The health benefits of Omega 3 fatty acids have been recognized for a long time, but after a recent study at the University of Montreal, published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, they shed a new light on Omega-3’s role in pregnancy.
Researchers say that during pregnancy, omega 3 is transferred from mother to child and then through breastfeeding from mother to infant. Then, the level of Omega 3 in the mother decreases and remains decreased for at least six weeks after birth. Canadian researchers have discovered a link between low levels of omega 3 in the body of women and the risk of suffering a depressive episode after childbirth.
To maintain the optimum level of fatty acids in a woman’s body, a diet that includes eating ocean fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel), flax-seed (the richest plant sources) or take supplements with Omega 3 is recommended.
Lead author Gabriel Shapiro cautioned that more research is needed to make exacting dietary recommendations. However, “if women are concerned about nutrition in pregnancy, they should discuss this with their doctor,” he said.
Postpartum depression is not only debilitating for women, it can have profound effects on their babies. Babies born to depressed moms can be slower in reaching development milestones and are at higher risk for behavioral problems later in life.
“We really need to ensure that women are equipped as (best as) possible to handle the responsibilities and the challenges of parenthood,” Shapiro said.
Health Canada recommends that expectant mothers have at least 150 grams of cooked fish each week.
Omega-3 not only helps the fetus to develop in the womb, but by helping mothers deal with postpartum anxiety also helps the newborn in it’s long term development.