Everlywell Omega-3 Fish Oil supplements with DHA for pregnancy

How much DHA during pregnancy: here's what to know

Medically reviewed on January 23, 2023 by Morgan Spicer, Medical Communications Manager. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

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Whether you’re trying to conceive or you’re already pregnant, certain supplements can support your baby’s development and your health and well-being throughout pregnancy. One of those supplements is docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

DHA is a nutrient found in several types of fish; it can also be consumed in supplement form. However, can you take fish oil while pregnant? Yes, and typically, healthcare providers suggest that pregnant people take at least 250 milligrams of DHA before, during, and after pregnancy [1]. It’s also important to start supplementing three months before you plan to become pregnant.

Below, we’ll outline the recommended daily doses of DHA for pregnant people and explain the role of this nutrient in fetal development and postpartum health in greater detail.

How much DHA should a pregnant woman take daily?

Most healthcare providers agree on 250 milligrams as the recommended baseline for pregnant people. However, one study showed that taking larger doses of DHA may reduce the chances of [2]:

  • Premature birth
  • Babies being born outside of a healthy weight range

For this reason, some people aim for doses closer to 500 to 600 milligrams instead. If you’re unsure of how much DHA you should take, you can always consult with your healthcare provider.

How much DHA is too much during pregnancy?

Getting adequate amounts of DHA is essential for pregnant women, but more isn’t always better. Healthcare experts typically don’t advise pregnant people to take more than 1,000 milligrams of DHA each day, as there’s little evidence it offers any additional benefit.

What is DHA?

Now that we’ve discussed how much DHA during pregnancy is optimal, you may be wondering why this nutrient is so important.

DHA is one of the essential omega-3 fatty acids, along with [3]:

  • Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)

All three of these omega-3s are vital for human health, but your body can only make them in small amounts.3 In turn, you need to ingest foods high in omega-3 or supplements to reach adequate levels. ALA can be found in plant foods, while EPA and DHA are most commonly found in cold-water fatty fish [3].

Omega-3s make up the membranes of every cell in your body [3]. DHA, in particular, is found abundantly in the cells of your brain and retinas—it makes up 97% and 93% of omega-3 fatty acids in these organs, respectively [4].

How does DHA affect a baby’s development?

DHA plays a notable role in adult health, but it has an even greater impact on developing fetuses.

In babies and young children, DHA intake supports the following.

Brain development

Babies’ brains develop rapidly during pregnancy and beyond. Your DHA reserves can help your baby’s brain develop properly in the womb and while they’re nursing [1]. Studies show that children who receive adequate DHA during their fetal development [1]:

  • Exhibit better cognitive function
  • Possess superior problem-solving skills at 9 months old
  • Have stronger hand-eye coordination at 2-and-a-half years old
  • Showcased superior short-term memory and language skills at 6 years old

Eye development

DHA can also help your baby develop their retinas, leading to strong eyesight. One study showed that babies born to mothers with high DHA levels possessed better visual acuity between 4 and 9 months of age [5]. Another study displayed a correlation between DHA supplementation during pregnancy and children’s improved vision [6].

Does DHA help reduce birth risks?

Not only can DHA support your baby’s development, but it can also improve his or her birth outcomes. A 2018 study suggested that DHA may lower the chances of premature birth [7]. It also showed a correlation between adequate DHA levels and healthy birth weights.

What’s more, DHA has been shown to support mothers’ outcomes after pregnancy. For example, a 2020 research review showed that DHA may improve mothers’ moods during pregnancy and postpartum [8]. Thus, taking a DHA supplement may help mitigate your likelihood of developing postpartum depression.

How to get enough DHA during pregnancy

Babies consume DHA through breast milk or formula. However, this DHA ultimately comes from your body, so you must consume enough for both of you.

If you enjoy fish, you can get some of your DHA intake from salmon, anchovies, herring, sardines, or mackerel [9]. You can also consume DHA by eating omega-3-fortified eggs or grass-fed meat.

If these foods don’t appeal to you during pregnancy, you can simply take a fish oil supplement. Fish oil provides DHA without the added risk of mercury poisoning.

Get your daily DHA with high-quality fish oil supplements from Everlywell

If you want to ensure you get enough DHA during and after your pregnancy, Everlywell can help. The Omega-3 Fish Oil Supplements can provide you with a safe, convenient way to increase your DHA levels.

Everlywell supplements are evidence-backed and third-party-tested. Each soft gel capsule contains 500 milligrams of omega-3s, including DHA. They’ve been shown to support fertility, fetal growth, and post-partum outcomes.

Give you and your baby the best by exploring the collection of pro-pregnancy supplements from Everlywell today.

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  1. Devarshi PP, Grant RW, Ikonte CJ, Hazels Mitmesser S. Maternal omega-3 nutrition, placental transfer and fetal brain development in gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. Nutrients. URL. Published May 18, 2019. Accessed January 4, 2023.
  2. Carlson SE, Colombo J, Gajewski BJ, et al. DHA supplementation and pregnancy outcomes. The American journal of clinical nutrition. URL. Published April 2013. Accessed January 4, 2023.
  3. Office of dietary supplements - omega-3 fatty acids. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. URL. Accessed January 4, 2023.
  4. Docosahexaenoic acid. Docosahexaenoic Acid - an overview | ScienceDirect Topics. URL. Accessed January 4, 2023.
  5. Rees A, Sirois S, Wearden A. Prenatal maternal docosahexaenoic acid intake and infant information processing at 4.5mo and 9MO: A longitudinal study. PloS one. URL. Published February 13, 2019. Accessed January 4, 2023.
  6. Basak S, Mallick R, Duttaroy AK. Maternal docosahexaenoic acid status during pregnancy and its impact on infant neurodevelopment. Nutrients. URL. Published November 25, 2020. Accessed January 4, 2023.
  7. Jackson KH, Harris WS. A prenatal DHA test to help identify women at increased risk for early preterm birth: A proposal. Nutrients. URL. Published December 6, 2018. Accessed January 4, 2023.
  8. Zhang M-M, Zou Y, Li S-M, et al. The efficacy and safety of omega-3 fatty acids on depressive symptoms in perinatal women: A meta-analysis of randomized placebo-controlled trials. Nature News. URL. Published June 17, 2020. Accessed January 4, 2023.
  9. Fish and omega-3 fatty acids. Heart.org. URL. Published July 20, 2022. Accessed January 4, 2023.
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