The omega-3 fatty acid DHA is critical for developing babies, but many people don’t realize it’s also beneficial for pregnant and nursing women.* This essential fat appears to play a role in helping women feel good emotionally, both before and after giving birth.*
Sadly, 75 percent of pregnant women don’t get enough DHA. [i] That’s a problem, because pregnancy depletes DHA stores, and levels continue to decline after delivery. Why? Blame nature. When expecting moms and developing babies both need a nutrient, nature always favors the baby. And that means mamas may suffer the consequences.
Here are two research-backed reasons why pregnant and nursing women need DHA:
- Positive outlook: It’s not uncommon for women to feel down after giving birth, or even while pregnant. Interestingly, women who have low levels of DHA are more likely to experience the baby blues.* [ii] While not all studies agree, some have shown that giving women omega-3 supplements during pregnancy supports feelings of positivity — both before [iii],[iv] and after giving birth.*[v],[vi]
- Peace and relaxation: As much as you may want and love your new child, being pregnant is still a stressful experience. Your body is changing, your hormones are raging, and everything in your world is about to turn upside (either for the first time or again). Fortunately, a recent study found that women who have a high intake of omega-3 fatty acids are more likely to stay peaceful and relaxed while pregnant than those who consume little to none.*[vii]
How much is enough?
Most studies typically use between 1,000 – 3,000 mg of a combination of EPA/DHA per day to support emotional well-being before and during pregnancy*; however, far less may be needed. A recently published study on the use of DHA in preventing the baby blues used just 300 mg per day.* [viii]
Fish oil is the most concentrated source of EPA and DHA. However, if you’re vegetarian, you can substitute flax oil instead. It contains the omega-3 fatty acid ALA, which is partially converted to DHA in the body. According to a 2002 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, pregnant women convert up to 9 percent of ALA to DHA, so you can still get a good dose of the stuff without consuming fish. [xi] For example, one tablespoon of Barlean’s Fresh Flax Oil Organic provides 7,640 mg of ALA. Assuming a 9 percent conversion rate, that tablespoon provides nearly 690 mg of DHA.
* This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent any disease.
[i}Xiaoming Jia, et al. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2015 May;40(5):474-81.
[ii]Otto SJ, de Groot RH, Hornstra G. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2003 Oct;69(4):237-43.
[iii] Kaviani M, et al. Int J Community Based Nurs Midwifery. 2014 Jul; 2(3): 142–147.
[iv] Su KP, et al. J Clin Psychiatry. 2008 Apr;69(4):644-51.
[v] Judge MP. Experimental Biology 2011 Annual Meeting: Abstract 349.7. Presented April 12, 2011.
[vi] Freeman MP, et al. Acta Psychiatr Scand. 2006 Jan;113(1):31-5.
[vii] Dos Santos Vaz J, et al. PLoS One. 2013; 8(7):e67671
[viii] Judge MP, 2011.
[xi] Burdge GC, Wootton SA. Br J Nutr. 2002 Oct;88(4):411-20.