Pregnant women are always advised to take vitamins and supplements to support their pregnancy and have a healthy baby. Is fish oil one of them? Learn more about taking fish oil for pregnancy here.
Is It Safe to Use Fish Oil for Pregnancy
The answer is yes, but there are a few things you should know.
Fish oil contains two fatty acids: omega-3s and omega-6s. They are both important for your health, but they are also sometimes associated with inflammation. The goal of taking fish oil while pregnant is to get enough omega-3s while avoiding too much inflammation from the omega-6s.
To get the most out of your fish oil, look for a brand that has been independently tested for purity and safety. Some companies add ingredients like mercury or PCBs to their fish oils, which can be toxic to you and your baby.
It’s also important to remember that not all fish oils are created equal—some types may contain more omega-3s than others. For example, herring oil contains more omega-3s than salmon oil, so if you prefer salmon over herring or have trouble tolerating certain types of fish, it might be worth trying both!
Fish oil capsules | Image from Pexels
Benefits of Fish Oil in Pregnancy
Fish oil supplements are becoming increasingly popular, and with good reason. They can improve energy and brain function and even prevent cancer. Fish oil supplements have many benefits, particularly in pregnancy. Below are some of them:
Fish contains omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, and vitamin A.
Remember, fish also contains vitamin A and vitamin D, which are not fat soluble. This means it does not dissolve in fat but instead in water.
Both vitamins are needed for pregnant women because vitamin A helps with eye development during pregnancy and helps strengthen your baby’s bones, teeth, skin and mucous membranes.
Vitamin D is needed to help strengthen the baby’s immune system so that he or she can fight infection.
Taking fish oil is good for your baby’s eyesight.
The benefits of fish oil for your baby’s eyesight are not just limited to the omega-3 fatty acids it contains. It also contains DHA, a type of fatty acid essential for developing your baby’s brain and retina.
DHA is essential for your baby’s brain and retina development because it helps improve vision, prevents retinal degeneration, and reduces the chance of having an eye disorder such as glaucoma or cataracts.
Fish may help your baby’s brain development.
Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids, essential for your baby’s brain development. It can also help with mental health in older children and adults. When pregnant, getting a lot of omega-3 fatty acids is important to give your baby the best start possible.
It can strengthen your baby’s immune system.
Fish oil is an effective way to strengthen your baby’s immune system. This can help them fight infections and other illnesses that may come up during their first few months or years.
Image Source: iStock
It can improve heart health.
Omega-3s help prevents inflammation and promotes blood flow, improving heart health in both mother and child. This is especially important during pregnancy because the growing foetus puts a lot of strain on the mum’s heart.
So if you have high blood pressure or are at risk for developing it, taking fish oil can help keep it under control throughout your pregnancy.
It may help lower the risk of allergies.
A 2018 study describing the benefits of fish oil for women says daily intake of fish oil during pregnancy and the first few months of breastfeeding can help prevent food allergies in babies.
Immune system malfunctions cause allergies, which may result in rashes, swelling, vomiting, and wheezing. Fish oil contains omega-3, a unique fat that has a positive anti-inflammatory effect on the body.
According to an extensive analysis of past trials done by Imperial College London, taking fish oil during pregnancy (specifically, after week 20 of pregnancy and for the first three to four months of breastfeeding) led to a 30 per cent reduction of egg allergy risk in babies by age one.
Meanwhile, 38 weeks of pregnancy.
Experts say larger trials are needed to study these children for longer. Still, this research has confirmed that a mum’s diet during pregnancy influences the development of allergies in kids early on.
Fish oil may lower the risk of preeclampsia.
Preeclampsia is a complication that can arise during pregnancy or after childbirth. It’s characterised by high blood pressure and protein in the urine; it can lead to serious complications like eclampsia (a dangerous condition that can be fatal if left untreated).
Studies have shown that women who take fish oil while they’re pregnant have a lower risk of preeclampsia than those who don’t—and lower risks mean fewer complications!
It keeps your emotions in check after giving birth.
