By the Nordic Naturals Education Team
One of the first questions from anyone interested in omega-3s is: How much should I take? It’s also one of the toughest, because there’s no definitive answer. Health experts suggest daily intakes based on a person’s stage of life, health status, nutritional profile, and what the research shows. One thing is certain: Omega-3s offer special benefits during pregnancy and in the months following birth.
EPA and DHA are the two most beneficial omega-3 fats. Your doctor may or may not mention the importance of prenatal omega-3 DHA, so it’s good to know what professional organisations recommend. The New Zealand and Australia National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has established adequate intakes of omega-3s (EPA, DHA, DPA) at 115 mg per day for pregnant women, with a higher suggested dietary target of 430 mg for women generally.
In North America, Health Canada and the American Pregnancy Association (APA) also recognise the need to consume adequate omega-3s. The APA advises a minimum of 300 mg DHA daily during pregnancy. This figure is based on the recommendations of the International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids (ISSFAL). Health Canada’s Prenatal Nutrition Guidelines for Health Professionals, recommends “at least 150 grams (5 ounces) of cooked fish each week.” This recommendation continues during pregnancy to ensure adequate intake of both EPA and DHA. Omega-3 amounts vary widely in different fish species, with a 75-gram piece of cooked salmon topping the list at ~1000 mg DHA and ~500 mg EPA. Assuming you are eating salmon according to the above recommendations, your weekly omega-3 intake during pregnancy would be ~3000 mg combined EPA+DHA, or around 400 mg per day.
The postnatal period
Obtaining sufficient omega-3s is also critically important when breastfeeding, and during the postnatal period in general. Nursing delivers much of mum’s omega-3 stores to her child, so she can quickly become depleted of DHA in the months following childbirth. Because of this effect, some research indicates that pregnant and breastfeeding women get at least 2.6 grams of omega-3 fatty acids daily including at least 100-300 mg of DHA.iv Research also suggests that EPA and DHA together support a positive mood, which can benefit many women during the postpartum period.