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Pregnancy Brain may be First Sign of EFA Deficiency during Childbearing Years

Thursday, March 18, 2010 by: Sherry Rothwell
Tags: pregnancy, nutrition, health news

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(NaturalNews) "Pregnancy brain" is a condition whereby expectant mothers experience short term memory loss and forgetfulness that often persists into the postpartum and breastfeeding period. Given widespread fatty acid deficiency in the Standard American Diet (SAD), along with the fact that the brain is built on fat, it is incumbent upon us to consider adequate and optimal fats in the prevention and treatment of "pregnancy brain". It also stands to reason that pregnancy brain, if left unchecked, may be the first and most benign symptom of a deficiency, which could later prove to have much greater consequence.

According to Michael A. Schimdt, PhD (NASA researcher), "To achieve adequate levels for brain development, the baby essentially robs the mother of these fatty acids by taking them from the placental blood."

If not attended to, EFA status in the mother will continue to decline throughout the breastfeeding period, with repercussions to both her breastfeeding baby and subsequent children. Essential fatty acid deficiency has been shown to play a key role in many growth and developmental difficulties such as: learning, behavioral, nervous and immune related disorders.

Pregnant women who are deficient in essential fats, as well as mothers who have birthed more than one child (without adequate time in between to replenish their EFA status), may be more vulnerable to depression and disease later in life. It seems plausible that the wide spread prevalence of postpartum depression could be due at least in part to EFA deficiency. It is well established that essential fats play a substantial role in the prevention and treatment of depression. Chronic deficiencies originating during this critical time period may also explain why women tend to experience far more depression, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and autoimmune disease than men.

While "pregnancy brain" is also associated with the "amnesia" effects of the hormone oxytocin and other nutritional deficiencies, science has now shown that a pregnant woman`s brain actually shrinks in size during pregnancy, and then increases again at six months postpartum. It is likely no coincidence that this occurrence co-relates with the time when many women stop or decrease breastfeeding, thus eliminating or reducing the strain on the mother`s EFA stores. Since we know that 60% of the human brain is composed of fat and that a woman's reserves are most strained during the childbearing years, we have to at least consider essential fats as a significant contributing piece of the "pregnancy brain" puzzle.

The cause and occurrence of "pregnancy brain" and the potential consequences of declining EFA status in women of childbearing years is an important topic that warrants further investigation. Due to the fact that it is so common, "pregnancy brain" has been mostly overlooked as a normal part of an otherwise healthy pregnancy. On the other hand, it may point to the likelihood that, modern mothers may need to attend to their fatty acid status through better diet or supplementation.

Brain Building Nutrition- Michael A. Schmidt
The Facts About Fats- John Finnegan

About the author

Sherry Rothwell, RHN, CD and mother of two, enjoys writing between "mommying" and camping out in the kitchen! Sherry is accredited by The Canadian School of Natural Nutrition and House of La Matrona School of Holistic Midwifery. Visit her website@ www.wholefoodsfamily.com to find out more about the resources, courses, products and services she offers.

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