More Important than Folic Acid?! DHA!

7:43 PM

As long as I've been aware of it the big caution through the child bearing years has been to intake enough folic acid. This is undeniably important, however a newer realization is leaving nutrition professionals promoting DHA supplements or adequate intake as equally or more vital.

DHA, or docosahexaenoic acid, is a polyunsaturated omega 3. Among other things, its function is to aid in brain, nervous system and eye development. There is no greater time in our lives that we need a heavy dose of DHA than while we're growing in the womb. Because babies can't reach out and snag a serving of tuna salad, we as moms need to make sure that we're getting enough from our food (unlikely) or taking a fish oil supplement. There are vegan options, made from algae, and there is also the potential to convent plant-derived ALA fats into DHA if you're quite healthy and eating a lot of ALA-rich foods. (ALA is found in flax, hemp, chia and many nut oils.) The greatest need for DHA is during the third trimester.

Studies testing the effectiveness of various maternal nutritional efforts to increase childhood IQ came up with little benefit - most often a difference in score of 1 or less. Then, new studies showed DHA supplementation during pregnancy producing an increase of 6 - 10 points in IQ score. 

DHA can also decrease risk of preterm birth, and can lessen or prevent postpartum depression symptoms. Some doctors and researchers believe the mood changes are due to severe DHA depletion in new mothers - only to worsen upon breast feeding, when the infant continues to need high doses from mom's stores.

If you're looking for food sources of DHA some of the safer fish are pollock, haddock and cod. You can also go by the old rule that you shouldn't eat the same variety fish in one week in hopes that they'll contain different metals/ toxins and won't build up; or go with smaller fish that don't have the fat content in their bodies to store heavy metals.

Lastly, remember, pregnancy is no time to worry or stress. Advice should be considered with an open mind and positive thinking, it should not be a source of stress. In fact, stress raises cortisol levels and will undo any beneficial efforts you've been managing. It is a beautiful time and if you stay calm, nourish yourself and look forward to your little bundle of joy, everything will work out perfectly.

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