DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) is an omega 3 fatty acid essential for pregnant women and their developing fetus. Because it is an “essential fatty acid” women must get it through their diet or supplementation in order to reap the many benefits for themselves and their baby.
Some of the current research on DHA shows:
- Enhances fetal and infant brain development.
- Children whose mother’s took DHA supplementation during pregnancy scored higher on intelligence tests at four years of age than children of mothers not taking DHA supplementation.
- Babies of mothers who supplemented with DHA have more advanced attention spans.
- Cultures whose diets are high in omega 3 fatty acids have lower incidence of degenerative diseases of the central nervous system, such as multiple sclerosis.
- Many children who have been diagnosed with ADD have insufficient levels of essential fatty acids in their diet.
- DHA may increase gestation length by 6-days.
- Enhances fetal and infant eye development.
- Prevents against postpartum depression.
DHA food sources
- Seafood (especially coldwater fish), algae and fortified eggs. The healthiest (low mercury) fish with the highest DHA levels are wild salmon and sardines. Two 4-ounce pieces of wild salmon/week provides a healthy source of DHA.
- “How about flaxseeds?” This is a common question I receive, especially from my vegetarian patients. Flaxseeds contain the omega-3 fatty acid “alpha linolenic acid”. Our bodies must convert alpha-linolenic acid to DHA-this does not always happen efficiently.
During pregnancy, I recommend supplementing with at least 450 mg/day, with the ideal supplementation dose of 800-1000mg of DHA/day. Store DHA in the fridge (to prevent against oxidation) and take with a meal for enhanced absorption and protection against stomach upset.