You might be familiar with the basic rules for eating during pregnancy — like avoiding raw meat or seafood, waiting to enjoy deli meats until after baby arrives, and making sure you cook those fried eggs all the way through. 

Another essential nutrition tip is incorporating foods with omega-3 DHA, which can play a crucial role in a baby's development.

We’ll explain why omega-3s are important, how to add foods rich in omega-3s to your diet and recommend some supplements to help ensure you’re getting enough.

Because when you’ve got a baby in your belly, they eat what you eat. So, nourishing yourself properly is super important to ensure your little one gets all the essential nutrients they need to grow healthy and strong. 

Understanding DHA and Omega-3s

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is an omega-3 fatty acid found in certain types of cold-water fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and herring. Omega-3s are also found in other foods, such as walnuts, edamame, and ground flaxseed. 

According to the Dietary Supplements Fact Sheet from the National Institute of Health, omega-3 fatty acids are a key part of fats the body uses for both energy and building tissues.

Omega-3 fatty acids are good for your body, particularly your eyes and brain. Although our bodies produce DHA naturally, many people don't get enough of it. This is why those who want more omega-3s turn to supplements like multivitamins or fish oil to support their intake.

Before you load up on all the omega-3-rich foods or buy any vitamins, check with your doctor about how much you need and learn about other ways to get the proper amount of omega-3s, especially if you’re expecting. 

The benefits of Omega-3s during pregnancy

Sure, omega-3 fatty acids are essential for everyone, but they’re especially essential for pregnant women.

“DHA is important in supporting normal brain growth, as well as supporting vision and eye health,” says OB/GYN Cordelia Nwankwo, MD, FACOG.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that pregnant women take 200 mg of DHA daily. 

Additionally, incorporating these nutrients into your diet can help support maternal health and overall well-being. “Omega-3 fatty acids and DHA are known to be anti-inflammatory and positively impact your cardiovascular health,” says Dr. Cordelia.

Food sources of DHA for pregnant women

Consider incorporating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids into your daily diet to increase your intake of these essential nutrients. “Fish and other seafood are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, such as DHA,” says Dr. Cordelia. 

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest that pregnant or breastfeeding women aim for two to three servings of fish per week. But, not all fish are safe to eat during pregnancy. “It's important to choose fish without high levels of mercury,” says Dr. Cordelia. 

The ACOG recommends avoiding bigeye tuna, king mackerel, marlin, orange roughy, shark, swordfish, and tilefish and eating no more than 6 oz of tuna per week. 

If you’re vegetarian or vegan, algae supplements or seaweed are great options for obtaining the appropriate levels of DHA.

One way to ensure you avoid consuming too much mercury is to take a supplement specially designed with pregnant women in mind. 

Let's talk about Omega-3 supplements

Taking supplements during pregnancy is an excellent way to help ensure baby receives enough of the essential nutrients for healthy growth and development. 

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“Supplementation through your prenatal or a fish oil supplement can provide the required amount of DHA to benefit your fetus,” says Dr. Cordelia.

Ritual’s Essential Prenatal multivitamin contains key nutrients to support a healthy pregnancy, including 350 mg of vegan Omega-3 DHA,* and Rescripted members get 20% off their first month with code RESCRIPTED20!

Their delayed-release capsules are designed to dissolve later in the small intestine, not your stomach, which is an ideal spot for absorbing nutrients and avoiding those unpleasant fishy burps.*

Plus, to make your daily multivitamin routine even better, each bottle comes with a citrus tab to keep things fresh.  

We love that they offer add-on options to customize your supplement regimen based on your specific needs. Add Natal Choline to support baby’s brain development during pregnancy or check out Ritual’s daily Essential Protein shakes for a super convenient way to help support your nutrient needs during pregnancy, postpartum, and lactation.* 

Your healthcare provider is your best resource for guidance on supplements and nutrition during pregnancy. Always consult them before starting a new supplement regimen, as they can address any concerns or questions you may have. Being mindful of what you consume during pregnancy is crucial. Remember, you share your diet with your growing baby! 

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Blair Sharp is a freelance writer who lives in Minnesota with her husband and son. Her words have been published in various publications, including Parents, SheKnows, The Bump, and Insider. Find her writing daily on LinkedIn and check out her weekly newsletter, Hey Freelancer! Head to her website for more.