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Birth Defects

Fetal Brain Food!

Omega3 – Nutrition for the Pregnant Mother and Child
It is widely accepted that your nutritional needs change when you become pregnant. This includes both an increase, as well as a decrease of certain foods, drinks and supplements. We all know that an increase in nutrients during this time is beneficial for fetal development to prevent nutritional deficiencies of a number of nutrients that can lead to birth defects or complications.

Essential Fatty Acids (omega3 and omega6) in the correct ratio and quantity can offer exceptional benefits in terms of fetal development, the health of the mother-to-be and the health of the baby after being born.

“Fish oil omega 3 supplements during pregnancy and nursing are so vitally important that they’re recommended by the Food Agricultural Organization of the United Nations and the U.S. National Institutes of Health. The unified recommendation for pregnant and lactating women is 1200mgs a day. To eat that much fish would mean consuming more than a daily serving of salmon – which is the highest source of the omega 3 fatty acids.”

How Can Omega3 Fatty Acids Help During Pregnancy?

Overall Wellbeing
It is becoming common knowledge that omega3 fatty acids are exceptionally important for human health. Unfortunately in most Western lifestyles our diets include dangerously low levels of omega3s and a level of omega6 fatty acids that is far too high. This shift in our diet can be very closely correlated with the increase in incidence of degenerative diseases over the past hundred years.

Omega3 and omega6 fatty acids are labeled ‘essential’ because the body cannot synthesize them on its own. It relies upon a food source, and unfortunately, given the nature of the average, modern western diet – the majority of us severely lack a natural source of omega3 fatty acids, with omega6s are provided at damagingly high levels through cooking oils, butter etc. To compound this, the omega6 fatty acids that we do intake are often cooked or spoiled by heat, light and oxygen and have therefore become toxic to our bodies.

Hundreds of research studies have now proven, beyond doubt, that a diet including optimal levels of omega3 and 6 (in the correct ratio) on a regular/daily basis can lead to a myriad of health benefits, and can also help to prevent (and reverse) the symptoms of degenerative diseases such as cancers, cardiovascular disease, arthritis as well as Type 2 diabetes.

Other benefits that are gained from including omega3 and 6 essential fatty acids in your diet include a stronger immune system, stronger bones, an increase in energy, weight loss and healthier hair, nails and skin.

It is important to remember that it is easier for pregnant women to experience a deficiency in omega3 fatty acids because more essential fatty acids are required to build a growing baby. This deficiency can be compounded in subsequent pregnancies due to the fact that maternal stores can become further depleted with each pregnancy, rarely returning to pre-pregnancy levels.

Omega 3 oils are especially important during the final trimester. It is during this time that your baby uses Omega-3 to form approximately 70% of her brain system. She is also working on the rest of her nervous system.

Fetal Development
Omega3 fatty acids are vital to healthy fetal development. A deficiency can easily occur with modern, Western diets and supplementation has been recommended by many researchers, health experts and doctors (not only for pregnant women, but for everyone!).

During fetal development, omega3 fatty acids are especially important for neural development and cell growth. Throughout pregnancy, omega3’s supply ‘brain food’ to the fetus, as important brain and eye development takes place during fetal development, continuing well into the child’s infant years. In fact, the lack of omega3 fatty acids during pregnancy and during the formative years after birth have been discovered to be a critical element for both the neurological and visual development of the baby. DHA is especially vital, as fetus cannot produce DHA efficiently independently.

In fact, research has shown that by adding omega3 and omega6 fatty acids to the mother’s diet during pregnancy can almost certainly have a very positive effect on the child’s cognitive abilities. These effects have even been proven to exist in the development of the child until the age of four!

Perhaps, even more critically, studies have shown that effective supplementation of omega3 fatty acids during pregnancy can greatly decrease the likelihood of complications such as pre term labor, and pre-eclampsia (toxemia) – a significant contributor to maternal mortality.

Research is proving beyond doubt that omega3 supplementation is almost vital during pregnancy and can greatly increase the health and development of both the child and the mother. However, it is recommended that these fatty acids are not added solely to the diet through consuming fish or fish based supplements. There are growing concerns regarding the toxicity of fish, particularly from mercury poisoning. A safer option would be to seek specific pre-natal supplements, or those such as Udo’s Choice which contain only plant based fatty acids.

Various sources of Omega 3:

  • Krill Oil
  • Walnuts & Oil
  • Flax & Oil
  • Wild Alaskan Salmon
  • All oily fish (be cautions of contamination)
  • Chia Seeds
  • Hemp
  • Marine algae (where do you think the fish get Omega 3s?)

Infant/Child Behavior and Development
Modern research is showing a strong link between infant/child behavior and nutrition. Over the past thirty years, the focus of this research has turned to omega3 fatty acids and their role in the behavioral development and learning skills. ADHD, in particular, has been very closely associated with omega3 fatty acid deficiency both in terms during pregnancy and in the infants diet until at least the age of four. Research has shown that infants with lower omega3 levels are more likely to suffer behavioral problems including hyperactivity, impulsivity, anxiety, temper problems and unsettled sleep patterns. Interest in this area was first shown following a breakthrough study in 1981 which hypothesized that children with ADHD are more likely to have a diminished nutritional status of EFAs due to them showing greater thirst than non-ADHD children.

