Omega-3 fatty acids help ensure a complete nutrient balanced diet throughout a woman’s pregnancy and continuing on through the postpartum period. DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) is frequently not included in many of the prenatal multivitamins currently available. While natural dietary sources of Omega-3 are found in certain fish and vegetables, the benefits of taking an Omega-3 fatty acid DHA supplement are widely recognized.
Is your diet lacking in fatty fish intake once or twice a week? Nothing to be ashamed of! The current ACOG guidelines during pregnancy can be very confusing in regard to exactly what and how much fish is safe to consume throughout pregnancy. While much of the concern lies in the level of mercury safe for consumption, many women avoid eating fish altogether in order to avoid potential toxic mercury damage to the developing fetus. Taking a plant-based (algae) Omega-3 supplement may be a good idea in order to provide a pure source of fatty acids which are critical for healthy brain, retina, and nervous system development.
Pregnant women are often sent home from their prenatal visit with an infographic pictorial chart containing a picture of a fish, along with various other pills and needle sketches with a red circle and slash through it. This isn’t exactly a clear guideline for how much and which types of fish are safe to consume during pregnancy. Charts from the doctor’s office may tell you that canned chunk light tuna and breaded cod sticks are “safe” fish in regards to low mercury levels to consume throughout pregnancy, however, both are notoriously low sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Unless you’re consuming a high volume of “fatty fish” more than twice a week (e.g. salmon, sardines, or trout), you’re probably Omega-3 deficient.
And what about plant-based sources such as flaxseed oil being reasonable substitutes for fatty fish Omega-3 DHA? While flaxseed is indeed high in the fatty acid ALA, it hasn’t been shown to demonstrate the same proven benefits as DHA and EPA in regards to brain development. There are many foods such as milk and eggs which are now fortified with Omega-3s, but are unable to be consumed by women who follow a vegan or plant-based diet and hope to continue to do so throughout pregnancy. Oil from microalgae provides a superb alternative to traditional fish based sources.
Acquiring a sufficient amount of DHA through supplementation is by far the easiest way to meet your daily need throughout the 9+ months of pregnancy. There’s a great deal of information to take in as to what you “can” and “cannot” eat. Not only is a plant-based Omega-3 good for the developing brain of your baby, but it can also help eliminate the forgetful symptoms of “pregnancy brain” and help keep you sharp and alert. Plant-based, algae Omega-3 is not only mercury-free but also free of any additional contaminants (like excessive levels of Vitamin A present in Cod Liver Oil) that are potentially toxic in pregnancy. Consumption of Omega-3 fatty acids have also been shown to reduce a pregnant woman’s chances of developing preeclampsia; reducing the risk of postpartum depression, and minimizing the chances of preterm labour.
During the last trimester of pregnancy, when your baby has grown so large it’s difficult to imagine anything, let alone large, heavy meals occupying space in your otherwise maxed out abdomen (heartburn, unfortunately, was a frequent visitor throughout all my pregnancies), it might be counterintuitive to think that consuming anything with the addition of “acid” in its name is a positive to your health. Although no studies have shown any effects of the consumption of DHA in regards to potential reduction of heartburn, it is certainly been shown to have effects on the overall improvement of elemental iron circulation from the placental barrier through to the baby. DHA consumption through supplementation can improve anemia prevention by uptake in iron transport in the bloodstream in both baby and mom. Given its multiple health benefits, which can carry on throughout the postpartum period by breastfeeding, Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation provides numerous optimal pregnancy outcomes for both baby and mother alike. Check out Ora's plant-based Omega-3 here.