A well-balanced diet during pregnancy not only helps maintain your good health but also encourages proper development in your growing baby. Flaxseed oil is a rich source of essential fatty acids you and your baby both need. However, including it in your diet carries risks worth considering. Consult your health care practitioner before adding flaxseed oil, or any nutritional supplement, to your diet during pregnancy.
Flaxseed oil, alternately known as linseed oil, comes from the seeds of the flax plant. It is a particularly good source of the essential fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid, a precursor to omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids work in concert with omega-6 fatty acids to help regulate the inflammatory process in your body, and maintaining a healthy dietary balance between the two may help prevent inflammatory disorders. In addition, these fatty acids are important during pregnancy because of the role they play in the development of healthy cell membranes.
The omega-3 fatty acids in flaxseed oil are flexible unsaturated fatty acids that contribute to the structure and function of cell membranes. Structurally, they maintain the fluid nature of membranes to allow the uptake of beneficial molecules into the cell while excluding harmful compounds. The fatty acids in flaxseed oil also provide a regulatory function by assisting in the control of gene expression, a critical component of growth and development for your baby. A diet deficient in essential fatty acids can lead to learning disabilities, poor vision and other health issues, states Dr. Donald Jump of the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University.
The fatty acids in flaxseed oil can increase your fasting blood sugar levels, a potential concern if you may be at risk for gestational diabetes. Additionally, Dr. Sylvain-Jacques Desjardins of the University of Montreal describes a study in which women consuming flaxseed oil as a nutritional supplement during their last two trimesters of pregnancy experienced a significantly higher rate of premature births than women who did not take flaxseed oil. Desjardins offers no mechanism of action for this phenomenon but notes the effect was not seen with consumption of whole flaxseed, only with flaxseed oil.
Little information exists on the safety of flaxseed oil during pregnancy or breastfeeding. It is not necessary to your pregnancy diet, as you can obtain essential omega-3 fatty acids from other food sources, such as fish. Adding flaxseed oil may adversely affect the hormones you require to sustain a healthy pregnancy.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Flaxseed Oil
- Ohio State University Extension: Nutritional Needs of Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
- Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute: What’s Good About Dietary Fat?
- University of Montreal: Pregnant Women Consuming Flaxseed Oil Have High Risk of Premature Birth
- Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.