Wednesday, February 8, 2012

What is DHA and do I need it During Pregnancy

DHA has been talked about for a while now, however there are now more pharmaceutical companies than ever promoting what miracles happen when you take THE right prenatal vitamin. Used to be the size or extra iron, chew ables and gummies, vanilla-flavored and I remember the days when we used to advise "just two Flintstones".

Well, there is an omega- 3 fatty acid that is an important nutrient for us all and important in pregnancy too. Studies have shown that many women of childbearing age don't get enough. Docosahexaenoic acid ( DHA )is being recommended by the Institute of Medicine as being 300-400 mgs of the 1.4 g total for omega-3s.

The benefits are multi-fold. Brain and vision development require adequate amounts of DHA. The brain increases 260% in the last twelve weeks of pregnancy so it may not be a coincidence that DHA is purported to reduce the risk of preterm labor. Higher birth weight babies with adequate DHA. And breastfed babies whose mothers ingest enough DHA have continued heightened brain activity.


DHA has goodness for mothers too. Bennies for Mom may include the ability to burn more of that "baby-fat",decreasing the likelihood of future heart disease. It may also decrease postpartum depression!

So where do we get DHA? Best sources of all nutrition continue to be not in supplement form but rather from a balanced diet. The sources of omega-3s and DHA are fish and seafood. And we all know that too much seafood is contraindicated due to high levels of mercury found in this same food group. The good news is that there are fishes that are high in DHA and low in mercury. That's what you want.

2-3 times a week eat 3 ounces of canned Pink salmon or fresh Pink salmon. Eat 3 ounces of light canned tuna. 12 large shrimp. 3 ounces of tilapia. 3 ounces of cod or pollack or steamed Blue crab. Make sure that the fish you are consuming is low in mercury; shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish.

Other dietary sources of omega-3s aren't quite so thrilling or filling but they include walnuts and oils pressed from canola and flaxseed. These oils are suitable for cooking with and are often incorporated into mayonnaise and "butter"-type spreads. Many foods fortified with DHA ( as opposed to just omega-3s )include certain brands of soy milk, eggs and other milk products.

So, eat 12 ounces of fish or seafood that is also low in mercury. And eat those special eggs that are fortified with DHA, you know the ones. If you are unable to eat your way to the supposed 200-300 mg per day currently being supported in the medical literature, well then, talk to your provider about a supplement.