It is especially important to obtain adequate essential fatty acids from the diet during pregnancy and lactation. Recent research suggests that these fatty acids such as omega-3 are needed for fetal growth and fetal brain development. Essential fatty acids are also important for infants in order to ensure proper growth and development, and normal functioning of all tissues of the body. Increased omega-3 fatty acid intake in the immediate post-natal period is associated with improved cognitive outcomes.
It is important that the mother’s diet contain a good supply of omega-3s because infants receive essential fatty acids through breast milk. Pregnant women and lactating mothers may also opt to take a DHA supplement. A DHA supplement based on cultured micro algae is available in many natural food stores. Several studies have found that omega-3s helps improving attention and the ability to complete tasks. They also decrease hyperactivity, impulsiveness, restlessness and aggression.
Getting enough omega-3s during pregnancy has been associated with numerous benefits for the child, including:
- Higher intelligence
- Better communication and social skills
- Less behavioural problems
- Decreased risk of developmental delay
- Decreased risk of ADHD, autism and cerebral palsy