The browser you are using is too old for our website. Please visit from Chrome and you will be able to browse normally.


      Omega-3 in pregnancy

      17 Weeks Pregnant

      Omega-3 in pregnancy

      Read time: 8 minutes

      Omega-3 and omega-6 are two families of fatty acids that play an important role in your baby’s development during pregnancy. Learn about the benefits of these two fats and how to get a healthy balance in your pregnancy diet.


      Free 'Eating for 2' recipe e-book

      Healthy, tasty recipes by chef Lorraine Pascale and our team of nutritionists

      Join now for FREE

      What are LCPs?

      Long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPs) are the building blocks of the fats (technically called lipids) that help the body function normally1. They are important for both your own health and your baby’s development throughout pregnancy.

      Omega-3 and omega-6 are two families of LCPs and named essential fatty acids because the body is unable to make them, so they can only be obtained through your diet1.

      As types of polyunsaturated fats, omega-3 and omega-6 have varying properties and different benefits for your baby.

      Why is omega-3 important during pregnancy?

      You may already know that omega-3 can help reduce the risk of heart disease2. It also plays an important role in your baby’s rapidly developing brain, as well as their nervous system and eyes3. Omega-3 has many benefits to your baby’s brain development during pregnancy and helps set the foundation for their learning skills throughout life.

      Research has shown that the potential long-term benefits of omega-3 include:

      • A healthy birth weight3
      • Reduced risk of preterm delivery3
      • Reduced risk of your baby developing eczema later in life4
      • Healthier, stronger bones5

      Research also shows that omega-3 is especially important during late pregnancy and the first few months after birth3. As well as supporting your baby’s health and development, studies suggest it may help to reduce your risk of antenataland postnatal depression7.

      This is possibly due to healthier cell membranes allowing serotonin to flow better between cells, but this area is still being explored and the reasons are not yet fully understood8.

      Why is omega-6 important during pregnancy?

      Omega-6 has also been shown to have a beneficial effect on heart health due to its ability to reduce the level of cholesterol in the blood9. In a healthy ratio, the two LCPs are also linked to reducing childhood asthma10.

      Omega-6 is found in many foods such as vegetable oils and animal products, so we tend to get an adequate amount in our diets11.

      While most people get healthy levels of omega-6 without any effort12, many people, including mums-to-be, may not be getting enough omega-313.


      How much omega-3 do you need when you’re pregnant?

      There’s no absolute rule about how much omega-3 you need during pregnancy. The best advice is to eat up to two portions of oily fish per week or include a good vegetarian or vegan source of omega-3 to your diet every day, such as two teaspoons of flaxseed oil.

      Fish oil in pregnancy

      While the NHS advises that fish oils with omega-3 supplements are safe to take during pregnancy, you should avoid taking any supplements that contain fish liver, such as cod liver oil16. Cod liver oil and other liver oils contain vitamin A or retinol, which in high doses, can harm your unborn baby16.

       Supplements to avoid include:

      • Fish liver oil supplements, such as cod liver oil.
      • High-dose multivitamin supplements.
      • Any supplements containing vitamin A (retinol).  

      Omega-3 foods for pregnancy

      The richest source of omega-3 is oily fish. During pregnancy, it’s recommended that you eat up to two portions (140g is one portion) per week for a healthy intake14. But because oily fish can contain pollutants or mercury, they are one of the foods to limit during pregnancy15.  Read more about eating fish during pregnancy.

      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.

      Fish sources of omega-3 and their content15:

      Food (100g) Nutrient quantity (100g)
      Mackerel (grilled) 4.83
      Kippers (grilled) 3.35
      Sardines 2.98
      Sea bass 1.23
      Tuna 1.32
      Salmon 2.18
      Sweet Potato Fish Pie

      Snacks and meals which are rich in omega-3

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

      1. British Nutrition Foundation. N-3 fatty acids and health [Online]. 2000. Available at: [Accessed February 2020]
      2. NHS UK. Fish and shellfish [Online]. 2018. Available at: shellfish.aspx [Accessed February 2020]
      3. Jensen CL. Effects of n− 3 fatty acids during pregnancy and lactation. Am J Clin Nutr 2006;83(Suppl 6):S1452-1457.
      4. Klemens CM et al. The effect of perinatal omega‐3 fatty acid supplementation on inflammatory markers and allergic diseases: a systematic review. BJOG 2011;118(8):916-925.
      5. Koren N et al. Exposure to omega-3 fatty acids at early age accelerate bone growth and improve bone quality. J Nutr Biochem 2014;25(6):623-633.
      6. Golding J et al. High levels of depressive symptoms in pregnancy with low omega-3 fatty acid intake from fish. Epidemiol 2009;20(4):598-603.

      Read next

      Your baby's future health begins here

      Your baby's future health begins here

      At Aptaclub, we believe that experience helps to build resilience; 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.

      Join Aptaclub

      Get in touch with our Careline experts

      Our midwives, nutritionists and feeding advisors are always on hand to talk about feeding your baby. Need instant assistance? Our WhatsApp Customer Support team is here to help on-the-go!

      Free 'Eating for 2' recipe e-book

      Healthy, tasty recipes by chef Lorraine Pascale and our team of nutritionists

      Join now for FREE

      Your privacy is important to us and therefore we would like to explain how we use cookies on this website. With your consent, we will use cookies to measure and analyse how our website is used (analytical cookies), to tailor it to your interests (personalisation cookies), and to show you relevant advertising and information (targeting cookies) we think you will like. For more information please read the cookie statement.

      Privacy Settings

      You can choose your preferences anytime for cookies and tracking. For more information please read our cookie policy.

      • Strictly necessary

        They are necessary for the website to function and cannot be switched off. They are usually only set in response to actions made by you which amount to a request for services (setting your privacy preferences, logging in, filling in forms, etc.). You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not then work.

      • Analytical cookies

        They allow us to count visits and traffic sources, to measure and improve the performance of our site. They show us which pages are the most and least popular and how visitors move around the site. If you do not allow these cookies we will not know when you have visited our site, and will not be able to monitor its performance.

      • Personalisation cookies

        They enable website’s enhanced functionality and personalization. They may be set by us or by third parties whose services we have added to our pages. If you do not allow these cookies, some or all of these services may not function properly.

      • Targeting cookies

        They may be set through our site by our advertising partners, to build a profile of your interests and to show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.