There are numerous benefits associated with Omega 3 fatty acids: they help lower your risk of heart attack and stroke, have a positive effect on your cholesterol and may help treat rheumatoid arthritis. But did you know that these fats are extremely beneficial to pregnant mothers and their babies, both before and after birth? A variety of studies have proven this, but it still appears to be the best kept secret among expectant mothers. Now it is time to let the cat out of the bag to ensure both moms and babies experience the best health possible.
What are Omega 3s?
Omega 3 fatty acids are healthy fats your body does not produce on its own–you must obtain them from the foods you consume. The purpose of these fats is to aid in human growth and development, unfortunately, most people do not consume enough of these fats to receive the benefits they offer. The same is true for pregnant mothers, who should actually be more concerned with the amount of Omega 3s they take each day.
Types of Omega 3s
There are two main types of Omega 3s: EPA and DHA. DHA is the type of fatty acid that is most beneficial for both mom and baby, yet most moms are deficient in it. It is the essential fat responsible for optimal development of your baby’s eyes, nervous system, immune system and brain. If you are planning your pregnancy, the American Pregnancy Association recommends taking Omega 3s six months prior to conception. This allows the body time to build up a supply of DHA, which is quickly depleted during you pregnancy as your body transfers its supplies to your unborn child.
The Benefits of Omega 3s for Babies
John Colombo, PhD, of the University of Kansas, was lead researcher on a study conducted on infants born to mothers with high levels of DHA at the time of birth. When these babies were only 6 months old, they were 2 months ahead developmentally of infants with lower DHA levels. It has also been found that babies with higher levels of DHA both during and after birth are better behaved, have a greater attention span and an easier time learning. There is also a lower incidence of these babies having allergies. It is not enough to for moms to keep DHA levels high during pregnancy, but after as well. It is easy for her levels to drop while breast-feeding; during this special time between mother and child, the body transfers all DHA stores to the baby via the breast milk. The longer you breast-fed your child, the longer they receive the DHA they need. Two years is the recommended amount of time.
The Benefits of Omega 3s for Moms
Expectant mothers can reap the benefits of the DHA in Omega 3s as well. Pregnant mothers have many fears while carrying her precious child, one of which is delivering too early, also known as pre-term labor. Consuming the recommended amount of the best Omega 3s can help prevent this. Another risk to moms during pregnancy is developing conditions such as pre-eclampsia. Also known as toxemia, it causes high blood pressure and fluid retention. It can range from mild to severe, but poses a health risk to both mom and baby. In severe cases, it restricts blood flow to the placenta which is the baby’s lifeline.
Perhaps one of the most important benefits of Omega 3s to mothers, though, is a reduction in the risk of developing postpartum depression. This is an extremely serious condition occurring after birth that prevents mom from bonding with baby. Dr. Michelle Judge from the University of Connecticut School of Nursing, performed a study on 52 pregnant women. Some either took a placebo or 300 mg of DHA five days a week from weeks 24 to 40 of their pregnancy. Dr. Judge found that the women taking the DHA supplement had considerably fewer symptoms of postpartum depression, and those who did experienced them mildly.
The best source of Omega 3 fatty acids is pure wild seafood such as sardines, mackerel, salmon and tuna. Many pregnant mothers are warned not to eat these fish because they are high in mercury and PCBs, both of which could pose a risk to her and her baby. This is untrue, though. There are scientific findings that clearly state the benefits of consuming these fish far outweigh the risks. Two, six-ounce servings per week is the typical recommended amount, but this only provides 280 mg of Omega 3 fatty acids per week. For both mother and baby to receive the benefits they need, mothers should take 200 mg per day in the form of an Omega 3 supplement.
If you are an expectant mother, begin supplementing your diet with a quality Omega 3 fatty acid supplement. Not only will you have a healthier, happier baby, but you will be a happier, healthier mom too.