Involved in the creation of cell membranes as well as that of hormones, omega 3 fatty acids play an essential role before, during and even after pregnancy. Unfortunately, our modern lifestyles tend to lead to omega 3 deficiency. The omega 3 found in our diet is usually insufficient, especially for vegetarians or vegans, and the excess intake of omega 6 can disturb the process.
Before pregnancy: Male fertility
When expecting a baby, one of the firsts tests prescribed the doctor is a spermiogram.
During this test, the number of spermatozoids will be counted and their morphology and mobility will also be analysed.
In a diet mainly consisting of fast food, the resulting nutritional imbalances between the different fatty acids can cause certain spermatozoid anomalies. They begin to ‘bulge’ and their mobility is significantly reduced, also reducing their chances of ‘meeting’ an egg.
Luckily, this can be reversed – all you need is to take an omega 3 supplement over several months and the spermatozoids will soon recover their ability to fertilise!
Omega 3, especially ADH, is also essential during pregnancy.
- They reduce the risk of premature labour.
- They optimise foetal weight, avoiding delays in growth as well as foetal hyper trophy.
- They are essential for the baby’s brain, retina and immune system development. Mice who were tested and born from mothers who had a western style diet (omega 6 excess, omega 3 deficiency) appeared to have smaller brains, behavioural problems and anxiety when turning into adults.
- They reduce the mother’s stress levels, helping the baby stay calm. Women who were more stressed during their final weeks of pregnancy appeared to give birth to more agitated babies, who also cried more often. In the long term, certain learning difficulties have also been proven.
After giving birth
For the mother, giving birth is a real ‘sporting challenge’ which can result in physical and even psychological fatigue.
Omega 3 enable a faster and better recovery after giving birth:
- They increase the speed of tissue repair and wound healing in cases of an episiotomy or caesarean.
- They encourage toxin elimination.
- They limit the risk of phlebitis.
- They reduce the risk of post-natal depression.
During pregnancy and breast-feeding, the baby is prioritised and therefore somewhat ‘steals’ the omega 3 from its mother:
- It forms extra fatty tissue.
- And especially, during the last three months of pregnancy, the weight of its brain increases three to five times and is made of 60% fats.
Finally, omega 3 improves the quality of breast milk, protecting the baby against allergens, infections and excess weight gain.
- Martínez-Soto JC, Domingo JC, Cordobilla B, Nicolás M, Fernández L, Albero P, Gadea J, Landeras J, « Dietary supplementation with docosahexaenoicacid(DHA) improves seminal antioxidant status and decreases sperm DNA fragmentation », Syst Biol Reprod Med, 2016 Dec, 62(6):387-395
- Klebanoff MA, Harper M, Lai Y, Thorp J Jr, Sorokin Y, Varner MW, Wapner RJ, Caritis SN, Iams JD, Carpenter MW, Peaceman AM, Mercer BM, Sciscione A, Rouse DJ, Ramin SM, Anderson GD; Fish Consumption, Erythrocyte Fatty Acids, and Preterm Birth. Obstet Gynecol. 2011 May;117(5):1071-1077.
- Sakayori N, Kikkawa T, Tokuda H, Kiryu E, Yoshizaki K, Kawashima H, Yamada T, Arai H, Kang JX, Katagiri H, Shibata H, Innis SM, Arita M, Osumi N. Maternal dietary imbalance between omega-6 and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids impairs neocortical development via epoxy metabolites. Stem Cells. 2015 Nov 18. doi: 10.1002/stem.2246.
- Kate Keenan, PhD, Alison E. Hipwell, PhD, Jenna Bortner, BA, Amy Hoffmann, BA, and Rose McAloon, BA. Association Between Fatty Acid Supplementation and Prenatal Stress in African Americans. A Randomized Controlled Trial. Obstet Gynecol. Published online November 5, 2014.
- Otto SJ, de Groot RH, Hornstra G et al., 2003. Increased risk of postpartum depressive symptoms is associated with slower normalization after pregnancy of the functional docosahexaenoic acid status. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 69(4) :237-43.