- Nervous development of the fetus.
- Omega 3 fatty acids are also important for the development of vision and the brain of the fetus.
- Aids in attaining a healthy fetal birth weight.
- Reduces risk of pre-term delivery.
- Reduces the risk of the baby developing eczema later in life.
- Helps develop healthy, stronger bones for the baby.
- Reduces the risk of post-natal depression for the mother.
- Reduces the chances of childhood asthma for the newborn baby.
These benefits, not only set a foundation for a healthy baby at birth but also gives your baby a kick start in developing learning skills later in life as the brain is more alert with proper development.
Omega 3’s association with reduced chances of post-partum depression is linked to its benefit of developing healthy cell membranes that allow easier and better flow of serotonin between cells, arguable spreading the “feel good” hormone to the new mother or mum to be.
When to Take Omega 3 in Pregnancy
Different stages of fetal development require different nutrients. While folic acid is most essential for the first trimester of pregnancy, research indicates that Omega 3 is more important during the 3rd trimester of pregnancy and immediately after birth for the first few months of baby’s development.
One of the major benefits of Omega-3 in pregnancy is the baby’s brain and eyesight development which mainly occurs in the third trimester of pregnancy hence making the fatty acids more essential then.
Natural Sources of Omega 3 Fats
The Omega group of fats is naturally found in foods such as vegetable oils e.g. flaxseed and chia seed oil, and animal products such as oily fish. These include, – tuna, sardines, salmon, and grilled Mackerel. The most common and easily accessible source of Omega 3 is oily fish.
In pregnancy, however, consumption of fish is not highly recommended given that fish is likely to contain pollutants especially mercury deposits which pose a risk to the unborn baby. Making oily fish a less preferred source of Omega 3 in pregnancy.
Alternative Food Sources of Omega 3 in Pregnancy.
By including approximately two portions of oily fish in their weekly diet, and a portion of green leafy vegetables daily a non-pregnant person can get the required amount of Omega 3 from their food intake. The need for Omega 3 is however higher in pregnant women, although research around how much more a pregnant mother needs as compared to a non-pregnant person is still being researched.
A pregnant mother can therefore supplement her diet with the following naturally occurring foods that are still as rich in Omega 3 and less risky in pregnancy.
- Soy products
- Green leafy vegetables
- Flax seeds
- Chia seeds
Non-food Omega 3 Supplements
Omega 3 is also available as a food supplement in form of tablets of oil. However, as much as it is safe to take omega 3 supplements, a pregnant woman should avoid taking supplements that contain fish liver e.g. cod liver oil. Fish liver oils contain vitamin A, whose presence in high doses may be risky to an unborn baby.