Omega-3 Fats in Pregnancy

Healthy Mothers, Healthy Children
Omega 3 fats are important in pregnancy.  One of the proven effects of increasing dietary omega-3 fats is their ability to lower the risk of early premature birth.  This effect appears strongest for women who usually have low intakes of omega-3 fats.

Scientists suggest that omega-3 fats work by reducing inflammatory responses in both the mother and the unborn baby. This may help reduce the likelihood of inducing the birth process too soon.  This explanation also supports the findings of newer studies that suggest that consuming more omega-3 fats in pregnancy may reduce the risk of children developing allergies and asthma.  The work is ongoing but early clues show that the benefits may also be limited to women with low omega-3 levels.

Interestingly, one of the most hotly contested areas has been whether increasing the dietary intake of the omega-3 fatty acids, especially one called DHA, can boost the brain development of the unborn baby.  DHA is actively accumulated in the baby’s brain during late pregnancy. However, studies that have increased the intake of omega-3 DHA during pregnancy show that this does not improve children’s ability to learn or improve their behaviour.

While this information may appear confusing, it simply highlights the fact that increasing the intake of omega-3 fats during pregnancy will not improve all health outcomes for mothers and babies.  Rather it suggests that a few important health outcomes can be changed for the better, especially for women with habitually low omega-3 intakes.

  • Who is at risk of low omega-3 long chain fatty acid levels?

    -People who avoid eating meat, fish and eggs or eat very small quantities.

  • What to do to maintain good omega-3 long chain fatty acid levels?

    -Eat a variety of foods that contain omega-3 fats like fish, lean red meat, eggs or foods fortified with omega-3 long chain fatty acids (selected yogurts, breads).

    -If you are vegetarian or vegan, you may increase your intake of omega 3 fats by consuming oil from marine algae.

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