Have you seen the furniture commercial for Haverty’s where the woman builds chairs…”with my brain?”
“Do you like the dinner? I made it…with my brain.”
“Can you let me know when it’s 6:30? I need to go make a phone call…with my brain.”
“Wow, Junior, what a big stick you found…with your brain!”
That whole digression is apropos of nothing except that I hope to have the phrase running through your noggin as you read a semi-serious post on why I am so freaking passionate about taking early steps to build my baby-to-be‘s brain.
I started taking prenatal vitamins years ago, way before I was ready to actually have a child. In fact, back in those days, I wondered if I’d ever feel ready to have a baby at all: “Is There a Right Time?” But I knew that ideally, I’d have a build-up of those fabulous nutrients that prenatals provide when sperm did meet egg — rather than waiting for a positive pregnancy test and then taking the pills.
Per Web MD:
Folic acid helps prevent neural tube birth defects, which affect the brain and spinal cord.
Neural tube defects develop in the first 28 days after conception, before many women know they are pregnant. Because about half of all pregnancies are unplanned (emphasis mine), it’s recommended that any woman who could get pregnant take 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid daily, starting before conception and continuing for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
I went to the store aisle and immediately got overwhelmed. Generic or brand name? DHA or not? Gel capsules or something else? Ugh. And as a vegetarian, could I find a pill that did not have gelatin or fish oil in the ingredients?
It was harder than I expected to find a vitamin that fit all of my requirements and did not make me nauseated. Trial and error led me through about five different brands until I landed on BrainStrong prenatal vitamins.
The source of DHA is vegetarian but still gives growing babies the brain-building fatty acid that they need. You definitely do have to look for DHA on the label — many pills (including BrainStrong) actually require you to take two different capsules as part of a single dose.
Major brain growth occurs during the second trimester of pregnancy – and throughout the first two years of life – so these are when the need for DHA is greatest.
However, like you, your unborn baby can’t efficiently produce DHA and must rely on the placenta during pregnancy, and breast milk or DHA-enriched formula after birth. When you take a DHA supplement during pregnancy and nursing, it significantly enhances the level of DHA available to your baby in and out of the womb.
In fact, studies show maternal DHA supplementation resulted in mental development advantages in children including improved psychomotor development (such as eye-hand coordination) at 2.5 years of age and improved attention skills at 5 years of age. (View the clinical research.)
Surprisingly, I had to do a lot of this research myself, which is why I’m passionate about writing this post. I asked both of my early doctors — my reproductive endocrinologist and my initial OB/GYN (I have since moved to a different practice) about whether it was necessary for me to take a vitamin that included DHA and both kind of shrugged and told me it was good but not crucial. The more I read, the more I knew that I needed to take a stand.
I do a lot during pregnancy to help build baby’s brain. I eat leafy green veggies (blech during the first trimester), avoid potential listeria or e coli exposure, I exercise, I limit caffeine and totally avoid alcohol. I turn my body over to the baby in many ways.
And, I help build her brain…”with my brain.”
I was compensated for this post. All opinions expressed are my own and I’m thrilled to share them as I truly stand behind the importance of taking a prenatal vitamin with DHA for all women of child-bearing age.