Good fats, bad fats, less fat, more fat…nope, it’s not a Dr. Seuss rhyme! This is just some of the contradictory advice you may receive if you are planning to conceive, already pregnant, or post-partum. One fat garners a lot of attention—marine omega-3 from fish oil. Thousands of scientific studies have been published on the benefits of supplementing with fish oil before, during, and after pregnancy. Your doctor or midwife will likely advise that you add an omega-3 supplement to your nutritional regimen. If they don’t, make sure you ask.
The topic of dietary fat often provokes enthusiastic debate; however, most scientific experts agree that pregnant women tend to be deficient in omega-3 fats, and the associated risks with omega-3 deficiency can have serious consequences for both mom and baby. In pregnancy, supplementing with omega-3 from fish oil has been associated with increased infant birth weight, longer gestational periods, and even a lessened risk for post-partum depression. (If you feel you are struggling with post-partum depression, help is available.) Beyond pregnancy, supplementing with omega-3s has been shown to relate to fetal health and development, influencing allergies, immunity, eczema, and even intelligence.
For this reason, manufacturers of prenatal vitamins have begun including omega-3 DHA from fish or algae, in their supplements. As anyone who has ever taken a prenatal vitamin knows, the pill size is already somewhat difficult to, ahem, swallow. This can mean that the omega-3 content squeezed into the pills is negligible, sometimes not even 50 mg. While there is no recommended daily DHA intake for pregnant women, the World Health Organization advises at least 200 mg daily. Compounded by the long-standing recommendation that women avoid fish during pregnancy, many new moms and babies are left in the lurch. Adding a crucial nutrient like omega-3 as an afterthought just isn’t enough.
Thus, the answer to whether you need to add an omega-3 supplement alongside your prenatal vitamin is: Yes! When you do, choose fish oil that has been purified and third-party tested for heavy metals and other environmental toxins. And don’t stop taking it as soon as you give birth. It will take some time to replenish the fats you so generously gave to your new baby. Know this: Taking a highly purified fish oil before, during, and after your pregnancy is one of the safest and wisest choices to make for both you and your baby.
Eliza Leggatt, National Educator for Nordic Naturals
DISCLAIMER: This blog post was written by a paid sponsor for the Pregnancy Awareness Month (PAM) Campaign 2014 – Nordic Naturals, and edited by Team PAM. The opinions expressed by Nordic Naturals and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of PAM or any employee thereof. PAM is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by Nordic Naturals.