Omega-3 remains one of the most researched nutrition in pregnancy. Omega-3 contains eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) which are uniquely important for our human body. While omega-3 has multiple benefits, from slowing ageing to aiding depression as highlighted in my blog earlier, one should not overlook its usage in pregnancy.
Preterm birth also known as premature birth whereby a baby is delivered before 37 weeks of gestation continues to be the one of the leading causes of infant deaths worldwide. Every year an estimated 15 million babies are delivered preterm. Results from a systemic review published in European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology has shown that Omega-3 fatty acids are effective in preventing early and any preterm delivery. They also concluded that this intervention is simple and easily available and has the potential to influence population based strategies in the prevention of preterm birth (1).
Omega-3 fatty acids have also been shown to decrease incidence of pre-eclampsia (disorder of pregnancy characterized by high blood pressure and a large amount of protein in the urine), increase birth weight and aid in postpartum depression. American Pregnancy Association suggests 300mg DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) daily for pregnant and lactating women.
It is well known that the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids are cold water fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines, anchovies, and herring. But in terms of pregnancy, many people are justifiably concerned about mercury and other toxins in fish. For this reason, purified fish oil supplements are often the safest source of EPA and DHA.
1: Kar S, Wong M, Rogozinska E, Thangaratinam S. Effects of omega-3 fatty acids in prevention of early preterm delivery: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized studies. Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol. 2015 Nov 30;198:40-46. doi:10.1016/j.ejogrb.2015.11.033. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 26773247.
Dr Nicole Ng (MBBS) is a medical doctor with a passion in women's health and medical research