Category Archives: Pregnancy

Prenatal DHA Guide

Finding out you’re pregnant can be such an exciting moment, especially for couples who really planned everything out. Having a baby on the way entails a lot of future joy and happiness, but it also requires both parents, particularly the mom, to be much more stringent when it comes to the type of nutrients she’ll take. After all, it takes nine months to give birth to a baby and what mommy consumes before giving birth will determine just how healthy the baby will be.

When you check with your family doctor, one of the first things they tell you is the importance of prenatal vitamins and other pregnancy supplements, and how it improves the outcome of pregnancy advice. No, your doctor isn’t just telling you to buy his supplements; recent studies show prenatal supplements, such as prenatal DHA, help reduce infant health risks among as well as a multitude of pregnancy complications.

Prenatal DHA is among the most recommended prenatal supplements. It is the most abundant fatty acid found in our brain and is key when it comes to a child’s brain, nerve, and vision development. As with any supplements, it all boils down to one question: Do you need to take prenatal DHA?

Read on to find out.

What are Prenatal Vitamins?

Prenatal vitamins are formulated to lessen the risks and complications of pregnancy and are considered critical for both mother and child. [1] The benefits prenatal vitamins and supplements provide are well-documented and can be the safest choice for an expecting mom to manage her pregnancy.

Researchers suggest there are certain nutrients needed by the baby that can’t be sourced from diet alone. Studies are further supported by the experience of mothers taking prenatal supplements and were able to have healthy babies compared to those who only relied on diet alone. [2]

Another reason to add prenatal DHA is how deprivation results to visual and behavioral disorders, two things that cannot be remedied by supplementing after giving birth.

The Most Recommended Prenatal Vitamins

Other than DHA, typical prenatal vitamins are folic acid, iron, calcium, vitamins A, B, C, D, and other minerals. The difference between prenatal vitamins and typical multivitamins are the formula and how they were manufactured. Unlike typical supplements, prenatal vitamins avoid the use of artificial colors, preservatives, and invest more in natural ingredients.

Below are samples of prenatal vitamins and their benefits:

1. DHA

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is a form of Omega-3 and is mostly found in the brain. DHA is naturally found in foods high in omega-3 such as fish. Research suggests proper DHA intake during pregnancy prevents preterm labor and postpartum depression. [3, 4] Guidelines recommend at least 200 mg daily for baby’s brain development. [5]

2. Flaxseed Oil

Many think the omega-3 in flaxseed oil is the same as the ones found in fish. While it’s technically true, the one found in flaxseed oil is called Alpha-linolenic acid or ALA. For the body to use ALA as omega-3, the body needs to first convert it and unfortunately, the amount converted is just between 5-15%, making flaxseed oil an inefficient source of omega-3. [6, 7]

3. Iron

Most women take iron supplements by default, but pregnant moms need to take more as it is responsible for the baby’s cell growth as well as benefit the baby’s ability to absorb nutrients. Not to mention pregnant mothers need fifty percent more blood than normal, and iron helps the body produce more blood.

4. Calcium

Not just for bones and teeth, calcium supplementation during pregnancy has been known to reduce occurrences of heartburns and even pre-eclampsia, [8] a condition described as the mother having abnormally high blood pressure caused by a protein “leak” from the kidneys that ends up flowing into the uterus. Suffice to say, the protein leak is dangerous for the baby as well.

5. Folic Acid

Folic acid is regarded as the most important supplement both expecting and non-expecting women should have. Some of its pregnancy-related benefits include improved fertility, healthy brain development, and reduced risk of neural tube defects. Multivitamin no folic acid? No thanks.

DHA: Why it’s the most important prenatal vitamin

As discussed earlier, DHA is critical for healthy fetal brain development as well as prevention of pre-term labor and postpartum depression. This fatty acid is mainly sourced from the fats of oily fish and seafood together with EPA.

  • Benefits of DHA

Not just a pregnancy supplement, adequate intake of DHA provides anti-inflammatory benefits which helps lower risk of allergens as well as many other diseases. The elderly could also benefit from DHA particularly when it comes to cardiovascular and neurological health. [9, 10]

  • Benefits of EPA

While DHA and EPA essentially similar in terms of benefits and source, the latter is a whole other form of omega-3.

