Mum & baby - The importance of DHA

pregnant woman with her hands on her belly

The importance of DHA for mum and baby...

DHA is a type of Omega-3 fatty acid that is found throughout the body, but is most abundant in the brain, eyes and heart. In fact, DHA represents about 97% of all Omega-3 fats in the brain and 93% of all Omega-3 fats in the retina of the eye. DHA accumulates both prenatally and postnatally in the infant brain, eye and nervous system tissue. Developing infants cannot efficiently produce their own DHA and must obtain this vital nutrient through the placenta during pregnancy and from breast milk following birth. Increasing DHA in the diet during pregnancy and nursing increases the level of DHA available to the unborn baby or infant.

The benefits of DHA during pregnancy...

Recent EU expert conclusions indicate that DHA plays a crucial role in optimal brain and eye development. DHA is important throughout pregnancy, particularly in the third trimester when the major brain growth occurs.

Increasing DHA intake during pregnancy and nursing significantly enhances the level of DHA available to the foetus and infant.

pregnant woman holding a stethoscope to her belly

Certain studies have shown a link between supplementation of DHA in the mother’s diet and:

  • increased birth weight
  • higher intelligence
  • better social skills
  • fewer behavioural problems
  • eye-hand coordination
  • motor skills
  • increased attention span
  • reduced risk of ADHD
  • reduced risk of obesity and auto-immune diseases such as type-1 diabetes
  • reduced risk of early delivery

DHA has also been shown to play a part in maternal well-being. Studies show that supplementation of DHA in the mother’s diet can reduce the risk of early delivery and help prevent postpartum depression.

a mother holding her babys feeta smiling babya mother playing with her childtwo siblings playing

Note:  The contents of the Omvits site are for informational purposes only and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. 

How much DHA is needed during pregnancy?

It is almost impossible for pregnant women to meet their DHA requirements from diet alone. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) scientific panel recommends that pregnant and nursing women should consume an additional 200 mg DHA daily in addition to the 250 mg Omega-3 recommended for an average adult - that's a total of 450 mg. Western diets are generally rich in Omega-6 but deficient in Omega-3, making it very difficult for pregnant women on a western diet to meet this recommendation without a DHA supplement. 

a diagram showing that at least 450mg of Omega-3 DHA/EPA is needed by pregnant women daily

A great plant-based source of DHA for pregnant and nursing women