DHA Supplements During Pregnancy

Women have grown accustomed to taking prenatal vitamins and folic acid during their pregnancies. Now, doctors are recommending another supplement, DHA, during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.

DHA, docosahexaenoic acid, is an omega-3 fatty acid essential for brain and eye development during gestation and the first two years of life. It is also a major cellular component of both the retina of the eye and the brain. While the human body requires DHA for life, it is especially important during the early stages of development.

Humans do not manufacture their own polyunsaturated fatty acids which are essential to our diet. Instead we must rely on our food sources for these essential fatty acids. Both Omega 3 and Omega 6 are converted in our bodies into other essential acids which we can also get from our food sources. Babies aren’t able to convert acids into other essentials such as DHA as quickly as adults.

Development of the brain begins during the first few weeks of gestation. By twenty four weeks, neurons begin traveling to the brain’s cortex, an important step for effective brain function. The third trimester brings tremendous growth of the baby’s brain. DHA levels in the brain continue to increase from the third trimester through the first two years of life.

According to researchers at the University of Oslo in Norway, during the last trimester, maternal levels of DHA tend to fall as her DHA is transferred to the fetus to support the developing brain, eye and nervous system.

The typical American diet falls short on intake of DHA rich foods. During pregnancy, a time when women should be trying to get more DHA, women are urged to eat even less of these foods. Salmon and tuna are loaded with DHA but due to high mercury levels, pregnant women must limit their eating of these fish and other seafood. It’s a dilemma easily solved by taking DHA supplements.

While a recommended daily value has yet to be established by the FDA, the National Institution of Health recommends 300 mg per day of DHA for pregnant and nursing women.

Various studies have shown increased IQs of children whose mothers took DHA supplements during pregnancy and lactation. One study in particular was done by the University of Oslo in Norway, the study concluded that maternal intake of DHA during pregnancy and while breastfeeding may be favorable for later mental development of their children.

DHA supplements designed especially for pregnant or nursing women are available over the counter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


1 × eight =