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Omega 3′s – How Important Are They When You Are Pregnant and Nursing?

Posted 3 years ago by Lori Scholle

Pregnancy is a wonderful time in a woman’s life that is filled with preparing for the joys of motherhood to come.  There are many things mother’s are focused on as their pregnancy progresses – preparing for the nursery, getting ready for maternity leave and being as healthy as possible for the development of their baby.  Focus on health usually includes an “overhaul” of their diet with the reduction of coffee and alcoholic beverage intake and being mindful of adding foods with nutrients that support healthy pregnancy.  Omega 3s are an example of a nutrient that should be paid attention to - How important are they when you are pregnant and nursing?

Why Are Omega 3s Important?

In a study published in March of 2015 in the Journal of Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, researchers found that nearly 75% of the women in the study did not get enough omega 3s in their diet, even when they knew they were important for their baby’s development(1).  These findings are troubling because getting enough omega 3s in your diet is very important for many reasons including:

  • Omega 3s are essential fatty acids – they are not made in the body and must be obtained through food sources.
  • Important for the development of the  fetal brain, nervous system and immune function – especially in the 3rd trimester
  • Needed for the overall health of both the mother and baby
  • Once baby is born, if nursing, they can only get omega 3s through breast milk, which come from the mother’s diet.

How Much Do I Need?

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that a pregnant woman should be consuming about 200mg of omega 3s per day.(2)

Where Can I Find Omega 3s?

Omega 3s are essential fatty acids and must be obtained through food and supplements such as the following:

  • Fatty Fish like salmon, canned tuna, scallops and shrimp – be mindful to have no more than two 6 ounce servings per week to avoid too much mercury.
  • Leafy green veggies - broccoli, spinach, arugula
  • Nuts - especially walnuts
  • Foods fortified with Omega 3s such as eggs and yogurts
  • Vegetable oils such as canola and soybean
  • Supplements – prenatal vitamins, fish oil (with both DHA and EPA) – make sure that the supplement contains the US Pharmecopeia or Consumer Labs label to ensure quality.

Sources:

1.            Coletta JM, Bell SJ, Roman AS. Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Pregnancy. Rev Obstet Gynecol. 2010;3(4):163-171.

2.           Procter SB, Campbell CG. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Nutrition and Lifestyle for a Healthy Pregnancy Outcome. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2014;114(7):1099-1103. doi:10.1016/j.jand.2014.05.005.