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When you’re eating for two, what’s on the menu is important. Be sure to include some DHA-rich foods on your plate during this time. Foods like salmon, sardines and eggs have DHA, which will help nourish your body with good fats and support your baby’s brain development. Learn more about prenatal DHA benefits, what foods have it and how much DHA during pregnancy is recommended for you in this article.

 

How Prenatal DHA Supports Baby’s Brain Development

How Prenatal DHA Supports Your Health

How Much Prenatal DHA You Need

Prenatal DHA for Moms Expecting More than One

Where can I get DHA during pregnancy?

How Prenatal DHA Supports Baby’s Brain Development

DHA is an omega-3 fat and key building block of the brain. Starting in the last trimester, your baby’s brain develops faster than ever to prepare for life outside the womb. Because of this, your baby’s brain will store between 50 and 70 mg of DHA per day. 1 Our bodies cannot efficiently convert omega-3 fats into DHA, so adding prenatal DHA to your diet helps provide more support for your baby’s brain as it develops on its own.

How Prenatal DHA Supports Your Health

Prenatal DHA doesn’t just support your baby; it supports your body too. Along with increasing the amount of DHA available to your baby by replenishing your diet,2 prenatal DHA nourishes your body with good fats. When you consume prenatal DHA, you’re not only providing brain-building nutrients for your baby; you’re nourishing your body for a healthy pregnancy.

How Much Prenatal DHA You Need

Many experts recommend that pregnant and breastfeeding women should consume at least 200 mg of DHA daily to support normal fetal brain development.3 However, most pregnant women do not get enough DHA during pregnancy. According to a study by the University of Alberta, nearly 75 percent of pregnant Canadians consume less than the expert recommended amount of DHA.4 On average, they only get about 80 mg per day.5

Prenatal DHA for Moms Expecting More than One

If you’re expecting multiple children, it’s recommended that you add prenatal DHA to your diet to support their brain development and maintain your healthy levels of DHA. According to a study by Maastricht University in the Netherlands, pregnant women who had twins, triplets or other multiples of children experienced lower-than-normal levels of DHA after delivery.6 You can help support normal levels of DHA by consuming an expert recommended amount of 200 mg per day.

Where can I get DHA during pregnancy?

You can get DHA from a variety of dietary sources. Common foods with DHA that you can enjoy during pregnancy include:

  • Salmon

  • Herring

  • Pacific mackerel

  • Sardines

  • Anchovies

  • Cod

  • Tilapia

  • Canned white tuna

  • DHA-fortified milk or eggs

  • Crab

  • Shrimp

As you probably noticed, the list above is heavy on fish options. DHA levels are uniquely high compared to other foods with omega-3 fats. Eating fatty fish also provides important nutrients such as protein, vitamin D, zinc and iron. Canada’s Food Guide recommends that pregnant women continue to eat at least 150 grams, or five ounces, of cooked fish each week.5 Start incorporating omega-3 fats into your diet today with fish and other DHA-fortified food. Try one of our DHA-rich recipes below:

Keep in mind that there are some types of fish that should be avoided or minimally consumed during pregnancy due to potential mercury exposure, including the following:

  • Fresh and frozen tuna

  • Shark

  • Swordfish

  • Marlin

  • Orange roughy

  • Escolar7

Not a fan of seafood? No problem! Consider taking a DHA supplement during pregnancy, such as fish oil, to help support your baby’s brain development. Remember that fish oil should never smell or taste fishy, as this is a sign the fish oil may be rancid.9 Making sure your fish oil supplement comes from a credible manufacturer is important. When choosing fish oil supplements, choose ones with a Natural Product Number (NPN) on the package. NPN numbers indicate the supplement is government-approved for safety, efficacy, and quality.

By making sure you get enough DHA during pregnancy, you’re helping your child have a healthy start to life, and a healthy Mom to enjoy it with her. Prenatal DHA not only supports baby brain development, but a healthy, happy pregnancy, too. If you have a medical question or concern about your baby’s development or nutrition, please consult with your doctor.

 

Resources:

1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2621042/

2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5030225/

3. https://www.nrcresearchpress.com/doi/full/10.1139/apnm-2014-0313#.XheZe0dKiUn

4. http://jn.nutrition.org/content/135/2/206.full

5. Jennifer Denomme, Ken D. Stark, Bruce J. Holub. Directly Quantitated Dietary (n-3) Fatty Acid Intakes of Pregnant Canadian Women Are Lower than Current Dietary Recommendations. The Journal of Nutrition. 2005;135(2):206–211.

6. http://www.nature.com/ejcn/journal/v51/n8/pdf/1600444a.pdf?origin=public

7. http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/pubs/nutrition/omega3-eng.php

8. https://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/omega-3-fish-oil/