Does fish oil intake during pregnancy make my baby smart?


Pregnancy is a special moment in women’s life, which brings responsibility of taking care of the child right from the fetus.  Many women take adequate diet and supplement to aid development of fetus.  Fish oil is one of the supplements that has been either recommended by the obstetrician or marketing agencies for its benefit in cognitive development of baby.  The main ingredient in fish oil is docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which was believed to give this benefit.  A large study reveals that fish oil does not have significant effect on mental development of baby. 

What was makeup of the study?
The research was conducted at Women’s and Children’s Hospital in North Adelaide, Australia.  The study was designed to test the effects of daily supplements of DHA, which has indicated to improve pregnancy outcomes in earlier studies.

  • more than 2,000 Australian women were studied
  • women received either vegetable oil or fish oil containing DHA during the second half of their pregnancy (a crucial time for fetal brain growth).
  • study used pills containing 800 milligrams of DHA and 100 milligrams of another so-called omega-3 fatty acid as well.

DHA is known as a building block of cell membranes and is especially important in brain development.  The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. 

Does DHA affect development of baby’s brain during pregnancy?
The study found that

  • toddlers at 18 months exhibited no differences in babbling, verbal comprehension and other language development, nor in cognitive measures such as exploring objects and forming concepts.
  • fish oil didn’t do much to help avoid postpartum depression, with both groups having around 10% in self-reported high levels of depressive symptoms.  




Should I take fish oil during pregnancy?
In spite of the fact that study did not show benefit to development of baby’s cognitive function, but researchers do not advise against taking fish oil or DHA.  The reason for taking fish oil may include:

  • fish oil reduces women’s risk of giving birth before 34 weeks of pregnancy, from more than 2% to just about 1%. A normal pregnancy lasts 40 weeks.
  • Fish oil was observed to increase the chances of going past the due date.

Are there any side effects of taking fish oil?
Research reported that the only side effect of taking fish iol was belching, which was almost twice as common in women eating fish oil as in those on vegetable oil. 

It looks like that fish oil does offer some benefits to pregnant women, although it may not improve your baby’s brain.  Consult your doctor if you would like to continue or discontinue your fish oil supplement intake. 

Healthy Pregnancy!

Source: NY Times

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