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Omega-3 fatty acids are a good kind of fat. They’re good for both you and your baby during pregnancy. There are three main kinds: (Their names are really long, so it’s OK to just use the letters.)
Why do you need omega-3 fatty acids?
Omega-3 fatty acids can improve your overall health. They:
If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, omega-3 fatty acids—especially DHA—are important for your baby’s health. DHA is the most common omega-3 in the brain and eyes. It helps support your baby's brain and eye development.
What’s the best way to get omega-3 fatty acids?
If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, you need 200 milligrams of DHA each day. Here’s how you can get the right amount of DHA and other omega-3 fatty acids:
Algae oil and fish oil, like cod liver oil, are good sources of omega-e fatty acids. But taking fish oil products and a prenatal vitamin can cause you to get too much of certain vitamins, like A, D and E. Too much of these vitamins can be harmful. Too much fish oil also can lead to bleeding problems, like nosebleeds and blood in the urine. Talk to your health care provider before taking any fish oil products.
You may have heard that flaxseed and flaxseed oils are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Some studies on animals have shown that flaxseed can be harmful during pregnancy. We don’t know enough about the effects of flaxseed on human pregnancy. So it’s best not to use flaxseed or flaxseed oil if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.
From a supplement
If you don’t get enough DHA from food, take a supplement that contains at least 200 milligrams of DHA each day. Many prenatal vitamins (vitamins made just for pregnant women) include DHA. Talk to your health care provider before you take any vitamins or supplements to make sure they’re safe for you during pregnancy.
Last reviewed July 2012
Funding for this article was provided in part by Martek. The March of Dimes does not endorse specific brands or products.