Fish oil helps prevent postpartum depression by helping you maintain a healthy balance of hormones. It can also reduce inflammation throughout your body which can help prevent acne breakouts and eczema flare-ups, among other things!
Fish Oil During Pregnancy in Moderation
Dr Robert Boyle, the lead author of the research from the department of medicine at Imperial College London, said:
“Our research suggests probiotic and fish oil supplements may reduce a child’s risk of developing an allergic condition. These findings must be considered when guidelines for pregnant women are updated.”
The supplements discussed include omega-3 fatty acids, also present in oily fish.
Experts nowadays advise pregnant women to consume no more than two portions of oily fish a week. Too much, and you may get mercury poisoning from some fish, so avoid sharks, swordfish, or marlin.
To obtain enough omega-3 fatty acids, expecting mums should eat from multiple food sources, such as vegetable oils and supplements (such as fish oil capsules).
Benefits of fish oil for women: Researchers have found that fish oil supplements may help in preventing food allergies in babies. | Photo: iStock
How Much Fish Oil to Take During Pregnancy
You’ve been told to take a lot of vitamins during pregnancy, but the amount of fish oil you should take is probably not what you think.
We know that it’s good for you and your baby. A recent study found that taking fish oil during pregnancy can help prevent preterm birth and low birth weight.
But there’s no need to go overboard on it—and it’s important not to take too much at once. Here are some guidelines for how much fish oil you should be taking based on your weight and trimester:
You should aim for about 1 gram of fish oil per day in the first trimester. If you’re overweight or obese, that number may be slightly higher (up to 1.5 grams).
During the second trimester, you can increase your intake to 2 grams per day if you’re overweight or obese. Otherwise, stick with 1 gram per day.
In the third trimester, your requirements go up again—upwards of 4 grams per day if you’re overweight or obese (or up to 6 grams per day).
When to Stop Taking Fish Oil During Pregnancy
We’re all about fish oil. But when is the right time to stop taking it during pregnancy?
Fish oil is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for developing your baby’s brain and eyes. They also help with blood clotting, which can be helpful during pregnancy.
But you don’t want to overdo it. Taking too much fish oil can lead to side effects like nausea, heartburn, diarrhoea, and belching. It might also increase your risk of allergies to shellfish or other foods containing iodine (like nuts).
If you start taking fish oil during pregnancy, talk with your doctor about how much to take and how long—especially if you’re already taking other supplements (like vitamin D) or medications (like aspirin).
Don’t Do Liver Oil
There’s a theory that allergies are on the rise because we now encounter a less diverse range of microbes. And this is thanks to modern advances in sanitation. Since probiotics contain live bacteria, taking these during pregnancy or breastfeeding can help a child’s immune system.
Previous studies also suggested that omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil help calm down overactive immune systems. In effect, this reduces the risk of allergies in children. However, pregnant women should still be careful.
The UK National Health Service (NHS) says women shouldn’t take any supplements containing vitamin A (retinol). That includes fish liver oils (e.g. cod liver oil) and high-dose multivitamin supplements.
Pregnant women should also not eat liver and food made from liver, like liver pâtés or sausages. These food products might have too much vitamin A. Excessive vitamin A during pregnancy can cause congenital defects in your unborn baby and even liver poisoning.
Besides that, you should be careful of the skin products and medication you use as it may also contain Vitamin A. Pregnant women who use retinoid-based creams, like Accutane or Roaccutane, an anti-acne cream, are advised against using them while pregnant. If you are concerned about this issue, do consult a doctor so that they can better guide you.
Just Eat Fish
Fish dish | Image from Pexels
Rather than take fish oil capsules during pregnancy, the NHS recommends expecting mums to eat fish instead. Subsistence on a fish diet is especially helpful as fish contains many beneficial nutrients.
Caution must be taken, though, as the NHS advises pregnant women not to eat too much tuna or oily fish. Non-oily fish are still a good source of omega-3s.
Do not hesitate to consult your doctor if you have any questions about the food and supplements that you are taking during pregnancy.
Updates from Pheona Ilagan
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