It might not get as much attention as folic acid or folate, but the omega-3 fatty acid DHA is crucial in pregnancy. And even before that, it can play an important role in sperm and egg health. Here, we cover off all of the nutrient’s benefits and the best way to get it in a prenatal vitamin.
What is DHA?
DHA (short for docosahexaenoic acid) is an omega-3 fatty acid. Every cell in your body needs it, but we only produce a tiny amount of it naturally. Many diets fall short (it's found in fatty fish, eggs and algae), so a smart bet is to get it in a supplement (you’ll find it in every Bird&Be formula).
DHA is key for sperm and egg health, and in pregnancy, it’s critical to fetal brain, eye and neurological development (more on all of that below). Beyond all the fertility benefits, it has a major anti-inflammatory effect (remember, inflammation is linked to many medical conditions), improves blood pressure, and is a key building block for brain function, specifically memory and language. It also affects neurotransmitters, which means it can help with mood and depression.
What are the fertility benefits of DHA for men and people with sperm?
When you don’t get enough DHA, sperm health and motility are compromised, which can significantly reduce fertility. In fact, low DHA status is one of the most common causes of low-quality sperm and frequently found in males with sub-fertility or infertility. Fortunately, sperm regenerates every three months, so supplementing with DHA can pay off in the near future.
What are the benefits of DHA for women and people with eggs when trying to conceive?
A DHA-rich diet has been linked to a longer reproductive lifespan, and it appears to have a positive influence on egg quality too. Improving your DHA levels is also an important way to prep for pregnancy, seeing that your need for the nutrient will spike dramatically in your first trimester.
Why is DHA important during pregnancy?
DHA is critical in pregnancy, as it influences both brain and eye development of the fetus. Higher maternal DHA levels have shown to significantly improve babies’ cognitive function, eye and memory development. Also, taking adequate DHA during pregnancy can reduce the risk of preterm birth. And the benefits extend into the fourth trimester: DHA has also been shown to have a positive impact on postpartum depression in new mothers.
How much DHA should I take per day?
The recommended daily dose of DHA for pregnancy and breastfeeding is 200 to 300 mg, and that’s the same amount our naturopathic doctors recommend for people with eggs and people with sperm who are trying to conceive. Fish oils can provide omega-3 fatty acids, however they often pack a serious load of toxins and heavy metals that can outweigh the benefits.
A prenatal supplement is one of the easiest ways to make sure you get enough DHA while trying to conceive or during pregnancy. But make sure you check your labels. Prenatals from the drugstore won’t typically have DHA because its gel form can’t be mixed in with dry ingredients. All Bird&Be formulas feature a capsule with 300 mg of DHA from algae oil inside each daily sachet. We also include another type of omega-3 fatty acid called EPA (A.K.A. eicosapentaenoic acid) at a dose of 9 mg. Our stronger focus on DHA is rooted in the fact that it’s the most researched component of omega-3 fatty acids found to have a significant influence on pregnancy outcomes. Plus, we can source our ratio from algae oil instead of fish. This approach dodges the toxins while also offering a vegan and sustainable option. Bonus: there’s none of that fishy aftertaste.