We all know about the importance of taking folic acid during your pregnancy, but did you know Omega 3 plays an important role for both your health and that of your baby’s?
From the moment of conception right through to breastfeeding, omega 3 fatty acids are great while you’re expecting. An adequate intake of Omega 3 DHA supports the development of your baby’s eyes, their brain, as well as their overall development, what’s more it is also very important for your heart which is now working harder than ever before, pumping the twice the normal volume of blood around! These benefits are continued with adequate intake of Omega 3 while breastfeeding, supporting the health of both you and your new-born.
WHAT IS OMEGA 3?
There are three main types of Omega 3 fatty acids: alpha-linolenic acid, (ALA) which is found in plant based foods such as sunflower seeds, flaxseed and chia seeds, Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic Acid, (DHA) both of which are found mostly in animal sources such as oily fish. Some of the best Omega 3 foods for pregnancy include mackerel, salmon and sardines.
As part of their healthy eating guidelines the HSE advocates that we should “choose fish more often”. They encourage families to “try eating oil-rich fish, rich in vitamin D, twice a week”.
This is due to the fact that the body can’t make them – you have to get them through food. However, between morning sickness and cravings, there are days where you won’t feel like eating fish and in fact many of us just don’t like oily fish.
This is why taking an Omega 3 supplement is very important. According to the American Pregnancy Organisation, “In addition to taking a prenatal vitamin, women must consider including a prenatal omega 3 fatty acid supplement, as well. Omega 3 fatty acids are essential fats, with EPA and DHA, found in fish, being the most critical. A pure, high-quality omega 3 fish oil should be included in a woman’s supplement regimen before and during pregnancy, as well as during breastfeeding. Both EPA and DHA are important, but DHA is particularly important throughout pregnancy and during the early stages of an infant’s life.” Select a supplement that is specially designed for pregnancy such as Proceive Omega 3 which is a good, pure fish oil with high levels of EPA and DHA.
Interestingly, recent studies have shown that the balance between the two main omega 3 fatty acids appears to be more important than initially thought. EPA plays an important role in the transport of DHA across the placenta, therefore when choosing a supplement its important to select one with the correct balance of EPA to DHA such as Proceive.
WHEN SHOULD I START TAKING OMEGA 3 DURING PREGNANCY?
As with folic acid, it’s a good idea to start taking an omega 3 pregnancy supplement before you actually conceive. This allows your body to build up your stores of essential fatty acids as you will need them from the very start, the brain and nervous system is one of the first things to develop in your little baby during the first trimester.
You should continue to take an omega 3 supplement throughout your pregnancy and beyond. The body is clever and will prioritise your own DHA for the baby’s brain and eyes to develop, simply being pregnant can deplete your own stores of omega 3. That’s why it’s a good idea to keep taking your omega 3 supplement after giving birth, even if you’re not breastfeeding.