New research provides yet another reason for pregnant women to consider their DHA status during pregnancy—DHA may promote increased birth weight and longer gestational age in their babies.
The study found that mom’s who took 600 milligrams of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA during pregnancy gave birth to infants who were less likely to have very low birth weight and to be born before 34 weeks compared to mom’s who didn’t receive the supplement.
This has both clinical and cost implications as these two factors can significantly impact the overall health and development of infants and lengthen hospital stays.
Your body needs DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) for the proper functioning of your brain as an adult, and for the development of your nervous system and visual abilities during the first 6 months of life.
Our bodies naturally produce small amounts of DHA, but we must get the amounts we need from our diet. Dietary sources of DHA include cold water fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines and anchovies. Seaweed is a good vegetarian source of DHA.
Eating oily fish two to three times per week typically supplies adequate amounts of EPA and DHA for adults. Unfortunately, most Americans don’t get enough omega-3 fatty acids in their diet.
This is where fish oil or other DHA supplements may fill dietary gaps. Supplements are also convenient for those who don’t like the taste of fish or don’t have access to high quality seafood.
For infants, breast milk from a mother who eats a healthy diet contains significant amounts of DHA. Infant formula may or may not have any DHA.
DHA for Expectant Mothers
While DHA supports both mom and babies health, children and pregnant women should avoid species of fish with the potential for the highest level of mercury contamination: king mackerel, shark, swordfish, and tilefish. They should also limit consumption of white albacore tuna to under 6 oz. per week.
High-quality fish oil supplements made by manufacturers who test for mercury and other toxins do not pose the same risk of mercury contamination.
Speak with your doctor about how you can ensure proper nutrition for yourself and your baby.
New Hope 360
University of Maryland Medical Center
American Heart Association