In recent years, a significant amount of research has been undertaken on the benefits of Omega-3 in maintaining the healthy functions of the brain, liver, heart and kidney. Among the most interesting findings have been in the importance of omega-3 fatty acids for mother wellness and the development of the baby during pregnancy.
Research indicates that the two most beneficial omega-3s are EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). Although EPA and DHA naturally occur together and work together in the body, studies show that each fatty acid has unique benefits. EPA supports the heart, immune system, and inflammatory response. DHA supports the brain, eyes, and central nervous system which is why it is uniquely important for pregnant and lactating women. Developing infants cannot produce DHA and must obtain it from the mother during pregnancy and from breast milk.
Since the body cannot produce it, studies show that dietary supplementation intake of DHA during pregnancy and postpartum is important for peak infant brain, visual and cognitive development of the baby. Studies have shown that supplementation of DHA in the mother’s diet improves infant developmental outcomes, such as eye-hand coordination, motor skills, and attention span. DHA has also been shown to play a key part in maternal well-being. Omega-3 fatty acids have positive effects on the pregnancy itself. Increased intake of EPA and DHA has been shown to prevent pre-term labour and delivery, lower the risk of preeclampsia and may increase birth weight. Omega-3 deficiency also increases the mother’s risk of depression. This may explain why postpartum mood disorders may become worse and begin earlier with subsequent pregnancies.