Omega-3 in pregnancy

During your pregnancy, it’s important to ensure that you’re eating a healthy and balanced diet. You diet should include all the nutrients that your baby needs for their growth and development in the womb, Omega-3 and omega-6 being just two examples.

Here we’re exploring omega-3 and omega-6 LCPs, why they’re important during pregnancy, and how much of them pregnant women need. 

What are LCPs?

LCPs are long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids that derive from essential fatty acids ALA and LA, and which are important for your baby’s health and development. ALA and LA are called essential fatty acids because the body is unable to make them itself. This means that we need to get them from the foods we eat every day in our diet. 

In this article, we’ll be focussing on omega-3 and omega-6 LCPs, of which it’s important that all healthy adults (including pregnant women) get a healthy ratio of in their diets.

Why is omega-3 important during pregnancy?

The most important examples of omega-3 LCP fatty acids are docosahexaenoic acid (or DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)2.

According to research, a large part of the population isn’t getting enough omega-3 fatty acids3. For pregnant women, getting enough omega-3 fatty acids is very important, as they play a crucial role in the health of you and your growing baby.

Benefits of DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids for you

DHA and EPA are important for a healthy heart and may protect from heart disease. They’re also important for your lungs and blood vessels and help to support your hormone and immune systems4

EPA and DHA may also encourage positive pregnancy outcomes, such as preventing preterm labour5. In addition, there’s evidence to suggest that omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the likelihood of depression both during your pregnancy and postpartum (also known as perinatal depression). 

Benefits of DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids for your baby

DHA and EPA have been shown to support foetal growth, especially of your baby’s eyes and rapidly developing brain, laying the foundations for their learning and development skills throughout their life2. It can also help your baby’s nervous system to develop6.

Additional benefits of DHA and EPA for your baby may include:

  • A healthy birth weight5

  • A reduced risk of eczema and food allergies2

  • Support of bone growth7

Why is omega-6 important during pregnancy?

Just like omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 have been shown to have a beneficial effect on the heart health due to their ability to positively impact cholesterol in the blood8.

It’s important for all healthy adults, to get a healthy ratio of both omega-3 and omega-6 LCPs, including pregnant women, as there’s some indication that this could be linked to a reduction of childhood asthma3. However, further research is needed to confirm the benefits.

An increased ratio of omega-6/omega-3 observed in the last decades may be linked to an increase in autoimmune and allergic diseases3. Therefore, it’s important that we eat a diet rich in omega-3 and maintain a healthy omega-6/omega-3 ratio.

How much omega-3 do pregnant women need? 

There’s no hard and fast rule about how much omega-3 pregnant women should be consuming. Oily fish is a rich source of omega-3 but due to higher levels of pollutants compared to other seafood, the NHS advises that pregnant and breastfeeding women should not eat more than two portions of oily fish per week, such as salmon, sardines and mackerel6.

If you’re following a vegetarian or vegan diet, nuts and seeds are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, as are9:

  • Green leafy vegetables

  • Vegetable oils (flaxseed oil is a good example)

  • Soya products 

Are Omega-3 fatty acids safe for pregnancy?  

Yes, omega-3 fatty acids are safe for pregnant women to eat as part of a healthy and balanced diet. As discussed above, itthey haves numerous health benefits for you and your baby.

However, whilst oily fish is the richest source of omega-3 fatty acids, it’s important to follow the guidelines around how much of it you should eat. There are also certain types of fish that you should avoid, such as shark, swordfish and marlin. This is due to that fact that oily fish can contain pollutants or mercury which can affect your growing baby’s development6.

You can read more about eating fish in pregnancy here.  

Fish oil in pregnancy

Whilst there’s no set recommendation to take omega-3 fish oil supplements during pregnancy, you may be advised to do so by your doctor if you’re thought to be at risk of preterm labour10.

However, the NHS advises that fish oil supplements that contain fish liver oil, such as cod liver oil, should be avoided. This is because they contain vitamin A which can be harmful in high quantities to babies in the womb. Supplements to avoid include11:

  • Fish liver oil supplements, such as cod liver oil

  • High-dose multivitamin supplements

  • Any supplements containing vitamin A (also known as retinol) 

Omega-3 foods for pregnancy  

Oily fish is the richest source of omega-3 fatty acids. As well as salmon, mackerel and sardines, other good examples include4:

  • Kippers 
  • Herring 
  • Whitebait

Seafood such as crab, oysters and mussels are all good sources of omega-3 but be sure to cook them thoroughly if you intend to eat them during your pregnancy6, 12 .

Good vegetarian sources of omega-3 include walnuts, omega 3-enriched eggs, flaxseeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, leafy green vegetables and soy products like tofu.

Food (100g)Nutrient quantity (100g)
Mackerel (grilled)4.83
Kippers (grilled)3.35
Sea bass1.23

Snacks and meals which are rich in omega-3

Try these tasty ideas to boost your omega-3 intake:

Your baby's future health begins here

At Aptaclub, we believe that experience helps to build resilience; and that each new encounter, whether in pregnancy or after birth, can shape your baby’s future development. With our scientific expertise and one-to-one round the clock support, we can help you and your baby embrace tomorrow.

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2. Coletta JM, Bell SJ, Roman AS. Omega-3 Fatty acids and pregnancy. Rev Obstet Gynecol. 2010 Fall;3(4):163-71. PMID: 21364848; PMCID: PMC3046737

3. DiNicolantonio JJ, O'Keefe J. The Importance of Maintaining a Low Omega-6/Omega-3 Ratio for Reducing the Risk of Autoimmune Diseases, Asthma, and Allergies. Mo Med. 2021 Sep-Oct;118(5):453-459. PMID: 34658440; PMCID: PMC8504498

4. The Association of UK Dieticians. Omega-3 [online] 2021. Available at [Accessed November 2023]

5. Middleton P, Gomersall JC, Gould JF, Shepherd E, Olsen SF, Makrides M. Omega-3 fatty acid addition during pregnancy. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2018 Nov 15;11(11):CD003402. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD003402.pub3. PMID: 30480773; PMCID: PMC6516961

6. NHS. Fish and shellfish [online] 2022. Available at,long%2Dchain%20omega%2D3. [Accessed November 2023]

7. Koren N, Simsa-Maziel S, Shahar R, Schwartz B, Monsonego-Ornan E. Exposure to omega-3 fatty acids at early age accelerate bone growth and improve bone quality. J Nutr Biochem. 2014 Jun;25(6):623-33. doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2014.01.012. Epub 2014 Mar 12. PMID: 24746838

8. Bazinet RP, Chu MW. Omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids: is a broad cholesterol-lowering health claim appropriate? CMAJ. 2014 Apr 1;186(6):434-9. doi: 10.1503/cmaj.130253. Epub 2013 Nov 11. PMID: 24218530; PMCID: PMC3971029

9. NHS Inform. Vegetarian and vegan diets [online] 2020. Available at [Accessed November 2023]

10. NHS. Omega 3 'Omacor' Supplements [online] 2022. Available at [Accessed November 2023]

11. NHS, Vitamins, supplements and nutrition in pregnancy, 2023. [Online] Available at: [Accessed December 2023]

12. HS Inform. Eating well in pregnancy [online] 2023. Available at,clams%20and%20pre%2Dcooked%20prawns. [Accessed November 2023]

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