The Key Nutrient Missing from Prenatal Vitamins

DHA has a key role in brain development: Babies with higher umbilical-cord blood DHA levels performed better in eye and brain development tests once they were 6 and 11 months old.


Omega-3 fatty acids, especially DHA, are critical for the embryonic development of the brain, eyes and central nervous system and may reduce the risk of premature birth. Depending on the mother’s consumption of omega-3 fatty acids prior to and during pregnancy, these fatty acids are passed on to the baby via the placenta, the last trimester being the most important for the growing baby’s brain and nervous system. DHA’s benefits in prenatal, infant, and adolescent nutrition include:

  • Higher cognitive abilities in learning, understanding, and academic performance
  • Better vision

It was also shown that if the mother supplements with marine omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy then the risk for atopic eczema in the baby was reduced (104). It was further shown in some studies that babies are at lower risk for allergies such as egg and milk allergies if the mother consumes sufficient amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation may also benefit gestation, while effects on major depression in pregnancy and postpartum depression are less clear, but are potentially there too (105). Observational studies suggest an association between low concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids and a greater risk for post-partum depression (106).

Pregnant and lactating women are advised to take an omega-3 fatty acid supplement daily (105). And DHA has recently received an officially approved health claim for the brain development of prenatal babies, if 250 mg DHA are consumed daily.

We Recommend: Super Krill Oil

Krill Oil is a more nutrient-rich and healthier source of omega-3 fatty acids than fish oil. Krill Oil is unique. In addition, to EPA & DHA it also contains phospholipids, choline, and astaxanthin. Phospholipids effectively deliver EPA & DHA to the blood tissue, and organs. Choline is an important nutrient that supports the development of the baby's brain and neural tube. However, many prenatal vitamins don't include choline. Your body only produces a small amount of this important so it's necessary to focus on eating foods high in choline or to take a supplement with choline. Experts suggest that only 10% of pregnant women are getting enough choline. (1)

104. Palmer, D. J., Sullivan, T., Gold, M. S., Prescott, S. L., Heddle, R., Gibson, R. A., and Makrides, M. (2012) Effect of n-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation in pregnancy on infants’ allergies in first year of life: randomised controlled trial. BMJ 344, e184

105. Dennehy, C. (2011) Omega-3 fatty acids and ginger in maternal health: pharmacology, efficacy, and safety. Journal of midwifery & women’s health 56, 584–590

106. da Rocha, C. M., and Kac, G. (2012) High dietary ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 polyunsaturated acids during pregnancy and prevalence of post-partum depression. Matern Child Nutr 8, 36–48