Gradually the evidence supporting fish oil supplementation during pregnancy and breastfeeding is getting stronger and stronger.

There is plenty of evidence that a sufficient intake the important essential fatty acids DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid) and EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid) years essential to good health amongst adults. Browse some of the articles under the categories on the right to find out more about the benefits of fish oil supplementation on various health conditions.

However there is also growing evidence of the importance of an adequate supply of the essential fatty acids to a fetus and growing baby during pregnancy and the first few years of life, (and for the rest of life as well).

Today we specifically want to examine the issue of fish oil supplements during pregnancy and during the first few years. Will a baby, or fetus, benefit from increasing the intake of the Omega 3 essential fatty acids in those important first few months and years of life?Fish Oil and Pregnancy

There is now clear evidence of the importance of sufficient levels of the Omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids on the health of a human being almost from conception. Studies have shown improvements in mental development and other important areas of cognitive development where the infant has adequate levels of DHA and EPA.

For instance the University of Adelaide in Australia has demonstrated in a six-year study that high doses of DHA can help the mental development of infants. This study examined infants which were born premature.

It was found that premature babies have low levels of DHA which increased the possibility of impaired mental development.

The amount of DHA supplied to the infants was supplemented, in the case of breastfeeding mothers by giving and fish oil capsules, and in the case of bottle fed infants by using a formula with high levels of DHA added.

Babies, and in particular premature girls, who had a DHA rich diet showed better mental development than those that did not. Refer below for a link to the study.

Science Daily also reported that the reason researchers suspect that premature infants are deficient in DHA is because they will miss out on the DHA supplied to them during pregnancy in the 3rd trimester, where much of the DHA necessary for mental and brain development is acquired.

Canadian researchers also found that supplementing the food of preterm babies with DHA supplements, both in breastmilk and bottled milk, will increase the levels of DHA in preterm infants.

It is now generally considered that breastfed infants have better mental development than those which are bottle fed. Another study reported in science daily has now found that using DHA fortified formula on infants resulted in those infants doing better on a problem-solving test. The reason suspected is that breast milk contains some DHA whereas regular formula does not.

Part of the conclusion of the study was that “our results clearly suggest that feeding infants formula supplemented with high concentrations of DHA provides beneficial effects on cognitive development”.

These studies go further towards confirming a link between increased intake of the essential fatty acids known as the omega 3 fats by a mother during pregnancy and breastfeeding and superior mental development in a fetus and infant.

And that DHA fortified formula may provide better developmental outcomes in infants than regular formula.

And of course the best way for pregnant or nursing mothers to increase their intake of DHA and EPA cost effectively and safely is to take fish oil supplements, particularly given that due to the Mercury contamination of many species of fish pregnant women are often advised to avoid eating a lot of fish.

However always remember, if you’re pregnant or nursing mother you should always consult your doctor first.

Like all these things there will be ongoing research for many years to come. Currently some medical professionals still advise against Omega 3 supplementation for pregnant or nursing mothers, however the evidence supported of Omega 3 supplementation to these women is becoming stronger and stronger.

To read the reports of the 3 studies quoted please see the links below.

Report of Study 1

Report of Study 2

Report of Study 3

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