I know I should be taking fish oil during pregnancy, but why? And what’s the best one to take for pregnancy? OBGYN Dr. Gleaton explains it all.
Fish oil contains many nutrients needed for a healthy pregnancy that not only support heart health, but the development of the fetal nervous system. So what kind of supplements should you be taking for a healthy pregnancy, and what should you be looking for in a good fish oil?
Supplements to take during pregnancy
A healthy pregnancy should start with a healthy diet, which is why prenatal vitamins and supplements are so important. A good prenatal supplement routine will include a multitude of vitamins and minerals, including:
- Folate: vital for a developing neural tube
- Choline: linked to improved pregnancy outcomes
- Iron: a building block of blood
- Calcium: necessary for strong bones and teeth
And of course DHA, a necessary omega-3 that supports fetal development and more.
Why it’s important to take fish oil during pregnancy
Fish oil is packed with two essential omega-3s (DHA and EPA)—essential nutrients for healthy brain and eye development in pregnant women as well as for fetal growth and development. DHA intake specifically is linked to healthy birth weight and developmental milestones, while EPA is correlated with improved heart health and cholesterol.
Other benefits of fish oil
In general, fish oil is recommended for improving heart health and reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke. Not only does it contain DHA and EPA, but also vitamins A and D, essential vitamins that improve our immune system and response.
Is there fish oil without the fish?
Yes, there are vegan alternatives. Algae-derived DHA is a plant-based option that can meet ACOG guidelines, eliminate the risk of possible environmental toxins, and does not contribute to overfishing, which can be damaging to the planet.
Read more in: Fish Oil Without the Fish: Is Vegan DHA actually good?
What’s the difference between DHA and fish oil?
Fish oil is one great source of DHA. Fish oil from fish such as tuna, salmon, and trout contains two out of the three main omega-3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA. DHA, or docosahexaenoic acid, is the omega fatty acid that supports a healthy pregnancy and fetal development.
How to pick the best fish oil for pregnancy
The APA recommends a fish oil supplement that contains at least 300 mg of DHA. Your supplements should also come from a transparent, reputable company to ensure you’re consuming purified fish oil that’s free of toxins.
When to stop taking fish oil during pregnancy
Fish oil is a great source of omega-3s and has many health benefits to support your pregnancy. It’s possible you’ve heard that fish oil can lead to increased bleeding during surgeries such as cesarean sections, but a recent study concluded that there is no link to fish oil and increased bleeding during or after surgery. However, it is important to note that this data may not be applicable to pregnant women and those undergoing cesareans specifically, thus more studies are needed.
And while there's no universal guidance on when to stop fish oil during pregnancy, it’s abundantly clear that the earlier you start, the better. Especially since the diet of pregnant women is largely deficient in DHA intake, making it difficult to comply with current recommendations without dietary supplementation.
Omega-3s, DHA, and fish oil are often used interchangeably, and that’s because they all do very similar things for your body. DHA is an essential nutrient found in fish oil supplements that supports the development of your baby’s brain and eyes. Fish oil also contains vitamins A and D, plus EPA, another important omega-3 fatty acid. The recommended amount of fish oil during pregnancy is at least 300 mg, and it’s important you find a reputable supplier that provides purified fish oil, free of any toxins such as mercury or lead. Have more questions about omega-3s, DHA, or fish oil? Check out this article to learn more about their differences.