Whether you are pregnant right now, preparing to get pregnant, or thinking about it for the future, it’s important to take into account all the necessary steps to ensure your health and that of your baby. Of course, the longer head start you have the better, but every effort you make has an impact on the course of your pregnancy and the arrival of your newest family member.

While planning for a family, speak to your doctor or health care provider about getting a pre-pregnancy checkup. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends women schedule this checkup before they get pregnant so they, and their doctor, can identify factors that could affect it.

Healthy women and fetal development

Statistics show when moms-to-be seek regular prenatal care, doctors can detect any health problems early and then treat them immediately. This can greatly reduce the risk of complications. Women who don’t seek prenatal care are three times more likely to give birth to a low birth weight infant.

Prenatal care is also the time for women, and their doctor, to identify good pregnancy habits. A nutritious diet is critical. The first two months of pregnancy are critical (as this is time the fetus’s organs and body systems begin to develop), so tweaking eating habits and focusing on proper nutrition is not only vital for the mother’s health, but for the growth and development of her baby as well.

Avoiding exposure to radiation, lead, tobacco smoke, alcohol, and other potentially harmful factors are also important to reducing the risk of affecting fetal development.

For example, both alcohol use and tobacco smoke can increase the risk for sudden infant death syndrome. It’s important to avoid drinking alcohol while  pregnant because it raises the risk for fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. This condition is associated with poor coordination, intellectual disabilities, and problems with the bones, heart, and kidneys in children. 

Supplementation is also very important. The majority of prenatal vitamins contain 400 micrograms of folic acid, which reduces the risk for neural tube defects (e.g., spina bifida) by 70 percent.

And daily exercise helps maintain proper posture, and may help relieve stress and prevent gestational diabetes.

DHA, pregnancy, and healthy babies

Another important tip for expectant moms is getting enough DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid found primarily in cold water fatty fish (e.g., salmon, tuna, sardines, herring) as well as supplements. Results of two large studies noted that pregnant women who consumed 600 to 800 mg of DHA daily lowered their risk of giving birth to preterm infants by up to 64 percent when compared with women who took a placebo.

To meet that intake goal, pregnant women are encouraged to eat 8 ounces of omega-3-rich fish every week. A quality DHA supplement is another choice. DHA is critical for eye and brain development in infants both during pregnancy and the first few years of life. The fatty acid also supports problem-solving abilities and attention spans in children, and has a positive impact on birth weight and blood pressure—an important consideration for pregnant women. Therefore, use of DHA supplements is essential during and after pregnancy.

Choosing DHA supplements

When selecting a DHA supplement, you want one that delivers the recommended amount of this fatty acid but without the fishy smell, taste, or aftertaste. The ideal DHA supplement should also be free of artificial ingredients and contain the purest and highest quality DHA possible. For ease of dosing, take one ChildLife Essentials fish gelatin softgel a day while pregnant, breastfeeding and post-partum.

Bottom line

A healthy pregnancy and baby depend on numerous factors that involve lifestyle choices and working with a qualified physician and/or health care provider. One of the most important factors is maintaining a healthy level of DHA in your body, and supplementation can make that easy and advantageous for you and your baby.


American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Tobacco, alcohol, drugs, and pregnancy. 2013

Barrera C et al. The impact of maternal diet during pregnancy and lactation on the fatty acid composition of erythrocytes and breast milk of Chilean women. Nutrients 2018; 10(7):839.

Braarud HC et al. Maternal DHA status during pregnancy has a positive impact on infant problem solving: A Norwegian prospective observation study. Nutrients 2018; 10(5):529.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Folic acid. Data and statistics. 2016

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fetal alcohol syndrome disorders.

Guo XF et al. Effects of EPA and DHA on blood pressure and inflammatory factors: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Critical Review in Food Science and Nutrition 2019; 59(20):3380‐93.

McCulloch M. 12 Health benefits of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). Healthline 2018 Sep 23

US Department of Health & Human Services. Prenatal care. Office on Women’s Health.

Yelland LN et al. Predicting the effect of maternal docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) supplementation to reduce early preterm birth in Australia and the United States using results of within country randomized controlled trials. Prostaglandins Leukot Essential Fatty Acids 2016; 112:44‐49.