Congratulations, Mama! You're on your way to creating a tiny human inside of what is now your ever-changing body. With this miraculous transformation comes increased responsibility in ensuring you provide the healthiest environment possible for your growing bundle of joy.
One crucial aspect is nutrition, specifically getting enough essential nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). Don't worry, we know those terms probably sound like they belong in a chemistry lab rather than your kitchen. That's why we're here to break it down for you!
Understanding Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Before diving into the specifics of EPA and DHA, let's first understand what omega-3 fatty acids are.
Omega-3s are polyunsaturated fats that our bodies cannot produce on their own; thus, we must obtain them through our diet or supplements. It's vital to note that not all types of omega-3s are created equal - there are three main types:
- ALA (alpha-linolenic acid): found in plant-based sources such as flaxseeds and chia seeds.
- EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid)
- DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)
While ALA is still beneficial for overall health (yawn), it doesn't have the same powerful effects as EPA and DHA on pregnancy outcomes (oh baby!).
Benefits of Adequate Intake
Enough with the science; let's get straight into what matters most: what can these essential nutrients do for my unborn child?
Both EPA and DHA accumulation peak during late gestation when significant brain growth occurs (big brains run in our family!). Studies suggest adequate maternal intake of these fatty acids is linked to higher infant cognitive and visual development (future genius alert!).
Decreased Risk of Preterm Birth
Preterm birth, aka delivering a baby before 37 weeks gestation, can lead to several health complications for both the mother and child. Multiple studies have found that omega-3s intake during pregnancy (specifically DHA) may reduce the risk of preterm birth.
Growing another human being inside your body isn't all sunshine and rainbows - it's physically and emotionally demanding! Pregnant women are at an increased risk for depression or anxiety disorders. Studies suggest that omega-3 supplementation may potentially ease symptoms in pregnant women with depression or anxiety disorder diagnoses.
How Much Do I Need?
So, now you're asking yourself: How much EPA and DHA do I need? Unfortunately, there's no one-size-fits-all answer; however, experts recommend:
- For healthy pregnancies:
- Between 200 – 300 mg of DHA per day
- High-risk pregnancies:
- Between 500 –1000 mg/day
The American Pregnancy Association suggests aiming towards the higher end of this range as increasing evidence supports its effectiveness.
Note:Always speak with your healthcare provider before supplementing!
Food Sources vs Supplements
When it comes to getting enough essential nutrients such as EPA & DHA during pregnancy (and breastfeeding!), consuming fatty fish is typically the go-to recommendation (cue eyes roll from those who detest seafood). However,...
... oily fish contain high levels (too high)of mercury(gross)- yuck! Mercury exposure has been linked to developmental delays in children exposed while their mothers were pregnant.
Below we will explore some commonly consumed types offish:
|Type||Description||Average Omega-3 Content|
|Salmon||Coral-colored flesh; often served grilled, baked, or smoked||1.5 – 1.8 grams per fillet|
|Mackerel||Oily fish with robust flavoring ; popular in sushi rolls and pates.||2.6 grams per 100g serving|
|Herring||Small fish commonly used as a topper for potato salad or crackers.||2.0 grams per serving/143 g|
|Anchovy||A small fish known for its saltiness; typically used in sauce/paste form .||Nearly one gram of omega-3s(!)/28g|
Supplementation may be an option if you find it challenging (or nauseating)to consume enough seafood to meet daily intake requirements.
EPA and DHA are two essential nutrients crucial for a healthy pregnancy(no joke). Pregnant women should aim to consume EPA and DHA regularly whether through fatty/ low mercury fish sources or through high-quality supplements (Saftey First).
Growing another human being is no easy feat - so let's fuel our bodies with the proper nutrition required along the way!