Recent studies demonstrate the important role of omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) in maintaining a healthy pregnancy. PUFAs are a specific type of dietary fat essential for the fetus as well as the pregnant mother. In the fetus PUFAs are important in growth and development of brain function and development of the retina. In the mother these fatty acids are associated with regulation of immune and blood clotting functions as well as blood pressure. PUFA deficiency is associated with a higher risk of preterm labor. Requirements for PUFA in pregnancy are difficult to satisfy by diet alone. Fatty fish, the most abundant source of PUFA, can only be consumed in small amounts by the pregnancy woman due to mercury and PCB contamination. Supplements are therefore essential to maintain proper supply. The dose of PUFA is discussed.
What are Omega 3 Fatty Acids?
Omega 3 fatty acids (PUFAs) are specific types of dietary fatty fat, not provided by the body, essential for optimal health of the pregnant mother and also essential for growth and development of the fetus. There are various kinds of fatty acids that we can ingest.(cholesterol, saturated fatty acids, monounsaturated fatty acids, and polyunsaturated fatty acids) The poly and mono unsaturated fatty acids are liquid at room temperature and are healthier substitutes for saturated fats. Oils high in monounsaturated fats include peanut, canola, olive and avocado. Oils high in polyunsaturated fats include fish oil, fax, sunflower seed and safflower oil.
Why are Omega 3 Fatty Acids important?
The importance of Omega 3 Fatty acids in pregnancy and postpartum period for mother and developing fetus has been clearly established.
A. Fetus and Newborn :
Omega 3 Fatty Acids are important in the developing fetus and newborn infant. One of the long chain PUFAs, DHA, plays an essential role in both the brain and retinal development of the developing fetus. Numerous studies have demonstrated that lower levels of omega 3 fatty acids can lead to learning disability, attention deficit disorder, lower IQ, and impaired cognitive development. Other studies show that giving a dietary source of DHA increases visual acuity and enhances scores on motor skills and language development . Supplementation of the maternal diet with omega 3 fatty acids has also been shown to prevent the development of allergic and other immune mediated diseases in infancy.
Omega 3 fatty acids play an important role in maintaining a normal pregnancy. Inadequate supply can lead to premature labor, premature rupture of the fetal membranes, and consequently prematurity and low birth weight. A well-publicized study included pregnant women from 19 different European hospitals using 6 independent randomized controlled trials comparing fish oil supplementation to olive oil supplementation. Premature births were reduced by 40–50% with an increase of the length of pregnancy by 4 days and babies weighing 100 grams when mothers were given 920 mg of DHA and 1.3 gm of EPA per day .
Other benefits of Omega 3 fatty acids include:
- Reduction in the rate of depression, bipolar disease, and other mood disorders in the pregnant woman.
- Reduction in the incidence of gestational diabetes in susceptible individuals.
- Prevention of heart disease, hypertension as well as clotting and immunological disorders.
Are Omega 3 Fatty Acids important in the postpartum period?
Omega 3 Fatty Acids are important to the newborn and the developing infant. At birth the brain is not fully developed and requires the same building blocks as it did during fetal development. Providing the proper supplements is important and often overlooked.
Breast milk could potentially be a good source of Omega 3 Fatty Acids. However, it has been shown that DHA concentrations in human milk have decreased by 50% in the last 15 years possibly due to changed dietary habits. Bottle fed babies are even more likely to suffer a deficit in DHA in their diet.
This makes DHA supplementation extremely important also in the postpartum period. During lactation, the mothers body will lose 70–80 mg of DHA per day to breast milk, which is in addition to the mother’s own body requirements. More research continues to be published within ongoing trials to determine the beneficial aspects of omega 3 supplementation. There is no evidence to date of any harm in supplementation.
What are the dietary sources of Omega 3 Fatty Acids?
The major dietary sources of long chain PUFAs in pregnancy include:
- Fatty fish: salmon, herring, sardines, shellfish, cod, and flounder
- Poultry, and eggs.
Current recommendations by The Connecticut Department of Public Health limit the consumption of fish by pregnant women due to the risk of mercury and PCB (polychlorinated biphenyls) contamination. These substances are neurotoxins and therefore detrimental to the developing fetus. They have been associated with birth defects, blindness, and the destruction of nerve cells.
Vegetarian diets are low in Omega 3 Fatty Acids as these are generally absent from plant food.
How much Omega 3 Fatty Acids does the pregnant woman need?
The requirements for Omega 3 Fatty Acids increase throughout pregnancy. The International Society for the Study Of Fatty Acids and Lipids recommends the following amounts:
- Alpha linolenic acid (one of the precursors for the omega 3 fatty acids): 2.22 grams.
- Combined EPA (another important omega 3 fatty acid) and DHA: 650 mg.
- DHA: at least 300 mg.
How can the pregnant woman ingest the proper amount of Omega 3 Fatty Acids?
Attempting to obtain the recommended dose of EPA and DHA through diet alone is impossible. It would necessitate a four-fold increase in fish consumption, which is highly unlikely in the U.S.
Several Canadian studies have demonstrated that woman rarely achieve the requirements by diet alone. Most vitamin supplements are either lacking or provide a low dose of omega 3 fatty acids.
Supplements are clearly the best way in guarantee an adequate omega 3 fatty acid intake during pregnancy. Women should insure that the supplements they are prescribed contained the recommended dose of this important substance.
- Omega 3 Fatty Acids are essential for the developing fetus and the pregnant woman.
- The proper dose is impossible to obtain through diet alone.
- Supplementation is therefore essential.
- Women should carefully check that the supplements they are prescribed are adequate.
Beaute de Maman Nipple Gel With Omega 3
de Maman, LLC has recognized the importance of unsaturated fatty acids as a healthier substitute in the diet, both in polyunsaturated and in monounsaturated categories. We have therefore designed a new breast-feeding gel to soothe sore, cracked nipples in the nursing mother in the hopes of encouraging women to continue breast-feeding comfortably and helping to prevent mastitis. Previous nipple gels contain LANOLIN, a cholesterol containing compound derived from wool grazing animals that consume pesticides. Beauté de Maman has gone one step further by developing a gel with a castor oil base which is a monounsaturated fatty acid, a much healthier substitute for the newborn child. This gel is clear, non-greasy, easy to apply and appears to be superior to other products currently available. It has anti-inflammatory properties to help soothe the nursing mother and also promotes uterine contractions which aids in the prevention of blood loss postpartum.