The debate on whether fish oil supplements are beneficial spills over into the pregnancy world.
For many years, doctors and health experts have recommended increasing your omega intake through diet and supplementation. We know those fats found in fish are beneficial to your brain activity, cardiovascular health, and overall wellbeing. However, we know they are beneficial because we study them in patients who eat large quantities of fish. What about the supplements?
Recent literature has put serious doubt on the claims of fish oil supplements. Still, the overall consensus is that it is still better than nothing at all. Ideally, you need to eat more fish, but if you absolutely can’t, then take a daily supplement.
Fish Oil in Pregnancy
So how does this pertain to pregnancy? There have also been several studies in pregnant patients who eat large quantities of fish. The babies born to these mothers were shown to have higher cognitive scores, less hyperactivity, and more fine motor coordination than infants of mothers who did not eat much fish. But again, not everyone will be able to eat fish daily and in pregnancy, you have to watch mercury content. Enter those fish supplements. Fish supplements have also been looked at in pregnancy and just like the rest of the population, there contradicting information.
Is there any Benefit to a Fish Oil Supplement in Pregnancy?
Recently there was a Danish study that looked at third trimester fish oil supplementation. Infants born to women who took supplements in their last trimester had lower rates of asthma. This tells us there is more to this story then we know. There is so much contradictory information that you can’t tell what is up or down. When a woman is carrying a child, we want to do everything perfectly. Eat right, exercise, provide all the right nutrition for a developing baby. But it can get overwhelming and frustrating at times knowing what is right. Fish oil in pregnancy should not complicate your life.
My Experience with Fish During Pregnancy
Prior to pregnancy, fish was almost the only animal “meat” I ate. But in my first trimester, I had an absolute aversion to all seafood. I even tried ordering it several times, thinking I would get over it. One bite in and I just wanted to chuck it all back up. Fortunately those aversions went away in the second trimester, and now in the third, I am craving lots of salmon. I have never taken a separate fish oil supplement, but I do ensure that my prenatal vitamins have DHA in them. So what should all of us pregnant females do? The easiest place to start is with just trying to eat more fish each week.
So Many Ways to Eat More Fish
What to Avoid
- Avoid fish that has high mercury content. This includes tilefish, mackerel, shark, and swordfish.
- If opting for a fish oil supplement, chose one designated for pregnant patients or sourced from low-mercury fish.
- If you are luck enough to actually fish yourself, check with the local wildlife department on the level of mercury present in the body of water you will be catching fish from.
- Still don’t know what is safe? Here is a great guide on what to avoid and how often is safe to eat certain types of fish.
In an Ideal World…
- Eat a low-mercury fish at least 3-4 times per week.
- Consider a fish oil supplement, especially in your third trimester if you are struggling with diet.
At the end of the day, first talk to your Ob/Gyn about your fish consumption. If you are unable to eat a pregnancy approved fish at least 3-4 times per week, ask your Ob about starting a prenatal fish supplement. At the very least, get a prenatal vitamin with DHA. Pregnancy is all about making the right decisions but they have to be realistic. Do the best you can with the knowledge you have, and don’t over stress about it!