There is perhaps no more crucial time than pregnancy to ensure that levels of omega-3 DHA are established and maintained. While EPA and DHA, the most beneficial omega-3s, are imperative throughout every phase of life, the growing fetal brain is entirely dependent on maternal DHA stores for this essential structural fat.* Without sufficient DHA, the brain simply cannot function optimally.* The brain contains a higher relative amount of long-chain polyunsaturated fat than any other organ. In fact, 20% of the fatty acids in the brain’s cerebral cortex—the outer layer responsible for critical functions like memory, attention, and language—is DHA. DHA is to the brain what a foundation is to a building; without a solid primary structure, the building crumbles.
Omega-3s are essential fats, as are omega-6s, and both must be consumed through the diet. Unlike omega-6s, however, which most people consume in excess, omega-3s are in short supply in the average American diet. The consequences of this deficiency can be significant, especially for pregnant mothers and their babies.*
Stores of maternal DHA vary according to background diet—women who consume large amounts of seafood have higher amounts of omega-3 to pass along to their offspring, while women with lower intake have less to allocate. Females begin to store DHA throughout childhood, and during pregnancy and lactation these stores are released. However, if maternal stores and daily intake are insufficient, the female body will preferentially transfer omega-3s from mother to baby, in order that the developmental demands of the fetus can be met. As this occurs, the risk of maternal omega-3 deficiency also increases.*
Omega-3 deficiency during pregnancy and postpartum has been implicated in a myriad of conditions such as:
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)*
- Shortened gestational length*
- Postpartum depression*
- Developmental delays in infancy and beyond*
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
While omega-3s can benefit anyone at any stage, it is particularly important that they are increased during the third trimester, and the “fourth” trimester, or postpartum. The most rapid neurological growth occurs in the last three to four weeks of gestation, when DHA is mobilized and transported via the placenta. With rising premature birth rates, the need is increased both for mother and child. Mothers who choose to breastfeed must simultaneously replenish their own DHA stores while meeting their infants’ requirements as well.
Before, during, and after pregnancy, omega-3 DHA benefits mother and child. The best source of DHA is oily, cold-water fish, however, due to the accumulation of environmental toxins in certain species, many expecting mothers are understandably hesitant to include fish in their diet. For this reason, highly purified fish oil should be routinely included in pregnant mums’ supplement regimen.
DISCLAIMER: This blog post was written by a paid sponsor for the Pregnancy Awareness Month (PAM) Campaign 2014 – Nordic Naturals. 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. Always consult with your medical provider regarding any personal health questions or decisions (including nutrition, diet, and exercise).