Omega-3s have been found to be essential for both neurological and early visual development of the baby. However, the standard western diet is severely deficient in these critical nutrients. This omega-3 dietary deficiency is compounded by the fact that pregnant women become depleted in omega-3s, since the fetus uses omega-3s for its nervous system development. Omega-3s are also used after birth to make breast milk. With each subsequent pregnancy, mothers are further depleted. Research has confirmed that adding EPA and DHA to the diet of pregnant women has a positive effect on visual and cognitive development of the child. Studies have also shown that higher consumption of omega-3s may reduce the risk of allergies in infants.
Omega-3 fatty acids have positive effects on the pregnancy itself. Increased intake of EPA and DHA has been shown to prevent pre-term labor and delivery, lower the risk of pre-eclampsia and may increase birth weight and gestational weight. Omega-3 deficiency also increases the mother’s risk for depression. This may explain why postpartum mood disorders may become worse and begin earlier with subsequent pregnancies.
In a 2006 national survey, over two-thirds of pregnant women and new mothers said that they had not received any information from their health care providers about the benefits that Omega-3 could provide during their pregnancy and in the postpartum time.