DHA & Vit D in Pregnancy, A Key Role for Both
The Safe Foundation for a Healthy Pregnancy
The omega-3 DHA is an “essential” fatty acid that the body cannot produce and must be consumed through diet or supplementation. The baby must acquire its DHA from its mother, and she must obtain it by increasing the omega-3s in her daily diet or from daily supplementation. International recommendations suggest that pregnant and nursing women consume 300-600mg of DHA every day to ensure that mothers remain healthy during and after pregnancy, and that their babies have every opportunity for healthy development.
Fish of course remains the best source of dietary DHA, but due to concerns about toxins like mercury, many parents are opting to use nutritional supplementation from companies who ensure complete freedom from toxic elements in their fish derived oils. The incidence of mercury in fish continues to increase and represents one of the most common sources of unwanted environmental exposure.
A mothers demand for DHA increases during pregnancy, with the greatest tissue accumulation occurring in the last trimester (week 26 onwards) and then continuing in the child for the first two years of life. Following birth the mothers tissue stores of DHA can remain compromised due to the transfer of her DHA via breast milk, where it is used in the continuing maturation of the babies multiple systems.
Multiple pregnancies, especially if they are close together also have a detrimental impact on the maternal tissue stores of essential fatty acids.
Evidence supports the following benefits associated with optimal fish oil supplementation:
- Mothers are more likely to produce a baby at the end of their full term, and their baby’s weight is more likely to be within the healthy parameters.,
- Mental health and mood states in mothers are more likely to remain balanced and healthy.
- Positive development of brain tissues, visual function and the nervous system of the child are associated with optimal fatty acid status.,
International recommendations have some congruency in recommending that pregnant and nursing mothers consume 300-600mg DHA on a daily basis to provide an optimal fatty acid pool in their tissues for the best and healthiest foetal and child development and maternal health.2
For the Mother
In addition to essential fatty acids, the addition of Vitamin D into the mother’s diet has good clinical correlates. Women in the northern hemispheres have increased risk of Vit D deficiency due to lack of available sunlight exposure. Vit D deficiency, confirmed via suitable blood tests is a significant risk for in utero complications. This includes; preeclampsia, gestational diabetes and bacterial vaginitis.
For the Foetus & Child
There are some associated risks to developmental as well as overall health risks and benefits from optimal vitamin D status during pregnancy and in the early years. These include schizophrenia, autism, lower respiratory tract infections, birth weight, diabetes, seizures, heart failure, weak bones and asthma amongst others.
Until we have better information on doses of vitamin D that will reliably provide adequate blood levels of 25(OH)D without toxicity, treatment of vitamin D deficiency in otherwise healthy children should be individualised according to the numerous factors that affect 25(OH)D levels, such as:
- body weight
- percent body fat
- skin melanin
- season of the year
- and sun exposure
The doses of sunshine or oral vitamin D3 used in healthy children should be designed to maintain 25(OH)D levels above 50 ng/mL. As a rule, in the absence of significant sun exposure, we believe:
Most healthy children need about 1,000 IU of vitamin D3 daily per 11 kg (25 lb) of body weight to obtain levels greater than 50 ng/mL. Some will need more, and others less. In our opinion, children with chronic illnesses such as autism, diabetes, and/or frequent infections should be supplemented with higher doses of sunshine or vitamin D3, doses adequate to maintain their 25(OH)D levels in the mid-normal of the reference range (65 ng/mL) — and should be so supplemented year-round (p. 868).
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 Bodnar LM, Krohn MA, Simhan HN. Maternal vitamin D deficiency is associated with bacterial vaginosis in the first trimester of pregnancy. J Nutr. 2009 Jun;139(6):1157-61. Epub 2009 Apr 8. View Abstract
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