grams 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 ingested to impact fetal weight and gestation.
In a Norwegian study, pregnant women between 17-19 gestational weeks took Omega 3 essential fatty acid supplements from cod liver/corn oil from that point up till 3 months post the baby’s birth. The infants with the biggest DHA quartile concentration in the cord blood system faced a longer gestational period than those in the most low quartile. Increased DHA delivery to the fetus is related to the intake amount.
The fatty acid percentage of the mothers and babies’ blood in one research study found maternal plasma-based Omega 3 essential-fatty acids and the ratio of Omega 3 as against 6 were more in those mothers who had cod -liver as against corn oil. Fetal umblical cord DHA plasma phospholipids were 23 percent in babies of 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 a fetus than those not given fish oil.
Four 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 DHA, EPA, Omega 3 PUFAs at the time of lactation and pregnancy as against children born of mothers who used corn oil supplementation 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 randomly assigned to fish or olive oil groups. During birth, mothers who had fish oil supplements had infants with higher EPA and DHA levels and less levels of AA in the blood found in the cord as against children of mothers in the olive oil supplement group. Children of mothers who took fish oil also scored higher on tests of hand-eye capabilities compared with the olive-oil group. Mental acuity tests correlated with Omega 3 levels in RBC cord blood and inversely correlated with Omega 6 essential fatty acids levels.
DHA Only Supplements: Benefits of A Maternal Diet Rich in Fish Oil
The fastest retinal and neural development takes place in the pregnancy’s second half at the time of the third trimester. As far as this is concerned, supplementating the maternal diet at a later point 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 Quebec Arctic regions was studied. Maternal DHA concentrations in blood are directly linked to cord plasma’s levels of phospholipids. The link between DHA and AA ratio in the cord and maternal plasma were boosted. As per this study, it was found that those with higher DHA blood concentration in the cord were associated with longer gestation, improved visual acuities, and psychomotor and mental skills at 11 and 6 months. Rising DHA concentrations yields a lot of benefits.
Inuit women have a diet-based intake of DHA and EPA which is more than other countries in general on account of the regular ingestion 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 opting for supplemental fish oil pills took either algae-based DHA or corn plus soybean oil blend. This study found that DHA in supplemented groups was higher than a control group. Infants were thrice likelier to have lower scores on visual acuity tests in the placebo than the DHA group.
Another Danish investigation found pregnant women with higher risk had higher dietary omega 3 essential fatty acids that were inversely linked to chances of preterm or prior delivery. Women having less than one-fifth hundred mg of omega 3 essential fatty acids which are less than 0.5 oz of fish per day were most likely to deliver on a premature basis. Of those who consumed no seafood, and did not have fish oil supplements, the preterm delivery rate was around 7.1 percent. This is as against 1.9 percent in those who consumed fish. For high-risk pregnant ladies, Omega 3 essential fatty acids have been found to reduce spontaneous preterm births. Danish ladies who ate fish as against the supplements did not need 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 serving 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 essential 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 essential 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 fatty acids is also important. EPA plays a role in DHA circulation and intracellular absorption.
Pregnant women have an increased need for Omega 3 essential 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 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-chained 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 females 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 Consume Fish Oil During Pregnancy
Best DHA and EPA 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 DHA and EPA without risking toxicity. Flaxseed contains shorter chain omega 3 ALA which is tough to convert to DHA and EPA. 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 high in omega 3 essential fatty acids include trout, mackerel, salmon, kippers, sardines, and anchovies. Remember that fresh tuna is considered an oily fish but tinned tuna does not. Further, the canning processes deplete the oil. Crabs plus prawns contain omega 3 essential fatty acids too. Whitefish such as cod plus haddock contain lower amounts of Omega 3 essential fatty acids. Make sure the supplement is safe for pregnant ladies.
Avoid heavy supplements and check how much EPA and DHA are contained. There are 2 beneficial long chained omega 3 essential fatty acids in oily fish. Close to 450 mg of DHA and EPA is equivalent to one to two portions of oily fish in a single week. Choose fish oil supplements after consulting your gynecologist and doctor.