Omega-3 intake for Pregnancy

Updated: Apr 16

Did you know most people in the Western world (that includes us in the UK!) are deficient in Omega 3 fatty acids?



But my goodness we really do not want to be deficient, especially in pregnancy because these fatty acids are hugely important to the health of both developing babies and mothers!


The first 1000 days of your child’s life are so powerful, and it all begins in pregnancy! From conception to your little ones 2nd birthday, studies show that nutrition, relationships and environments in this 1000 day window shape a whole heap of future health outcomes making your pregnancy a really important time.


Nutrition is known as one of the fundamental components to a child’s ability to develop, grow and thrive. In fact, nutrition in these 1000 days is recognised as being so powerful that poor nourishment can lead to irreversible damage to the development of a child’s brain, impaired ability to achieve in school and an increased risk of future health problems such as obesity and diabetes. (1000days.org)


As if we needed convincing that pregnancy wasn’t already an incredible time to optimise the future health of our babies this certainly points to our health and wellbeing in pregnancy needing prioritising.


Due to the recommendation to limit oily fish to portions/ week in pregnancy and this being one of the main dietary sources of the essential omega 3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, pregnant women are even more vulnerable to omega 3 deficiency despite it being one of the most vital times to have plenty.


There are 3 main types of omega 3 fatty acids to consider:

DHA

EPA

ALA


(These have very long fancy names that I cannot pronounce so I am rolling with the abbreviations and I hope you are good with that!)


Now omega 3 fatty acids cannot be made by our bodies so we have to consume them in our diets. We can usually get plenty of ALA from food sources such as seeds, nuts and oils and some ALA can be converted into DHA and EPA but this process is very inefficient and so only very small amounts of DHA and EPA can be made from the ALA we consume.


Still following me?


It is the EPA and DHA that are most important in pregnancy and these are mainly found in oily fish such as Salmon, Mackerel and Sardines. Yes- those fish we are advised to limit to 2 portions/ week due to concerns over the potential pollutants they may contain that could harm your developing baby.


See the problem?


Omega 3 fatty acids in pregnancy have been linked to a variety of improved outcomes for mothers and babies. They are essential in the development of your baby’s eyes, nervous system and brain and are linked to a healthier birthweight in babies, stronger bones, reduced risk of eczema and a reduction in depression symptoms in mothers.


Studies suggest that pregnant women likely have an increased need for essential omega 3 fatty acids compared with women who are not pregnant and therefore supplementation of DHA and EPA in pregnancy should be considered.


(Greenberg, Bell and Van Ausdal, 2008) (Aptaclub, 2020)


Want to know more about how to optimise your pregnancy journey? Check out my 'Your Pregnancy Journey' Course for exclusive support, information and guidance to empower you every step of the way.