The journey of navigating pregnancy is unique for every woman. You have to be mindful of multiple lifestyle choices like your exercise routine, diet, nutrition, and more. It is essential to ensure you have the appropriate resources available to make those choices. Here, we will discuss one such aspect - the role of vitamins and nutrients, especially the role of Omega-3 DHA, throughout pregnancy.
Having said that, certain nutrients are commonly overlooked even though they play an important part in the formative months of gestation. Omega-3 DHA happens to be one such compound.
Let’s dive right into everything you need to know about Omega-3 DHA and its significance during pregnancy.
What Is Omega-3 DHA?
DHA stands for Docosahexaenoic Acid (yes, it’s a mouthful). Essentially, it is an omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid. It is a foremost structural component of the cell membranes, retina, and most importantly, the human brain.1
Experts recommend that pregnant and lactating women should consume approximately 200 mg of DHA a day.2 However, our bodies produce very small quantities of Omega-3 DHA naturally.1 Dietary source like cold-water fish, grass-fed meat, dairy products, or omega-3 enriched or pasture-raised eggs surely help achieve adequate amounts of DHA. Apart from that, you can also obtain DHA from other supplement sources such as fish oil.
How Does Omega-3 DHA Help The Baby?
1) Development Of The Brain And Nervous System
3) Healthy Birth Weight
In addition to the development of a healthy brain and eyes, DHA is also useful in the overall growth of the body. The babies are born with prominent birth weight, length, and head circumference, which denotes adequate nourishment in the womb.9 Therefore, DHA ensures holistic nourishment and helps the baby grow and reach an optimum birth weight.
4) Improves Immune System
DHA supplementation also has positive implications on the child’s immune system. Research shows that consuming Omega-3 DHA during pregnancy leads to a decline in the occurrence of cold in infants. These children also experience a shorter duration of coughing, wheezing, fever, and other symptoms when suffering from an illness.10
Benefits Of Omega-3 DHA For The Mother
Apart from being extremely beneficial for the child in your womb, DHA also proves to be useful for you during your pregnancy. It helps identify the following risks:
1) Preterm Birth
Low DHA in mothers can lead to an increased risk of preterm birth. You can take a prenatal DHA test to monitor the levels. Consistent DHA supplementation can be of great benefit as it can reduce the chances of early preterm birth by 42%.11
3) Postpartum Depression And Stress
Lastly, Omega-3 fatty acids, especially DHA can help improve the symptoms of depression in perinatal and pregnant women as well.13 You can try to maximize the consumption of DHA after a consultation with your clinician throughout the pregnancy to uplift your mood and avoid postpartum depression.
How Can You Include DHA In Your Diet?
The amount of omega-3 DHA a mother's fetus can absorb throughout pregnancy and the amount of DHA her baby gets at birth are significantly influenced by her diet. You can include preformed DHA sources such as algae oil supplements in your diet.3 Furthermore, you can consume a variety of fish (such as shrimp, herring, salmon, anchovies, sardines, lobster, oysters, etc.) two to three times per week or just one serving of fish per week (halibut, tuna, albacore, snapper, etc).14
As we have seen, Omega-3 DHA can prove to be immensely useful to the developing baby as well as the mother. However, increasing your DHA intake with supplements may not suffice. Therefore, you need to monitor the DHA levels throughout your pregnancy to check if the nutrient shows excess or low level in the maternal blood. The best way to keep a check on Omega-3 DHA levels is with the OmegaScore-P test. This way you can make the most of the results by planning a healthy diet that provides the optimum dose of DHA for the development of your baby.