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DHA Deficiency - Pregnancy and Postpartum

Updated: Jan 30, 2023

Did you know that DHA is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies experienced by pregnant women and mothers?

What is DHA?

DHA is a type of Omega 3 fatty acid. It is found in fish, seafood and algae. DHA is not found in plant sources aside from algae. Your body can convert very tiny amounts of the fatty acid ALA into DHA(0.5%). this makes it nearly impossible to eat enough hemp seeds, flax seeds, chia seeds and nuts to meet your DHA requirements not only in pregnancy and breastfeeding but at any time.

Why is it important?

DHA is very important for foetal development, particularly in the third trimester where it is used in large amounts to support brain and nervous system development and function.

DHA continues to be supplied to growing babies through their mother's breast milk to continue supporting infant development.

DHA and postnatal depression

There have been several studies looking into correlations between low maternal DHA and postnatal depression. We do know that low omega-3 fatty acids have been correlated with depression generally and are often an effective treatment component for sufferers of depression.

One study showed that DHA supplementation during pregnancy and breastfeeding prevented postnatal depletion while another did not. These studies are preliminary and more research is required. Other studies have shown that Omega-3 supplementation given after women had been diagnosed with postnatal depression did help to alleviate symptoms.

Where do I get DHA?

Including good quality fish or seafood in your diet, 2-3 times weekly for anybody is important to obtain enough Omega-3 fatty acids including DHA. This is especially important for fertility, pregnancy and postpartum. I also recommend women supplement some additional DHA in the third trimester and first 8 weeks of breastfeeding.

If you don't eat fish or seafood then a supplement is highly recommended. If you consume a vegan or vegetarian diet then you can supplement with an Algae Oil supplement in higher doses which is the only non-animal source of DHA available.

Signs of DHA deficiency

There are several signs that you can look for that might tell you you are deficient in DHA. One is glassy tipped teeth. If the tips off your teeth look translucent this could indicate a DHA deficiency. The other common signs are Keratosis Pilaris or "chicken skin" - small raised bumps on the back of your arms that feel like sandpaper. The third is dry scaly skin on your shins. DHA is important for skin integrity and hydration.\

Emma xx

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emma jacques

Women's Health

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