Fish oil: For fetal brain development

Maybe you’ve heard something about taking fish oil during pregnancy. The reason is DHA, which is an Omega-3 fatty acid that’s especially abundant in certain types of fish. It’s a major component of the human nervous system and plays an important role in fetal brain development—particularly during the last 12 weeks of pregnancy, when DHA levels tend to drop.

If you’d rather not add a lot of fish to your diet, look for DHA supplements. In addition to supporting brain development, it gives you a higher probability of going full term, promotes early hand-eye coordination and may reduce risk of allergies.

Ask your healthcare provider about the best type of DHA to take during your pregnancy. You probably have heard the concern that our oceans have been contaminated by heavy metals, PCBs and other toxins. Some of these contaminants have found their way into the fish that we eat. You doctor will recommend the types of fish you can eat and will advise you about the type of Omega-3 fatty acid supplements you should take.

You may also have heard about flaxseed oil as a source of DHA. Although it does contain some Omega-3 fatty acids, it doesn’t have DHA, the type most recommended for pregnant women.

Normal amounts of flaxseed oil found in food are probably safe, but there is little research concerning the safety of extra flaxseed oil (taken as a supplement) during pregnancy. High doses of flaxseed oil could theoretically increase your risk of bleeding.  So, stick with DHA and avoid flaxseed oil as a supplement during pregnancy.

One word of caution: Flaxseed is different from flaxseed oil and is used for treating several conditions. However, taking flaxseed directly is possibly unsafe. This seed can act like the hormone estrogen and therefore could harm a pregnancy.

Related Stories