Omega 3 fatty acid is vitally important for the brain development and eye development of the unborn baby. So it is advised that a mother’s diet should contain the requisite quantity of omega three fatty acids. If you do not have fish regularly, the closest option would be to consume fish oil during pregnancy. But is it safe? Frankly, yes and no. Lets find out.
Is It Safe To Eat Fish Oil Supplements During Pregnancy?
Safety depends upon the type of the fish oil. If fish oil is taken from the body of fish it is safe. But the oil taken from the liver of fish – cod liver oil – it is not safe to consume during pregnancy. The reason is that the cod liver oil contains vitamin A in high level which is not safe to consume during pregnancy. Intake of a higher amount of vitamin A places a baby at the risk of birth defects such as malformation of heart, spinal cord, face, brain etc. (Retinoid embryopathy).
What Is Omega-3 Fatty Acid?
Omega 3 fatty acids are poly unsaturated fatty acids. They are essential fatty acids required for many functions of human body. There are three types of omega three fatty acids.
- Alpha-linolenic acid – ALA which is found in plant sources such as seeds, nuts etc.
- Eicosapentaenoic acid – EPA found in fish
- Docosahexaenoic acid – DHA found in fish
Our body can’t synthesize this fatty acid and we have to depend on the food that has sufficient amount of omega three fatty acid. Fish is a good source of omega three fatty acid. Fatty fish such as mullet, tuna, salmon, sardines, and mackerel are found to be a good source of omega 3 fatty acids.
Can I Eat Fish During Pregnancy? Are There Any Risk Factors?
Eating fish during pregnancy does have some risk factors.
- Some kind of fish is found to be contaminated with mercury. Your body will absorb mercury easily from the fish in your diet and will it can reach your child through the placenta. This metal damages the development of the brain and whole nervous system of your child
- Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) are found in fish from the contaminated lake. Like mercury, it can also pass to the fetus through the placenta. Severe neurological and motor control problems are observed in children whose mothers are exposed to PCB during pregnancy.
You can read more on fish during pregnancy here
What Are The Advantages Of Consuming Fish Oil Over Fish During Pregnancy?
Mercury is not fat soluble. So even if it is present in the fish, mercury won’t be there in fish oil if it is properly filtered and distilled. Harmful compounds like PCB is also not found in fish oil.
Can I Depend On Other Food Sources For Omega-3 Fatty Acids?
Now there are many food items available in the market which are fortified with omega three fatty acids. But they may not provide sufficient amount of DHA or EPA.
Flax seeds is another good source of omega three fatty acid. But the omega three fatty acid that plant food provide is ALA which don’t bring forth the health benefits of DHA or EPA.
What Are The Advantages Of Fish Oil Over The Flaxseeds?
Even though both are good sources of Omega three fatty acids, only fish oil contains EPA and DHA which are vital omega three fatty acids. So intake of fish oil guarantees daily required EPA and DHA. Fatty acids present in flax seeds is ALA which can be used in producing EPA and DHA but comparatively small quantities. So large quantities of flax seeds should be consumed to gain the same effect of consuming small dosage of fish oil.
What Are The Benefits Of Consuming Fish Oil During Pregnancy?
- Omega 3 fatty acid produces Resolvin which reduces the inflammatory conditions of the placenta, thus improving the functioning of the placenta
- Improves brain and nervous development of the fetus
- Reduces the chances of developing eczema in babies after birth by around 36%
- When mothers take fish oil during pregnancy, their children tend to develop excellent hand-eye co-ordination
- Improves the eye sight as omega 3 fatty acid has a significant role in the formation of the retina of the fetus
- Reduces the risk of cerebral palsy
- Helps to avoid pre term delivery as DHA and EPA in fish oil help to prevent the production of prostaglandins (helps in contracting uterine wall) thus preventing pre term delivery and low birth weight
- Helps in regulating pregnancy induces hyper tension
- It is believed that omega three fatty acid has a role in preventing perinatal depression or postpartum depression
- It reduces the chances of pre-eclampsia, a condition that reduces the flow of blood through placenta resulting the restricted growth of the fetus
What Is The Safe Dosage Of Fish Oil During Pregnancy?
A daily dose of fish oil supplement should not contain more than three grams of EPA + DHA. This is the safe dosage for pregnant women. Three grams of fish oil per day won’t do any harm, but we suggest you to consult your doctor first.
What Precautions Should Be Taken Care Of While Consuming Fish Oil Supplements?
- You should make sure that your supplement has NPN on the wrap or bottle. Having Natural Product Number means the product is tested for heavy metals, toxins, and pesticides
- Don’t take fish oil if you are not sure of its purity. Rely on reputed brands of fish oil capsules when you are pregnant. Otherwise, the oil inside the capsule may be rancid. Consuming fish oils which are not properly distilled and filtered is dangerous especially when you are pregnant. Take your doctor’s advice
- Never take fish oil prepared in unhygienic conditions
- If you are allergic to fish, don’t take fish oil supplements during pregnancy
- Ask your doctor before taking the fish oil. The dosage should be as prescribed by your doctor