Omega-3 Fish Oil During Pregnancy: Benefits And Side Effects

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Omega-3 fatty acids play a vital role in the neural development of the baby, especially the development of the brain and eyes (1). Therefore, it is important to include foods rich in omega-3s in your pregnancy diet. Among the different foods you can consider, fish oil perhaps has the highest concentrations of this structured fat. But is fish oil a good option for you?

This MomJunction article gives you detailed information about the benefits, risks, and ways of including fish oil during pregnancy.

Is It Safe To Take Fish Oil During Pregnancy?

Yes and no, since it depends on the type of fish oil you consume. There are two types of fish oil (2).

  • Fish oil taken from the body (i.e., flesh) of the fish is safe.
  • Oil taken from the liver of fish, i.e., cod liver oil, is not safe during pregnancy as it contains high levels of retinol (vitamin A), which puts your baby at risk of birth defects.

When used the right way, fish oil can be beneficial during your pregnancy.

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What Are The Benefits Of Fish Oil During Pregnancy?

Fish oil offers benefits derived from two types of omega-3 fatty acids: EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).

  1. Balances production of prostaglandins: Omega-3s found in fish oil manage the production of prostaglandins that regulate blood pressure, blood clotting, inflammation and allergic responses, gastrointestinal and kidney functioning, hormone production and nerve transmission (3).
  1. Prevent mood disorders: EPA and DHA are known to support positive mood and well-being during the pregnancy and postpartum period (4).
  1. Fetal development: Studies show that mothers who had fish oil supplements had babies with improved hand-eye coordination and brain development (5).
  1. Safe pregnancy and labor: Omega-3s in fish oil also known to lower the risk of preeclampsia, preterm labor and manages your weight (6).
  1. Improved immunity in the infants: Omega-3s have powerful anti-inflammatory properties that can strengthen your newborn’s immunity against allergies, common cold, flu and other immune-mediated diseases (7).

That said, fish oil consumption might also have adverse effects in some.

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[ Read: Tuna During Pregnancy ]

What Are The Side Effects Of Consuming Fish Oil In Pregnancy?

Here are the possible risks of consuming fish oil.

  • Overconsumption of fish oil will affect your blood’s ability to form clots, as omega-3s reduce the stickiness of platelets (8).
  • Fish oil sourced from freshwater fishes, which have higher mercury levels, can harm the unborn baby. It, therefore, affects the development of the baby’s brain and nervous system. So avoid oils of shark, tilefish, swordfish and king mackerel (9).
  • Fish oil supplements extracted from the liver contain high levels of Vitamin A, which can be harmful to the baby.

Consuming no more than the recommended daily intake of fish oil will minimize the risks.

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What Is The Recommended Dosage Of Fish Oils During Pregnancy?

The daily recommended dosage of omega-3 fatty acids should be 650mg, of which 300mg is DHA (10). So, you can have up to three grams of fish oil per day (11).

Keep reading to know about the nutritional value of fish oils in detail.

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Nutritional Value Of Fish Oil

The nutrients in 100gm of fish oil are as follows (12):

Total saturated fatty acids21.290g
Total monounsaturated fatty acids56.564g
Total polyunsaturated fatty acids (Omega 3’s)15.604g

g=grams; mg=milligrams.

To benefit from these nutrients, it is essential to include the right type of fish oils in your diet.

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What Types Of Fish Oils Are Safe During Pregnancy?

Fish oil derived from cold water fish such as salmon, sardines, herring, tuna, and anchovies is safe. Always buy your fish oil supplements from a reliable manufacturer to rule out the presence of mercury and other toxins in it. A reputed manufacturer of fish oil will be able to offer documentation as evidence of the purity of the fish oil (13).

In any case, it is good to be cautious when taking fish oil during pregnancy.

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[ Read: Olive Oil During Pregnancy ]

Precautions To Take While Consuming Fish Oil Supplements or Pills

If you plan to take fish oil supplements during pregnancy:

  • Check for the Natural Product Number (NPN) on the cover. NPN indicates that the supplement has been tested for toxins, pesticides, and heavy metals.
  • Do not take a supplement if you are not sure of the fish oil’s purity. Go for reputed brands upon your doctor’s advice.
  • Check if clinical research data backs the product, to be sure of the brand’s efficacy.
  • Avoid taking fish oil supplements if you are allergic to fish.
  • Consider taking the dosage upon doctor’s prescription.

Next, we answer a few common queries about fish oil intake during pregnancy.

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Frequently Asked Questions

1. How long should you take fish oil while pregnant?

There is no medical recommendation for taking fish oil during pregnancy. If you include oily fish in your diet, there is no need for additional supplementation. You may have up to two portions of oily fish every week, to get the required dose of omega-3 fatty acids. Fish oil supplements also contain other nutrients such as iron, calcium, and Vitamins A, B2, C, and D.

2. Are fish oil and omega-3s the same thing?

No, Fish oil and omega-3s are not the same. Fish oil is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are also found in flaxseeds, dark leafy greens, and walnuts.

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Since the body cannot synthesize fatty acids, we have to depend on foods rich in omega-3s, of which fish is an excellent source. If your doctor gives you the go-ahead, you can safely consume fish oil supplements for a healthier pregnancy.

[ Read: Eating Liver During Pregnancy ]

Have you taken fish oil supplements during pregnancy? Share your experiences with us here, in the comments section.

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