The Omega 3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fatty acids. They are found in various foods, including fish, game, seeds, and plants.
There are three main types of Omega 3 essential fatty acids. Your body can use all three of these Omega 3 fatty acids to help perform different functions.
Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA): EPA is found primarily in fish and fish oil.
Docosahexanoic Acid (DHA): DHA is especially important to your body, and is also found primarily in fish.
Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA): ALA is found mostly in seeds, vegetable oils, and leafy green vegetables. It is converted into EPA and then into DHA in your body.
Studies have shown that the omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in particular may lower a woman’s risk for depression, aid a fetus’s vision development, and even regulate a newborn’s sleep patterns.
Recommendations in diet
Omega 3 is actually something that you should be including in your diet on a regular basis. Even when you are not pregnant, you should aim to get a fair bit of Omega 3 into your body.
During pregnancy, it is recommended that you get at least 250 mg of Omega 3 every day. However, Omega 3 oils are especially important during the final trimester. It is during this time that your baby uses Omega-3 to form approximately 70% of her brain system. She is also working on the rest of her nervous system.
Benefits of Omega 3 fatty acids during pregnancy
Omega 3 actually plays a large role in the development and growth of your baby when it is in your uterus. Omega 3 helps to:
- build the brain -Infants rely on their paternal supply of DHA for the developing brain (grey matter) , initially through the placenta and then through breast milk. DHA is the building block of human brain tissue and is particularly abundant in the grey matter of the brain.
- form the retinas – DHA benefits also include the support of retinal development and enhanced visual function. One study tested over seventy mothers and their babies from between 4 and 8 months of age. The study tested for visual acuity and visual-cognitive learning ability by showing infants pictures and measuring reactions. Results indicated that babies born to mothers with elevated DHA levels had increase visual “skills” and faculties.
- develop the nervous system- have been shown to increase the learning and cognitive function of your child, with effects measurable to age four.
- Promote the development of your baby’s cardiac and respiratory systems– Research indicates that EPA is important in promoting the development of prenatal and infant cardiac and circulatory systems.
Taking Omega 3 fatty acids during pregnancy has also been proven to help you and your baby out in the long run. Recent studies were performed on infants who were exposed to adequate levels of Omega 3 while in the womb. These babies showed advanced attention spans and greater visual acuity than non-exposed children. Their development was also two months ahead of non-exposed children. Other Omega 3 benefits include:
- less chance of developmental or behavioral problems later on
- less incidence of breast and prostate cancer
Omega 3 is also necessary for your own pregnancy health and well-being. Omega 3 helps to:
- reduce your chances of developing preeclampsia
- reduce your risk for postpartum depression
- minimize the chance of preterm labor.
Sources of Omega 3 fatty acids
Omega 3 is best found in fish and fish oil products. High levels of Omega 3 are found in:
- oily fish, like mackerel, herring, sardines, anchovies, salmon, and pilchards
- Omega 3 fish oil supplements
- fresh or frozen tuna
However, it is important to keep in mind that fish can be contaminated with mercury and PCBs, so make sure that you choose safe types of fish.
Omega 3 can also be found in non-aquatic sources. Good choices include:
- fortified foods, like eggs, bread, and juice
- dark green vegetables
- canola, sunflower, and flaxseed oils