DHA | Supplements for Pregnancy

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I'm always interested in ways I can optimize my health. Now with a little one on the way, I have to take special care with the things I put into my body. Right now, I'm especially interested in DHA. 



Docosahexaenoic acid (don't ask me how to say that), DHA for short, is one of two main forms of omega-3 fatty acids. EPA is the second form, however for the purposes of this discussion, we will be focusing mainly on DHA. In the human body, DHA is the primary component of the brain, cerebral cortex, retina and skin. DHA is important for growth, development and maintenance. DHA is primarily concerned with the development of children and the preservation of brain tissue.  



DHA is especially important for pregnant & lactating women and growing babies. It is involved directly in the formation of baby’s nervous system,  brain and eyes. For mom, DHA helps with the production of breast milk (It pretty much goes without saying, but providing breast milk, as long as you are able to, is one of the best things you can do for your child). In addition, increased omega-3 consumption, specifically DHA, has been associated with decreased risk of preeclampsia and premature delivery, increased birth weight for baby and (perhaps most notably) decreased occurrence of depression and other mood disorders for mom. While these associations have yet to be proven conclusively, it can certainly be an appealing option for mothers concerned with depression and anxiety. 



I prefer to get my nutrients from food-based sources and recommend that you do the same whenever possible. Cold-water fish, including salmon, herring, anchovies and tuna, are all excellent sources of omega-3. It should be noted that fish & purified fish oil are the best sources for DHA. Flax and flax seed are often recommended to those looking for a plant-based source, however flax contains a different type of omega-3, known as ALA. Unfortunately, ALA conversion to DHA typically does not occur; when it does, it’s pretty inefficient. 


Those that require a plant-based source for DHA may consider getting it from algae instead. 



While standard recommendations for pregnant and lactating women have not yet been established, common recommendations range from about 200mg-300mg of DHA per day.