Folic acid isn't the only thing pregnant women should be concerned about. Omega-3s are right up there on the list of things they should be ingesting daily. Unfortunately, most pregnant women don't. American Chronicle reports, "According to food consumption surveys, 85% of all women are deficient in the EPA and DHA fatty acids [two types of omega-3s]. Among pregnant women, only 2% have diets that meet their needs for EPA and DHA. The rest get less than 18% of the recommended daily allowance"(source). What's the big deal about omega-3s?
1. Omega-3s protect your brain. "Many pregnant women are deficient in a variety of nutrients, including Omega-3 PUFAs [polyunsaturated fatty acids]. In an effort to provide for the baby's needs, a woman may lose 3 percent of her brain mass during the last trimester" (Maryann Marshall, "Omega-3 Fats During Pregnancy Provide an Alternative to Anti-Depressant Drugs," emphasis added). Maybe that explains why many women experience "mommy brain" in the first few months after giving birth?! Which leads to the next point...
2. Omega-3s protect you from depression. Omega-3 deficiency has been linked to depression, and the loss of brain mass resulting from providing the baby's needs (as mentioned above) is thought to be one cause of postpartum depression. Depressed pregnant and postpartum women who were given omega-3 supplements saw significant improvement in their symptoms. (More info here, here, and here)
3. Omega-3s build your baby's brain and other vital tissues. "EPA and DHA are . . . vitally important to the optimum growth and development of the baby's brain, eyes and nervous system . . . . These essential fatty acids make up nearly 70% of a newborn baby´s brain, retina and nervous system" (American Chronicle). Studies show that children whose mothers consume fish (high in omega-3 fatty acids) during pregnancy demonstrate superior cognitive function. (More info)
4. Omega-3s prevent several pregnancy complications. Deficiencies in omega-3 fatty acids can lead to pre-eclampsia in mothers and prematurity and low-birth weights in babies.
Omega-3s are amazing. Unfortunately, it isn't always safe to get our daily dose from the local fish market. Mercury and other toxins have made their way into many of the fish available for consumption. How can you safely get your omega-3s? Select only high-quality wild (not farmed) fish or fish oil supplements. Some forms of omega-3 can also be found in plant products like flax seeds, walnuts, and some herb spices. (More info)
So throw back something fishy with your folic acid. It's definitely worth it!
"Omega-3 acids reduce postpartum depression, UA pilot study suggests"
"Omega-3 Fats During Pregnancy Provide an Alternative to Anti-Depressant Drugs"
"Omega-3 may ease depression during pregnancy"
"Omega 3 Fish Oil During Pregnancy"
"Prenatal fish intake benefits kids' brains"