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Why is DHA important during pregnancy?

Why is DHA important during pregnancy?
Dec 13, 2017

When you are pregnant, the expression ‘eating for two’ (or three or more in some cases) does not refer to how much you should be eating, but rather to the quality of food you should be eating. What you eat ends up feeding your baby and fuelling their growth and health. An important element of nutrition for a developing infant is DHA, or docosahexaenoic acid, otherwise known as an omega-3. DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid which must be obtained through diet by the mother for both herself and her unborn child.

Sharing of DHA from mother to baby

Studies have shown that a certain amount of polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as omega-3, taken during pregnancy crosses the placenta to feed the baby. It is the same for breastmilk of lactating moms. In both instances, the amount of DHA that gets to the child is dependent on how much the mother takes herself. [i] The best source of DHA comes through our diet or supplements, which emphasizes the importance of including DHA into your daily lifestyle, especially while you are pregnant or breastfeeding, thus providing DHA to your baby.[ii] [iii]

Time when baby’s development needs the most DHA

DHA is the most abundant fatty acid in the brain. It is found in the cell membranes of neurons [iv] and it is involved in forming neurotransmitters,[v] the chemicals that neurons in the brain use to send messages to one another.  Since a baby’s brain starts to form and cranial nerves become visible between 6 and 7 weeks of gestation[vi], the need for omega-3 DHA starts early on during pregnancy. However, the most rapid neural and retinal development (which is responsible for vision) occurs during the third trimester of pregnancy[vii]. DHA intake is crucial for this period of rapid growth to ensure your adequate levels for you and your baby.

In fact, babies accumulate DHA into their central nervous system up until at least 18 months of age[viii], therefore a breastfeeding mother will need to continue to include appropriate amounts of levels DHA in order to provide an adequate amount for her growing baby.

Click here to learn about DHA recommendations for infants and pregnant and nursing mothers.

To read simple tips for a healthy pregnancy click here.

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When you are pregnant, the expression ‘eating for two’ doesn’t refer to how much you should be eating, but the quality of food you should be eating.

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