Fish oil supplements are frequently recommended during pregnancy. Many fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for brain development of the baby, along with the health of the mother. Since eating a diet that sufficiently supplies the essential fatty acids DHA and EPA is often difficult with the typical American diet, supplementation is often required.
When mothers supplement with EPA and DHA, their babies show better development of hand-eye coordination. A study conducted by the University of West Australia indicated that women who took 4g of fish oil daily starting at 20 weeks until birth showed significantly higher levels of hand-eye coordination and mental stability by 2 1/2 years of age.
Cod liver oil is beneficial in the prevention of allergies in newborns. When mothers who have a history of allergies, hay fever, or asthma take fish oil regularly while they are pregnant, their babies are less likely to develop these ailments. The oil must be taken during the baby’s immune development stage. Research shows that taking the oil from the 25th week up through the third month of breastfeeding can improve the immune system considerably with fewer allergic reactions.
During pregnancy, essential fatty acids are required for proper fetal development both of the body and more importantly, the brain. The most essential of the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil is DHA. This fatty acid makes up a large portion of the fat in the human brain. Babies who have higher levels of DHA show better development of visual acuity, comprehension, vocabulary, and better physical development overall.
Even though some believe that the third trimester is the most important time for consuming fish oil since the brain is developed most significantly at this time, this may not be so. In preterm infants, DHA levels can be low since the full three months was not allowed for development. Taking DHA throughout the pregnancy may help prevent these low levels for premature babies.
Preventing Premature Births
Premature births can cause severe health problems and developmental delays for infants. Supplementing with fish oil may help prevent this tragic event from taking place. It is the belief of some prenatal nutritionists that the current epidemic of premature births is caused by an omega-3 deficiency. For this reason, high-risk pregnancies may greatly benefit from the supplementation of fish oils.
Mothers who are at risk of pre-eclampsia should be aware of the fact that toxemia is the leading cause of preterm labor. Studies performed in 1995 by the Swedish Medical Center in Seattle found that pre-eclampsia rates were lower in those mothers who supplemented with omega-3 fatty acids throughout their pregnancy.
Benefits to Mother
Since many pregnant women are already deficient in the essential fatty acids required by the body, when babies come along using the reserves that are present, the mother’s risk factors increase. Supplementation can help keep these problems at bay. Taking fish oil can also help mothers after the birth by preventing post partum depression.