Omega 3 and 6: Fatty acids in pregnancy

LCP lowdown

Learn all about LCPs

Your baby’s brain forms and develops at an astounding rate throughout pregnancy. Omega 3 and 6 are two families of fatty acids that play an important role in this development, as well as contributing to the health of their heart. Learn about the benefits of these two fats, why they are often in the news and how to get the healthy balance you need.

Omega 3 helps to support:

Normal cognitive development
Normal visual development 
Nervous system development 

What are LCPs?

Long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPs) are the building blocks of the fats (technically called lipids) that help the body function normally. They are important for both your own health and your baby’s development throughout pregnancy.

Omega-3 and omega-6 are two families of LCPs and named essential fatty acids because the body is unable to make them, so they can only be obtained through your diet.

As types of polyunsaturated fats, omega-3 and omega-6 have varying properties and different benefits for your baby.

Omega 3 and 6 are important for health but because the body cannot make them, they are known as essential fatty acids – ones you have to include in your diet

As types of polyunsaturated fats, Omega 3 and 6 have different properties and different benefits for your baby. Unfortunately, many people aren’t getting enough Omega 3 in their diet. Making an effort to include good sources of Omega 3 in your pregnancy diet will help to give your baby the best start for a healthy future.

Which fish contains more LCPs per 100g?

Correct answer

Salmon – 100g contains nearly twice as much as tuna: 2.18g of LCPs.

Incorrect answer

Salmon – 100g contains nearly twice as much as tuna: 2.18g of LCPs.

Omega 3: Supporting your baby’s heart, brain and vision

You may already know that Omega 3 can help reduce the risk of heart disease. It also plays an important role in your baby’s rapidly developing brain, as well as their nervous system, and eyes.

Omega 3 is recognised as an important nutrient for your baby’s normal cognitive development, to set the foundations for the way your baby learns, understands and thinks throughout life.

Omega 3 has many benefits to your baby’s brain development during pregnancy and helps set the foundations for their learning skills throughout life.

Research has shown that the potential long-term benefits to your baby of Omega 3 during pregnancy include:

  • A healthy birth weight
  • Reduced risk of preterm delivery
  • Reduced risk of your baby developing eczema later in life
  • Healthier, stronger bones
  • A positive effect on overall development, including verbal, motor and social skills

Research shows that Omega 3 is especially important during late pregnancy and the first few months after birth. As well as supporting your baby’s health and development, studies also suggest it may help to reduce your risk of antenatal and postnatal depression. This is possibly due to healthier cell membranes allowing serotonin to flow better between cells, but this area is still being explored and the reasons are not yet fully understood.

mom and baby boy Omega 3 and 6 are essential to support your baby’s heart, brain and vision both during pregnancy and after birth.

Omega 6: Getting a healthy balance

Omega 6 has also been shown to have a beneficial effect on heart health due to its ability to reduce the level of cholesterol in the blood. An adequate intake during pregnancy helps to build up your baby’s stores, ready for life after birth.

In a healthy ratio, the two LCPs have been linked to reducing childhood asthma. However, recent research shows that although, beneficial, high levels of Omega 6 can affect the body’s ability to use Omega 3. Vegetable oils and animal products are a key source of Omega 6, and because they are used in so many foods, we commonly consume more than we realise.

Because of this, the benefits of Omega 6 have been thrown into question, with nutritionists continuing to study and debate the right quantity needed of this nutrient.

fish The only way to get essental fatty acids is through your diet

LCPs and your pregnancy diet

With vegetable oils being a good source of Omega 6, most people are getting plenty of this fatty acid without any effort.

Most people, however, including mums-to-be, aren’t getting enough Omega 3.

Oily fish are the richest source of Omega 3. During pregnancy it’s recommended that you eat 2 portions per week for a healthy intake. But because these fish can contain potentially high levels of mercury, they are one of the foods to limit during pregnancy, so be careful not to eat more than this.

Vegetarian sources include walnuts, Omega 3-enriched eggs, and flax seeds.

Fish sources of Omega 3 and their content:

Food (100g)Nutrient quantity (100g)
Mackerel (grilled)4.83
Kippers (grilled)3.35
Sea bass1.23

Next steps

Try these Omega-3 rich meal and snack ideas:
  • Salmon nicoise salad
  • Sardines on toast
  • Grilled mackerel
  • A handful of walnuts
  • Omega 3-enriched egg mayonnaise on wholemeal bread

Your baby's future health begins here

At Aptaclub, we believe that experience helps to build resilience; and that each new encounter, whether in pregnancy or after birth, can shape your baby’s future development. With our scientific expertise and one-to-one round the clock support, we can help you and your baby embrace tomorrow.

mom and baby

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