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Why Omega 3 Fatty Acids Are Important In Pregnancy

Updated on December 4, 2014

What are Omega 3 Fatty Acids?

Omega 3 fatty acids are a polyunsaturated fat, which basically means it is a “healthy” fat.  As humans, our bodies do not produce these types of fats and so our only source of obtaining them is through diet.  A typical diet is very low in Omega 3 fatty acids because the main sources for them is through fish or flaxseed oil, also grass fed meat and free-ranging poultry, all things that we (especially us Americans) do not typically consume enough of.  Big health benefits of Omega 3 fatty acids are that they have been proven to lower cholesterol and help fight heart disease.  Less well known is that omega 3 fatty acids can also benefit people who are at risk for other health problems such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, and even mental disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia and these are just to name a few.


So what do Omega 3 Fatty Acids do for pregnancy?

For many women, pregnancy is a time when you really want to focus on eating the most nutritious foods possible for you and your baby.  Not only can omega 3 fatty acids help a pregnant reduce her risk for developing things like pre-eclampsia, pre-term labor and even postpartum depression, but they can also help improve the baby’s vision and brain development.  That being said, it can be difficult to include omega 3 fatty acids in your diet as not all fish is safe to be consumed during pregnancy due to mercury or other chemical toxins that it may contain.

Here are some healthy tips for consuming Omega 3 Fatty Acids during pregnancy.

  • Limit fish to 3 servings per week.
  • Avoid eating these types of fish: Mackerel, shark, swordfish, tuna (except for canned light tuna) bass, pike, crab, tilefish, golden bass, and white/golden snapper.
  • Do not fry fish when preparing.

Some safe fish suggestions include:

  • Salmon (canned or wild)  limited to 3-4 oz each week.  Salmon salad, salmon cakes, and grilled salmon steaks are all safe ways to prepare salmon.
  • Canned light tuna can be consumed but limit is to about 3 oz only twice a week, this is best prepared in a tuna salad.
  • Catfish can be baked, broiled or grilled and 3-4 oz up to twice a week is acceptable.
  • Flounder and halibut, baked broiled or grilled is okay but no more than 3-4 oz per week.
  • Sardines can be eaten on crackers limited to 2-3 oz. each week.
  • Shrimp is okay if it is broiled, pan seared or grilled in quantities of 3-4 oz per week.
  • Finally, trout is acceptable, 3-4 oz each week and it can be baked, broiled or grilled.

You certainly do need more omega3 fatty acids then the limited amount of fish you are allowed will provide for you.  Here are some other suggestions for ways to intake omega 3 fatty acids during pregnancy.

  • Flaxseed can be ground or milled into powder.  It has a nutty flavor and blends well in oatmeal, yogurt, a casserole or even a salad.  This is a fantastic way to include omega 3 fatty acids into your diet.  You should have 1-2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed per day.
  • Canola or soybean oil are also sources of omega 3 fatty acids.  You can use them while cooking and they can also often be found in margarine.  1-2 teaspoons per day is recommended. 
  • Have an ounce of nuts such as walnuts, Brazil nuts and almonds each day as a snack or in a salad.
  • Chickpeas, pinto beans and broccoli can each be consumed in ½ cup amounts each day as a valid source of omega 3 fatty acids.  You can also have ½ cup to 1 cup of green leafy vegetables as a source. 

Try to include omega 3 fatty acids in your diet after pregnancy too and enjoy the benefits to your health!


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    • Kasman profile image

      Kas 4 years ago from Bartlett, Tennessee

      Thanks alot Stina, this is some great information for my pregnant wife! I'm going to be sharing this with her. I've been telling her she needed omega 3's on a regular basis and I'm not sure she's been consuming everything she should. We have her on organics in general but she needs more of this! Voting this up and sharing big time!

    • azure_sky profile image

      azure_sky 7 years ago from Somewhere on the Beach, if I am lucky :)

      Thanks for this information!! Like Chasia, I am not looking for information for me at this time in my life, but for my daughters, whom had best give me lots of grandbabies :)

    • Chasia profile image

      Chasia 7 years ago from Boston, Massachusetts

      Interesting perspective and enlightening facts. Too bad that it does not apply to me at this time in my life! Chasia