This study was further strengthened two years later, when EFA levels were measured in 23 children diagnosed with behavioral disorders and 20 average children. The results showed clearly that the children with behavioral problems were significantly deficient in EFAs.

More recently, a UK-based study has been undertaken and monitored by the BBC to show the effects of nutritional supplements of omega3 fatty acids on the behavior of children. The study has focused upon both infants (as young as 20 months) and children up to the age of 12. The children were assessed on their reading skills, IQ, spelling, behavior and motor skills over a period of six weeks. The study was led by Dr Madelene Portwood of the Durham Local Education Authority and the Durham Sure Start trial and she concluded that ‘The performance of almost 60 per cent of the children has improved dramatically…some two-year-olds went from having a vocabulary of 25 single words to being able to use whole sentences while others were able to sit down and concentrate for the first time in their lives’.

“Babies born to mothers who had higher blood levels of DHA scored better on the attention tests until 6 months of age, and they scored better on different tests designed to measure visual learning in older babies at 1 year and 18 months.”

Post Natal Depression
It has long been accepted that using supplements of omega3 fatty acids can play a vital role in treating and preventing depression. When considering the increased requirement for omega3s during pregnancy and the depletion of a mother’s omega3 reserves after giving birth it is no surprise that an omega3 deficiency may play a role in post-natal depression.

A major UK study on over 11,000 women has found that the more omega3 fatty acids consumed by women during the third trimester, the less likely she was to suffer from depression both during pregnancy and for the eight months after giving birth.

The reason behind EFAs being so effective at reducing depression is that they are used extensively by the brain through many different functions. Omega3s are converted by the body into both EPA and then DHA. The majority of the human brain is comprised of DHA, and a deficiency of DHA has been linked to the Alzheimer’s epidemic. Low levels of EFAs are also highly associated with low levels of serotonin, the major brain chemical that is responsible for our mood levels. Low serotonin levels almost always results in depression.


Pregnant women and new mothers should definitely consider supplementing their diet with omega3 fatty acids. The nutritional benefits are manifold both during pregnancy and in everyday life. Most significantly, the intake of omega3 fatty acids during pregnancy can prevent pre term delivery, improve the babies neural development, retina development, skin and cell health, reduce the likelihood of behavioral problems and can also help prevent the mother from experiencing prenatal and postnatal depression.

On top of the non-pregnancy related benefits, this subject is certainly worth further research and consideration.

Energize for Life offer free guides and resources for those looking to achieve optimal health and energy. With a slant towards the alkaline diet approach to health they offer a huge range of nutritional supplements, health equipment, superfoods and essential fatty acids. The aim of Energize for Life is to give you every resource you need to reach your own individual health goals.

Sheryl’s comment:
There are many ways to take Omega 3s. They are vital for every animal and human being but especially important for pregnant women. Purchase Wild Alaskan Salmon and eat it religiously throughout your pregnancy. If you cannot afford that, munch on flaxseeds or walnuts every day as a snack or get krill oil. Take a spoonful of Vitamineral Green in your OJ in the morning. There are tons of ways to get your Omega 3s but algaes and krill oil are probably the best. Take what you can afford and are comfortable with, but make sure to get tons of it every single day.

About the author

naturalpregnancy – who has written posts on A Much Better Way.


12 Responses to “Fetal Brain Food!”

  1. Thank you for the post, I shall definitely research a bit more about omega3 fatty acids.

    Posted by Krys | June 26, 2009, 6:29 am
  2. Thanks for this article. My wife took a teaspoon of high quality fish oil daily while pregnant, and also takes it while nursing. I believe it has helped my son’s development.

    Posted by Deevan | August 5, 2009, 11:52 pm
  3. Thanks for sharing this info and post.
    baby health

    Posted by Chris | January 27, 2010, 7:29 am
  4. While I knew that Omega3 was an essential fatty acid, I didn’t think Omega6 was, nor did I know of the immediate benefits you would get for it, especially if you were pregnant. :O

    I think I’ll have to look into either purchasing more fish for my dinners, or to find omega3 supplements.

    Posted by vitamin b | June 10, 2010, 2:08 pm
  5. Nice and very informative article you have here about Omega 3. Thank you.

    Posted by Corrinne | November 12, 2010, 6:56 pm
  6. there is lots of information out there on this topic, be sure to get it from reliable sources the health of your and your baby should be taken seriously!!!

    Posted by martin slattery | January 27, 2011, 5:28 pm
  7. Well Fish oil might be a good source for omega 3 but krill oil has some unique properties that fish oil lacks. Krill oil contains astaxanthin, which is a powerful antioxidant. It also contains phospholipids, compounds that are water-soluble and fat-soluble, making krill oil easier to absorb and utilize in your body. These phospholipids may prove useful against age-related brain damage. Krill oil also provides vitamin E as well as some omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids. This omega 3 fatty acids are good for the brain function and optimal brain development as well as reducing the risk of heart attacks

    Posted by Lisa | April 1, 2011, 1:11 am
  8. Yes, it’s a very nice post have to say. Even I was also not aware about the fatty acids nutrition Omega 3 and Omega 6 before reading this post. Thanks for sharing it with us.

    Posted by kevin | May 13, 2011, 1:11 am
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  11. Interesting article – could you provide some references please? Thanks.

    Posted by Eloise | August 30, 2011, 10:38 am
  12. ALA advice. Barleans organic oils provide high quality and fresh organic oils the way nature intended.

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