Moms-to-Be: Get Your Omega-3s

Omega3s 315

Omega-3s have been found to be essential for both neurological and early visual development of the baby. However, the standard western diet is severely deficient in these critical nutrients. This omega-3 dietary deficiency is compounded by the fact that pregnant women become depleted in omega-3s, since the fetus uses omega-3s for its nervous system development.

Omega-3s are also used after birth to make breast milk. With each subsequent pregnancy, mothers are further depleted. Research has confirmed that adding EPA and DHA to the diet of pregnant women has a positive effect on visual and cognitive development of the child, and studies have also shown that higher consumption of omega-3s may reduce the risk of allergies in infants.

Omega-3 fatty acids can also have positive effects on the pregnancy itself. Increased intake of EPA and DHA has been shown to prevent preterm labor and delivery, lower the risk of pre-eclampsia, and may increase birth weight and gestational weight. Omega-3 deficiency also increases the mother’s risk for depression. This may explain why postpartum mood disorders may become worse and begin earlier with subsequent pregnancies.

Given the overwhelming amounts of data on omega-3s, and their safety, it is distressing to note that, in a 2006 national survey, over two-thirds of pregnant women and mothers said that their doctor never told them anything about omega-3s.

Is it safe to take fish oil during pregnancy?

Yes. While fish can contain environmental toxins like mercury that accumulate during its life span, these toxins can be virtually eliminated during the manufacture and processing of fish oil, with the use of high quality raw materials and a technologically advanced refining process utilizing advanced distillation technologies.

Any reputable fish oil manufacturer should be able to provide documentation of third-party lab results that show the purity levels of their fish oil, down to the particles per trillion level. Some brands are of higher quality than others; asking for this documentation is a way to ensure that your fish oil supplement is pure and safe.

What should I look for when purchasing fish oil?

Investigate the manufacturing process. How is the fish oil manufactured, and what are the quality standards that the manufacturer is using? The quality standards that exist for fish oil — including the Norwegian Medicinal Standard, the European Pharmacopoeia Standard, and the voluntary U.S. standard established by the Council for Responsible Nutrition’s 2006 monograph — guarantee quality by setting maximum allowances for toxins.

Does the fish oil smell fishy? Research shows that fish oils only smell unpleasant when the oil has started to degrade and is becoming rancid. A high quality fish oil supplement will not smell fishy.

Does the fish oil taste fishy? The freshest and highest-quality fish oils should not taste fishy. Avoid fish oils that have really strong or artificial flavors added to them because they are most likely trying to hide the fishy flavor of rancid oil.

How much do I need to take?

The International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids has established the following recommended minimum dosage chart:

Infants (1–18 months): 0–15 pounds: 32 milligrams/pound EPA+DHA

Children (1.5–15 years): 15 milligrams/pound EPA+DHA

Adults (15–115 years): 500 milligrams EPA+DHA (with a minimum of 220 milligrams EPA and 220 milligrams DHA)

Pregnant and Lactating Women: 300 milligrams DHA daily

Source: American Pregnancy Association