What is DHA and why do we emphasize its importance during pregnancy?

DHA is a fat molecule commonly found in fish.  Like vitamins it is essential to normal development, indeed it is called an essential fatty acid.  Our eyes and brains especially require DHA.   In fact, it is the top building block for the brain and retina.  In a 2003 article in the Journal of Pediatrics, researchers reported that mothers who took DHA supplements from week 18 of their pregnancy through delivery had children who tested higher on IQ tests at age four.  They concluded the DHA helped the brain develop to its fullest potential.

Can we get DHA from our diet?  The short answer is not very easily.  DHA is found in fish but we caution pregnant women not to eat too much fish because of the mercury in seafood.  Certain types of fish are okay because they are high in DHA and low in mercury.  The number one fish is farmed raised trout, number two is sardines.  I know very few women who like sardines, especially during pregnancy.  DHA is now being added to milk and eggs but you have to look for specific brands that do so, and they will be pricier.  To make it easy you can now get prenatal vitamins with DHA and take purified fish oil which is rich in DHA.  During your last trimester when brain growth is very rapid, do it all.   Eat eggs and milk fortified with DHA, have seafood low in mercury high in DHA (see our fish scale on our website), and take fish oil or a prenatal with DHA.   As I always say “DHA is food for thought”.

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