EPA’s main benefit is mitigating cellular inflammation. Inhibiting inflammation means you have a lower risk of incurring inflammatory diseases such as asthma, ulcer, certain cancers, and even fevers. On top of reducing the risk of inflammation, EPA is also much better than DHA when it come to being used as treatment for brain-related issues such as depression, brain trauma, ADHD, and even Alzheimer’s Disease. [11 – 13]

Sources of DHA and EPA in Diet

When it comes to DHA and EPA, plant sources are simply inefficient. For vegetarians, you’re going to have to double-down on your omega-3 intake to have similar benefits. One woman we know takes ovega 3 vegetarian softgels for this purpose. For others, to get the best source of these great fatty acids, you have to focus on fish and seafood sources. Great sources include salmon, tuna, herring, sardines, and mackerel. Some farmed fish have higher levels of EPA & DHA compared to their wild counterparts, but the amount varies on the type of diet the fish are fed. [14, 15]

Prenatal Multivitamin vs Prenatal DHA: Why they don’t offer the same benefits

Just like apples are different from oranges, prenatal multivitamins and DHA cannot be substituted for the other. A multivitamin is a blend of vitamins and minerals that benefit you and your baby, but it may not have the right amount of prenatal DHA. Below are some FAQs regarding DHA supplementation:

  • How do I take Prenatal DHA?

It varies to what your doctor prescribed, but most supplements recommend taking one capsule after a meal per day.

  • When should I take Prenatal DHA?

Prenatal DHA supplementation should start before amd during pregnancy, as well as after giving birth specifically when breastfeeding. Women who want to conceive should allow at least six months prior to conception to build up the necessary DHA inside her body. Multiple pregnancies require more DHA, so the dosage and frequency of intake adjusts accordingly.

  • How do nutrients get inside the baby while still in the womb?

The baby absorbs nutrients through three ways: mom and baby’s blood circulation, the placenta, and the umbilical cord. All nutrients pass through the placenta while the placenta acts as a sort of filter that removes the unnecessary metabolites. The placenta technically plays the role of kidney, gut, and liver for the baby.

When it comes to breastfeeding, the mother’s diet has little to do with the quality of the milk than it has on the body of the mother. The magical thing about breast milk is its composition varies according to the baby’s needs, especially during the first month. [16]

Can you take too much DHA?

DHA overdose is next to impossible if your only source is diet, but supplementation can definitely spike your levels beyond what the FDA recommends – which is around 300 – 1000 mg per day. With both EPA & DHA, the FDA says to not go over 3,000 mg.

One of the known risks of too much DHA is blood thinning. Blood thinning may not be that bad for normal, healthy individual, but could result in excessive bleeding when the mom finally delivers the baby. Other potential side effects are headaches, nausea, dizziness, and even vomiting.

The problem with overdosing on DHA is not just DHA itself, but where it’s extracted from as well as how it was manufactured.

When taking prenatal DHA, make sure it’s molecular distilled or sourced from algae, which is the original source. If not, the product you’re taking might have trace amounts of pollutants like mercury which can adversely affect the health of the baby.

Algae Oil: The Vegetarian DHA

Algae oil is derived directly from farm-raised algae and provide sustainable vegetarian, kosher, and organic DHA. The oil is added to some of our food to make sure we acquire enough omega-3s in our diet in a more sustainable and humane manner. [17]

On top of being a sustainable resource of DHA, algae oil is also known to be contaminant-free when raised in a clean farm. By contaminants we mean the likes of heavy metals found in the ocean such as mercury, a pollutant found in wild fish. How does mercury get into our fish anyway? 

  1. Methylmercury is dumped into waters through coal plants, mines, and even natural sources such as volcanoes.
  2. Almost every fish in the sea absorb some of this mercury, but its levels are still safe for the human body to eat. The problem starts when a bigger fish consume a smaller fish which then results to more mercury.
  3. This cycle goes all the way to apex predators like swordfish and shark, creatures that have extreme levels of mercury. 

Fish oil and Algae oil: Advantages and Disadvantages

The best perk of fish oil is its abundance and market popularity. Its current dominance makes it much more economical to produce and sell. Some of the drawbacks include spoilage, likely contains contaminants, overfishing is a risk, and people aren’t exactly fond of its taste and smell.

The best thing about algae oil is how it doesn’t have the same humanitarian issues of its scaly counterpart. It’s enjoyable by both meat eaters and vegetarians, and is definitely much more sustainable. Not to mention it’s technically clean of contaminants. It’s really just too expensive at the moment, but increased supplies should make it have a more attractive pricepoint in the future.

What is the Best DHA Supplement?

Here are some ways to verify a great prenatal DHA supplement.

