Pregnancy and breastfeeding: Omega-3 fatty acids

pregnant woman takes omega-3 supplement

Experts confirm: an adequate intake of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) plays a decisive role for general health, especially during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Healthy fats

EPA and DHA are long-chain, polyunsaturated fatty acids belonging to the group of omega-3 fats. Vegetable sources of omega-3 fatty acids mainly contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which needs to be converted into the active forms DHA and EPA in the body. However, conversion is limited. Healthy young women convert about 21% of the alpha-linolenic acid ingested through food to EPA and 9% to DHA. EPA and DHA themselves are found in significant amounts mainly in fatty sea fish such as salmon, mackerel and herring.

What is the role of these fats in the body?

EPA is required as a component of cell membranes and for the endogenous synthesis of hormone-like substances, so-called eicosanoids. Through them, EPA has positive effects on blood lipid levels, blood pressure and blood clotting. DHA is a component of cell membranes, too, and serves as precursor for the endogenous synthesis of anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective (promoting the survival of nerve cells and nerve fibers) substances. These substances are formed, in immune cells, brain (glial cells), retina, and others.

While a daily intake of 250 mg EPA and DHA contribute to the normal functioning of the heart, a daily intake of 250 mg DHA also contributes to the maintenance of normal eyesight and normal brain function.

Omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy and breastfeeding

Omega-3 fatty acids play an important role in prenatal and early childhood development of brain as well as vision. The most important omega-3 fatty acids in this context is DHA. Both the unborn and the toddler are unable to synthesize DHA themselves. Brain neurons as well as retinal photoreceptors both have particularly high concentrations of this fatty acid, and it is of essential importance for the development of brain and vision. Especially during the last trimester of pregnancy and during the first few weeks after childbirth, when brain and retinal cells multiply quickly, an adequate supply of DHA for pregnant and breastfeeding women is of crucial importance.

The adequate uptake of DHA promotes fetal development of cognitive functions and sight during pregnancy, breastfeeding and further development. In addition to that, recent research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids can minimize the risk for pregnancy complications such as preeclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy with increased protein excretion in the urine) and may protect against both premature birth and low birth weight. However, further studies are needed regarding these effects.

How to meet the higher demand?

Nutrition experts recommend pregnant and breastfeeding women to take up 200 mg DHA daily from the second trimester of pregnancy until the end of breastfeeding in addition to the daily dose of 250 mg omega-3 fatty acids recommended for adults anyway. The additional requirement can be met by regular consumption (at least 2 meals per week) of preferably fatty sea fish such as salmon, mackerel and herring. However, many women refrain from eating fish for various reasons, be it due to an allergy, because they are vegetarian or vegan or simply they don‘t like to eat fish. In these cases, an additional intake of DHA through dietary supplements is strongly recommended by nutritionists and gynecologists. Another important aspect is the often not insignificant heavy metal pollution of sea fish. High-quality DHA capsules with purified fish oil are an optimal alternative for pregnant women and nursing mothers.


Fertilovit® Omega-3 offers a high-quality, tested and low-pollutant possibility to supplement the recommended 200 mg DHA per day and thus represents an optimal complement to Fertilovit For2 for pregnant and breastfeeding women who have to or want to avoid the consumption of fish.

– With 200 mg DHA for normal development of brain and eyes in the fetus and breastfed infant

– Excellent, tested quality

– Low odor

– GMO-free, gluten-free

– From sustainable fishing

About the author

Dr. rer. nat. Birgit Wogatzky

For many years now, biologist and nutritionist Dr Birgit Wogatzky, has been focusing on the special needs of fertility patients. For the readers of this blog, she sums up interesting novel information and developments from current research projects regarding lifestyle and nutrition of fertility patients.

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