Nutrition during pregnancy is paramount, I’ve discussed briefly the supplements I’ve been taking during pregnancy, which ones are essential for all expectant mothers and which ones I’ve taken specially for my own individual needs. Here I discuss DHA and its importance during pregnancy.
So what is DHA?
DHA, official name docosahexaenoic acid is an omega-3 fatty acid found primarily in our brain, skin and eyes. Highest concentrations are found in the central nervous system and eyes.
Why do we need it during pregnancy?
- 60% of our brain is made up fat, and 97% of that fat comes from DHA
- 70% of the total brain cells needed to last a person an entire lifetime has divided before birth
- DHA is critical for brain development and function and healthy eye development
- DHA is critical for memory and cognition
- Ensures baby brains neurons (the things that allow are brain cells to communicate with each other), can talk to each other properly, also reduces brain inflammation
- Improves immune system and helps prevent infection
What the studies say
- Low DHA has resulted in impaired leaning and behaviour2
- Studies have demonstrated a child’s cognitive and behavioural scores improved upon DHA supplementation.
- Higher DHA cord plasma concentrations were associated with longer gestation and better visual acuity at 6 months and better mental processing at 11 months3
- A Longitudinal study with children assessed at 4, 6 and 8 months – DHA supplementation was linked to better attentiveness and less distractibility4
- Other trails have shown DHA supplementation during pregnancy to be protective against eczema and dust mite allergies (most common allergy)
Best Way to get DHA?
Unfortunately, we can’t make our own DHA so it is vital we get DHA from our diet or from supplementation. Unfortunately, our food supply can be depleted in vital nutrients due pesticides, transportation, processing etc. Not to mention the water pollution and mercury found in deep water fish which is one of the best sources of DHA. Supplementation during pregnancy is the best and the safer way to ensure your growing baby is getting enough DHA for healthy brain and eye development.
Dosing through each trimester
DHA supplementation is most critical during the last trimester and first 3 months postnatally due to a growth spurt in the brain1. As our natural reserves become depleted as pregnancy progresses, which not easy to replenish, in conjunction with mercury concerns of fish I highly recommend a DHA supplement to ensure you’re getting the right amount.
- 430-860mg daily
- 860-1720mg daily
- 1700- 2500mg daily
- 1700-2500mg daily
4 months +
- 900-1700mg daily
A word on DHA & Post-Partum Depression
Our baby will drain our own DHA supply to support its own development. If dietary intake is insufficient, often mothers will become depleted which may increase the risk of post-partum depression. Although there are many other factors at play surrounding post-partum depression further studies are needed to be done to assess whether DHA supplementation can reduce major post-partum depressive symptoms.
I currently take Bioceuticals DHA Omega, which is available at most health food stores. Another good one is Nordic Natural DHA Omega not as readily available in store but I believe you can find it online.
By Megan Maitland
NATUROPATH | NUTRITIONIST | BIOMEDICAL SCIENCE
- Rees A, Sirois S, Wearden A, Maternal docosahexaenoic acid intake levels during pregnancy and infant performance on a novel object task at 22 months. Child Dev 2014;85(6):2131-2139
- Kuratko CN, Barrett EC, Nelson EB, et.al. The relationship of DHA with learning and behaviour in health children: a review. Nutrients 2013;5(7):2777-2810
- Jacobson JL, Jacobson SW, Muckle G, et al. Beneficial effects of polyunsaturated fatty acid on infant development: evidence from the inuit of artic Quebec. J Pediatr 2008;152(3):356-364
- Colombo J, KNNaa KN, Shaddy DJ, et.al Maternal SHA and the development of attention in infancy and toddlerhood. Chil Dev 2004; 75 (4): 1254-1267
- Hibbeln JR. Seafood consumption, the DHA content of mother’s milk and prevalence rates of postpartum depression: a cross national, ecological analysis . J Affect Disord 2002; 69(1-3):15-29.