Why Mom’s Omega-3 DHA Levels Are Critical During Pregnancy

by Mike Mutzel


Many parents are aware about the importance of omega-3 fats and brain development during pregnancy.

New studies find when mom has low levels of DHA it can trigger both preterm and early preterm birth, which leads to a host of health issues for baby.

New studies have found that when mom has a low level of DHA, it can trigger preterm and early preterm birth and lead to a host of health issues for baby.

Kristina Jackson, PhD, an expert in this area, shares new science about how expecting moms can better target their blood DHA levels to reduce rates of early birthing.

Mother's Milk DHA Calculator:

SPONSORED: MYOXCIENCE's Optimized Monoglyceride Omega-3

Kristina discusses more about:

  • -What the omega-3 fatty acid DHA does in the body and where you get it in your diet
  • -Why Mom’s low DHA level harms her growing baby
  • -How to test and optimize serum DHA levels
  • -How to choose a clean DHA product
  • -Why nuts and seeds don’t increase DHA levels

Related: Omega-3 Fats & Omega-3 Index Testing w/ Bill Harris, PhD


Show Notes

02:23 DHA is an omega 3 fatty acid. It is half of the omega 3 index. EPA is the other half. These are the long chain fish oil fatty acids.

02:38 DHA is needed by the baby to make the brain and make the eyes. Thus, DHA has been studied in pregnancy for about 30 years.

03:03 Women carried pregnancies an average of 2 to 6 days longer when they took a DHA supplement or ate a lot of fish.

03:47 Your brain has a great need for DHA in order to function properly. Cell walls are made of fatty acids. Rat brains are 20% DHA. Our red blood cells are 4 to 8 to 12%.

04:43 EPA/DHA are in every cell in your body and affect inflammation. This may be affecting preterm birth.

04:55 Women who eat fish all their lives, tend to have children with higher IQs. Seafood intake is related to better brain development.

06:13 Preterm birth (born before 37 weeks gestation) rates were lowered by 11% in women taking DHA. Early preterm birth rates were lowered by 42%. In America the rate of preterm birth is 10%.

06:50 Preterm babies have complications.The less time in the womb, the less developed baby is. Early preterm birth may cause lifelong deficiencies.

08:22 Omega Quant wants to determine target levels of Omega 3s, especially DHA, in pregnancy.

09:10 A DHA red blood cell level of 5% is a potential target. Going higher does not bring more benefit.

10:00 The target of 5% can be reached by eating low mercury, high DHA fish twice a week or taking at least 200 mg of DHA. Some women need more DHA. Others do not need as much through supplements.

11:55 To maximize efficiency in getting DHA during pregnancy, our fat stores are mobilized more. Triglyceride levels are high. DHA is taken out of fat stores to be sent to the placenta for the baby.

12:38 The placenta pulls DHA from the blood stream for the baby.

12:47 Estrogen increases the rate at which alpha linolenic acid is converted to EPA and DHA. Pregnancy is a high estrogen environment.

13:19 The more pregnancies a woman has, the lower her DHA levels are with each successive pregnancy.

13:30 Biomagnification is where the baby’s DHA levels are higher than mom’s levels.

13:53 When there is not enough DHA during pregnancy, the body also uses long chain omega 6 to replace omega 3s in the membrane.

14:10 DHA’s role in preterm birth may be because of inflammation. Initiation of birth is an inflammatory process. Inflammation also impacts the contraction process.

16:13 Pure source DHA raises both DHA and EPA. Taking just EPA decreases DHA. Fish oil or pure DHA is good for supplementation prior to becoming pregnant. Test your levels and get your omega 3s into the 8 to 12% range.

18:29 Check specifically for DHA and EPA levels and serving size in your supplement.

19:45 Absorption is increased when you take your supplements with a meal with fat.

22:16 It is more beneficial to eat seafood than not, even with the contaminants in our oceans. Most fish available to us is low in mercury and PCBs. EPA mercury standards are very low.

24:15 Nuts and seed consumption does not increase the omega 3 index. They are alpha linolenic acid, which does not easily convert to EPA and DHA.

25:01 Algae based DHA made from algae that fish eat that gives vegans high DHA and EPA levels.

26:02 Vegans have an average omega 3 index of 3 ½ to 4%, possibly from previous stores, and may not have higher rates of preterm birth.

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