Thrive Birth Center Blog

Are All Omega-3 Fatty Acids Created Equal? The Mahina Maven explains…

We are joined for this blog post by one of our favorite nutritionalists, Tessa Mancini Gillen, B.S. Biology, CNC, Herbalist. Today, Tessa takes a moment to explain why understanding your consumption of omega-3s is crucial for parent and infant health. Tessa will continue this conversation and more in her upcoming class, Pregnancy and Postpartum Nutrition, which is scheduled for Saturday, November 8th at 3pm in our Wisdom and Movement Center. Let us know what you think in the comments below. 

Happy Birthing~ Kelly Gray, Director of the Wisdom and Movement Center 

Omega-3 fatty acids. By now, I’m sure you have all heard of these anti-inflammatory players. These fatty acids are essential for your health and vitality, and your body does not produce them on its own. You must obtain these guys from food, period. Research shows that there is a direct relationship between consumption of these perishable fatty acids and intellectual potential. Not to mention their role in the prevention of postpartum depression and in preterm labor. These fatty acids are prenatal & postpartum superfoods. A definite must for the nutrition plan, but are all sources of these fatty acids created equal?

I spot images of flax seeds and chia seeds posted on online health sites daily, all boasting of their omega-3 concentrations. While these foods do indeed contain Omega-3 fatty acids, they do not contain all components. There are 3 main components in Omega-3 fatty acids. The main component found in plant sources (flax seed, chia seed, walnut, and hemp seed) is called ALA. The predominant components found in fatty fish & fish oils are called EPA & DHA, both critical for brain function. These are the real key players during pregnancy and early childhood development, and yes you heard right, they are found in fatty fish & fish oil.

Now many make the argument that ALA, the omega-3 fatty acid found in plant sources, can be converted into DHA/EPA. While this can be true, they do so at an incredibly low rate, and only when ALL sufficient enzymes are present, which is rare as many people are deficient in not just one, but several of these enzymes. (Mercola, 2014) So if you want to ensure that you are getting the good stuff, fish & krill it is.

According to Dr. Mercola, wild-caught salmon & very small fish (sardines, anchovies) are fine to consume on a regular basis while pregnant & nursing. (Mercola 2014) He does note avoiding farmed salmon, as it contains only half of the omega-3 levels of wild salmon, while containing a range of toxic contaminants. In addition to wild-caught salmon & small fish, Dr. Mercola emphasizes the consumption of krill oil. This oil contains phospholipids that increase the absorption of the beneficial Omega-3 fatty acids, which means that you can consume less, and still receive all the benefits. It also contains a potent antioxidant (astaxanthin) which prevents the highly perishable fatty acids from oxidizing. Krill oil has been shown to be 200 times more resistant to oxidative damage when compared to fish oil. (Mercola, 2014)

Your brain is 60% fat, and DHA alone makes up approximately 20% of your brains cerebral cortex. It is literally put together & developed out of Omega-3 fatty acids. So you can see why consumption is of great importance during conception and early developmental years.


  1. Larsen, Hans. MSc ChE. Omega 3 Oils: The Essential Nutrients.
  2. Mercola. DHA From Omega 3 Fats Linked to Intelligence in Children.
  3. Miller BJ, Murray L, Beckmann MM, Kent T, Macfarlane B. Dietary Supplements for Preventing Postnatal Depression. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013