Health Team

Pregnancy supplements help babies after birth

Posted August 5, 2011 2:53 p.m. EDT
Updated August 5, 2011 6:34 p.m. EDT

— Pregnant women often take vitamins to make sure their baby is getting enough nutrients, and new research is showing that those supplements help the child even after birth.

Doctors recommend taking Omega 3 fatty acid, or DHA, to help the development of unborn babies' brains and nervous systems.

A new study found that DHA also gives babies extra protection for the first six months of their lives.

"It also seems to be important for immune system function," said Dr. Jennifer Wu, an ob-gyn with Lenox Hill Hospital in New York.

The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, looked at 800 babies whose mothers took DHA supplements and found that the children were less likely to get colds, fevers and coughs and had fewer breathing problems. Babies who did get sick fought off symptoms faster.

Most people get around 100 milligrams of DHA a day. Doctors recommend that pregnant women take 400 milligrams a day, usually in the form of vitamins.

Pregnant women are also advised to eat fish that is low in mercury and high in fatty acids. The Food and Drug Administration says that pregnant women can safely eat up to 12 ounces of seafood a week that is low in mercury.

"You can also get DHA supplementation in certain foods like cheese, yogurt and eggs," Wu said.

New mom Dinea Eddings kept taking DHA vitamins after the birth of her twins. Since she is breastfeeding, she hopes that more DHA will keep her babies healthy as they grow.

"Knowing that I'm taking pre-natal vitamins with DHA pretty much has me feeling more confident," Eddings said.