  1. Trusted brand name. Great brands may be expensive, but they have the highest standards of quality and safety. You’re also buying something for your new baby, so think of it as an investment for your child.
    • Look for brands that guarantee “no fish burps.”
  2. Essential nutrients. There are benefits taking prenatal DHA supplements and it’s critical to understand not just the nutrients in the supplement, but also the respective dosage of each.
    • For DHA, a supplement must have at least 300 mg per serving.
  3. Source of DHA. Fish-derived prenatal DHA supplements will always be sold at a lower cost than ones from algae, but the purity and quality of algae oil makes it an appealing alternative even to non-vegans. 

Why is Diet Standards Prenatal DHA better than others?

When it comes to DHA Pregnancy, stick with Diet Standards Prenatal DHAHere are the reasons why Diet Standards Prenatal DHA is superior to competition:

  • Algae sourced.
  • Vegan softgels
  • Offers 825 mg of Omega-3s per serving
  • One serving contains 450 mg DHA and 225 EPA
  • Zero allergens (fish, egg, gluten, soy, milk, nuts) and zero contaminants
  • They submit to 3rd party lab tests and posts the results on their website.
Diet Standards

Diet Standards Prenatal DHA is available on Amazon. Click the image if you want to go to their Amazon page

References:

  1. Imhoff-Kunsch B, Stein AD, Martorell R, Parra-Cabrera S, Romieu I, Ramakrishnan U. Prenatal Docosahexaenoic Acid Supplementation and Infant Morbidity: Randomized Controlled Trial. Pediatrics. 2011;128(3):e505-e512. doi:10.1542/peds.2010-1386.
  2. Newman V, Lyon RB, Anderson PO. Evaluation of prenatal vitamin-mineral supplements. Clin Pharm. 1987;6(10):770-7.
  3. Hibbeln JR. Seafood consumption, the DHA content of mothers’ milk and prevalence rates of postpartum depression: a cross-national, ecological analysis. J Affect Disord. 2002;69(1-3):15-29.
  4. Sontrop J, Avison WR, Evers SE, Speechley KN, Campbell MK. Depressive symptoms during pregnancy in relation to fish consumption and intake of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. Paediatr Perinat Epidemiol. 2008;22(4):389-99.
  5. Koletzko B, Lien E, Agostoni C, et al. The roles of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in pregnancy, lactation and infancy: review of current knowledge and consensus recommendations. J Perinat Med. 2008;36(1):5-14.
  6. Brenna JT. Efficiency of conversion of alpha-linolenic acid to long chain n-3 fatty acids in man. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2002;5(2):127-32.
  7. Gerster H. Can adults adequately convert alpha-linolenic acid (18:3n-3) to eicosapentaenoic acid (20:5n-3) and docosahexaenoic acid (22:6n-3)?. Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 1998;68(3):159-73.
  8. Hofmeyr GJ, Roodt A, Atallah AN, Duley L. Calcium supplementation to prevent pre-eclampsia–a systematic review. S Afr Med J. 2003;93(3):224-8.
  9. Swanson D, Block R, Mousa SA. Omega-3 Fatty Acids EPA and DHA: Health Benefits Throughout Life. Advances in Nutrition. 2012;3(1):1-7. doi:10.3945/an.111.000893.
  10. Dyall SC, Michael-titus AT. Neurological benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. Neuromolecular Med. 2008;10(4):219-35.
  11. Bloch MH, Qawasmi A. Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation for the Treatment of Children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Symptomatology: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. 2011;50(10):991-1000. doi:10.1016/j.jaac.2011.06.008.
  12. Song C, Shieh CH, Wu YS, Kalueff A, Gaikwad S, Su KP. The role of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids in the treatment of major depression and Alzheimer’s disease: Acting separately or synergistically?. Prog Lipid Res. 2016;62:41-54.
  13. Martins JG. EPA but not DHA appears to be responsible for the efficacy of omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation in depression: evidence from a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. J Am Coll Nutr. 2009;28(5):525-42.
  14. Miller MR, Nichols PD, Carter CG. n-3 Oil sources for use in aquaculture–alternatives to the unsustainable harvest of wild fish. Nutr Res Rev. 2008;21(2):85-96.
  15. Cladis DP, Kleiner AC, Freiser HH, Santerre CR. Fatty acid profiles of commercially available finfish fillets in the United States. Lipids. 2014;49(10):1005-18.
  16. Ballard O, Morrow AL. Human Milk Composition: Nutrients and Bioactive Factors. Pediatric clinics of North America. 2013;60(1):49-74. doi:10.1016/j.pcl.2012.10.002.
  17. Adarme-Vega TC, Lim DKY, Timmins M, Vernen F, Li Y, Schenk PM. Microalgal biofactories: a promising approach towards sustainable omega-3 fatty acid production. Microbial Cell Factories. 2012;11:96. doi:10.1186/1475-2859-11-96.