Benefits for babies
The 98 pregnant women in the study were randomly assigned to receive either a placebo or a fish oil supplement providing 2.2 grams of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and 1.1 grams of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), both essential omega-3 fatty acids. They started taking the supplements 20 weeks into their pregnancies and continued until delivery.
Higher amounts of the protective omega-3 fatty acids were transferred to newborns in the group taking fish oil supplements compared to the placebo group. Babies with the highest levels of the omega-3 fatty acids in cord blood had the best hand-eye coordination when assessed at age 2 1/2 years.
Children who received the prenatal fish oil supplementation also tended to perform better in all areas of development studied, including personal, social, speech and hearing, performance, and practical reasoning. They also had higher scores for receptive language, average phrase length, and vocabulary scores. In previous research, infants given fish oil supplements have shown improved visual function.
"Our results indicate that supplementation with a relatively high-dose fish oil during the last 20 weeks of pregnancy is not only safe but also seems to have potential beneficial effects that need to be explored further," said Professor Prescott.
How to get more omega-3s
Besides taking fish oil supplements, you can also get more omega-3 fatty acids from your diet. Try these food sources and recipes for some tasty options:
(Arch Dis Child Fetal Neonatal Ed. doi:10.1136/adc.2006.099085)