Why DHA Is So Important After Pregnancy
Even though you’ve been supplementing with Omega 3 / DHA Fish Oil throughout your pregnancy and your new bundle of joy has arrived, it’s still important to stick to your Omega 3 supplement regime. Joanna Machin (Xtend-Life’s Medical Nutritionist) says there are many studies indicating that higher DHA concentrations in pregnant mothers translates into better brain, cognitive and visual functioning during growing years for children, it may also benefits mothers in post-natal health.
Supplementing DHA in the mother’s diet may help to improve infant developmental outcomes, including:
- Hand-Eye coordination
- Motor skills
- Attention span
“One study has even shown that higher maternal DHA levels are associated with more mature sleep patterns in newborn infants. DHA has also been shown to play a part in maternal well-being,” Joanna says.
“Supplementation with DHA may increase the length of pregnancy by up to six days, helping mothers carry to a healthy full term. Additionally, research suggests that adequate levels of DHA in the diet may play a role in helping a mother’s emotional well-being after birth, helping to prevent post-natal depression.”
Postnatal Depression (PND)
Postnatal depression is a depressive illness that sometimes occurs after having a baby. It is experienced by 5-25% of women following - or within a month of - the birth of their baby.
It is common for women following childbirth to experience a period of 'low' mood. However, this can range in severity from a mild and normal period of mood disturbance ('baby blues'), through to PND and the most severe and rare problem (postnatal psychosis)
Joanna says that during the last trimester of pregnancy, and continuing after birth, new mothers have an increase of pro-inflammatory agents, called cytokines, in the body. Added to this, common experiences of new motherhood, such as sleep disturbance, postpartum pain, and past or current psychological trauma, act as stressors, which further increases levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which in turn further increases risk of depression.
“Research has found low levels of DHA in the red blood cells and milk of women with postnatal depression. Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory and have properties found to help protect against this physical stress formation,” she explains.
“This tells us that adequate levels of DHA in the diet during pregnancy may aid a mother’s emotional well-being after birth, helping to prevent the common debilitating condition.”
So is omega 3 just as good for children?
Research into the effects of omega 3 and in particular DHA on child and infant development has been at the forefront of the latest beneficial findings.
Research shows that DHA boosts a baby's brain development and is good for children of all ages. As mentioned above, unborn babies benefit from DHA during pregnancy, with studies of those babies upon reaching age 4 confirming a marked increase in a child’s general IQ! Additionally, this same research shows:
- From newborns to 6 months infants tend to benefit from better hand-eye coordination (as compared at 2 years of age).
- From 6 months to 2 years DHA may jumpstart the production of hormones crucial for essential brain development and the increased growth needs of the infant.
- From 2 to 5 years it has been noted that low levels of DHA in children have been linked to an increased risk of ADHD, vision problems, and depression.
Xtend-Life Medical Director Dr. Anthony Perillo says that children whose asthmatic mothers were convinced to eat more oily fish, were 71% less likely to develop asthma. “Not just any fish will do,” he says. “Those deep fried ‘fish sticks’ are full of omega-6 fatty acids and would in all likelihood significantly increase rates of asthma.”
“Children whose mothers suffered from medical histories of multiple allergic disorders who took fish oil supplements were three times less likely to develop food allergies to egg protein and 10 times less likely to suffer from severe atopic allergies.”
It has been shown that low levels of DHA in children have been linked to an increased risk of ADHD, vision problems, and depression. Supplementing with DHA during the stages of fetal development may help to protect against such conditions and prevent these problems from occurring in your child’s later life.
Omega 3 consumption during your pregnancy and your baby’s infancy may also have a very positive effect on BMI, weight management and glucose transport, helping to prevent obesity and diabetes in childhood.
The properties of Omega 3s help to balance insulin production, where an increase in insulin may contribute to obesity. This in turn may help the body to produce a continued balanced and natural weight management function.
The amount of evidence suggesting that DHA may be highly beneficial for women after pregnancy and especially for their children – is staggering! By supplementing daily with Xtend-Life’s Omega 3 / DHA Fish Oil, you and your young ones may very well be laying the foundation for optimum health for many years to come.
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