3 Ways DHA Supports Moms And Babies
Pregnant women need extra vitamins, minerals and nutrients to support their baby’s growth and development. According to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, moms-to-be should up their calcium intake to support the development of baby’s bones and teeth, and be sure they are getting extra iron in order to supply their baby with enough oxygen.
It’s also recommended that expectant mothers take 600 micrograms daily of folic acid, a B vitamin crucial in preventing birth defects in the baby’s brain and spinal cord, and increase their doses of vitamins A, B12 and D.
As with folic acid, it’s a good idea to start taking a high quality omega-3 fish oil supplement around six months before conception, to allow the body to build up its stores of the essential fatty acids EPA, and especially DHA. Learn 3 ways DHA supports moms and babies.
1. DHA Supports Babies’ Brain and Visual Development
DHA has long been identified as a key component for good health, and is often recognized for its importance in supporting healthy brain and visual development in infants and children. Guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend that pregnant and nursing women consume an average of 300mg per day or more of DHA, either by eating fish or taking an omega-3 supplement.
2. DHA Reduces the Risk of Premature Birth
While the length of most pregnancies is between 38 and 42 weeks, premature babies—those born before the 37-week mark—are at a greater risk for long-term conditions, including problems with their lungs and immune systems, visual and hearing loss, developmental delays and learning difficulties.
A recent review by Middleton and her team highlights the positive effect of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids—notably DHA—and their role in reducing the risk of premature births. Researchers looked at 70 randomized trials with nearly 20,000 women and found that increasing the daily intake of long-chain omega-3s to between 500 and 1,000 mg while pregnant resulted in a 42% reduction in births before 34 weeks gestation, an 11% reduction in births before 37 weeks gestation and a 10% reduction in low birth weight.
Based on this study and other research, Dr. Jackson recently developed the Prenatal DHA Test, a simple finger prick blood test that lets women monitor their levels of DHA. The target Prenatal DHA target level for pregnant women is at least 5%, primarily based on lowering risk of early preterm birth. Should your level fall below the recommended 5%, you can make adjustments by eating DHA-rich, low-mercury fish or taking DHA a supplement.
3. DHA May Support Mom’s Mood After Birth
While it’s clear that DHA is essential to your baby’s well-being, studies show that women who eat enough fish during pregnancy or supplement with an omega-3 fish oil product can also benefit after giving birth. DHA is known to play a role in the production and transport of the vital mood enhancing hormones dopamine and serotonin.
Therefore, if a mother has an adequate amount in her system, it may help her avoid postpartum depression, which typically occurs in 10-25% of women and is commonly associated with an omega-3 deficiency.