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Research suggests that using DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) during pregnancy can help improve fetal brain and eye development. The omega-3 fatty acid is currently a popular addition to many prenatal vitamins. If you are expecting, make sure to consult your healthcare provider so he or she can recommend a DHA supplement that is free of heavy metals or toxins that may be harmful.

Is DHA Safe During Pregnancy?

DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is currently a popular addition to many prenatal vitamins. There are even nonprescription DHA supplements designed especially for pregnant women. Is this just the latest trend, or is DHA really beneficial?

Is It Really Necessary?

DHA is an essential fatty acid, which means that it must be obtained from the diet. For a developing fetus, the mother is the only source of DHA. Some experts recommend a daily DHA intake of 300 mg per day, significantly more than most women in the United States consume.
Research suggests that DHA is important for brain and eye development, but it is not entirely clear if taking DHA supplements actually improves mental functioning or vision. Most of the studies in this area have been small -- probably too small to make any definite conclusions.
If you and your healthcare provider decide that you should take this supplement, be sure to take one designed for pregnant women (to make sure that the DHA is free of heavy metals or toxins that may be found in other DHA supplements).
Many prescription prenatal vitamins now contain DHA (just look for "DHA" in the name), although nonprescription prenatal vitamins lag behind in this trend. If your prenatal vitamin does not contain DHA, you may want to consider adding a nonprescription DHA supplement designed especially for pregnant and breastfeeding women (such as Expecta® Lipil®).
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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