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Surprising Benefits of Krill Oil During Pregnancy

In the 9 (sometimes 10!) months a woman is pregnant, there’s a very long list of things you should not do and things you should not eat. And just when you think you’ve wrapped your head around that, there’s yet another long list of things you should do and should eat. Between reading labels to ensure food is safe for mom and baby and making sure you meet all your nutritional needs, it’s true that ensuring proper nutrition during pregnancy can feel overwhelming. So, for the sake of clarity, let’s zoom in on one common supplement recommendation: Omega-3s.

What exactly are Omega-3 Fatty Acids?

A fatty acid is an organic compound that can be used for energy storage in the body or to form fats and other substances found in cell membranes.

While our body can create many of the necessary fatty acids, we cannot in fact make Omega-3 fatty acids on our own. Instead, we need to get them from our diet -- in fact, all the other members of the animal kingdom need to as well! Omega-3 fatty acids support heart, brain, joint, eye, skin and immune health. They also regulate the nervous system, act as basic building blocks for all of our cell membranes, properly manage DNA replication, and are the primary storage medium for energy. They are really important for whole body health throughout our lives.

Benefits of Omega-3s for Development

Just as Omega-3s are important for our health as we grow and age, the evidence suggests that Omega-3 fatty acids support the process of fetal development. Omega-3s support the structure of the developing baby’s neurons while the fetus is in utero as well as ensure the timing of fetal gestation and support a healthy birth weight. Once the child has been birthed, Omega-3s continue to play a critical role in its development by establishing positive visual and cognitive development for the child.

However, Omega-3s are one of those micronutrients that aren't made by our bodies alone -- we have to ingest it through food. And one of the most omega-3-dense of these foods -- cold water fish -- is often restricted to about two servings per week for many expectant mothers because of concern over mercury content. As a result, most pregnant women do not end up getting enough Omega-3 fatty acids in their diets. Doctors recommend pregnant women take a daily prenatal vitamin, but many prenatal vitamins do not include Omega-3 fatty acids. So, what to do? Enter krill oil.

What is Krill Oil?

Krill are small shrimp-like crustaceans, measuring in at only about two inches in length. Despite its small size, krill represents a critical link in the global food chain. They’re commonly regarded as the essential fuel responsible for running the Earth’s entire marine ecosystem. Found in the waters surrounding Antarctica, krill are the primary diet of baleen whales, the largest mammals in the ocean. In the wild, krill feed on plankton (microscopic organisms), which happen to be rich in omega-3 fatty acids themselves.

Most importantly for expectant mothers, krill do not contain unsafe accumulations of mercury or other toxins and are noted as one of the most efficient sources of omega-3s. While fish oil is certainly the most common type of Omega-3 supplement, krill oil is a superior Omega-3 source. That’s because krill oil delivers Omega-3s in their most natural form (called phospholipids), just like you would find in a healthy fish diet. Fish oil loses phospholipids during processing. These phospholipids enable krill oil to have superior Omega-3 absorption compared to fish oil.

Benefits of Krill Oil Supplements for Mom & Baby

Pregnancy often comes with unpleasant side effects of its own, like heartburn and gastrointestinal upset, and the last thing expectant mothers want is a supplement that might add to their discomfort. Traditional fish oil supplements can sometimes cause the “fish burps”, an unpleasant sensation of gas and fish oil supplement taste. Krill oil supplements, in contrast, do not have this unpleasant, gassy side effect. That’s because the natural phospholipid form of Omega-3s found in krill oil digests more easily in our stomachs. You can watch a video to see the difference in action here.

An expectant mother’s immune system is always suppressed while she is carrying her baby in utero. With the support of krill oil, expectant mother’s can support their immune system. Omega-3 EPA and DHA nutrients play a very important role to help regulate inflammation in the body, supporting the cellular repair and internal defense systems, and maintaining the normal healthy status quo.

One study has also shown that krill oil supplementation increases DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) in breast milk. It’s DHA in particular that plays an essential role in both neural and visual development in those first few months of life. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is one of the primary Omega-3s that makes up the retina in the human eye, and the retina is still developing even in the first few months of life after a fetus has been brought into the world. Therefore, according to the 2018 study published Frontiers in Pediatrics, krill oil supplementation by a breastfeeding mom might be a good strategy to help deliver DHA to the newborn baby.

Whole Body Health

Whether you’ve just found out that you’re pregnant or are in the early stages of breastfeeding your newborn, mothers and their babies can benefit from the support of whole body health that krill oil has to offer.

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