The 7 Best DHA Supplements for Pregnancy of 2023, According to a Dietitian
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Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is an omega-3 fatty acid that is crucial for the growth and development of the central nervous system, brain, and eyes. The central nervous system begins developing in the first few weeks of pregnancy. In the last trimester, the baby needs DHA every day from the mother for the rapidly developing brain and retina in the eye. The baby has to get DHA from the mother via the placenta, so it is important that pregnant people get enough DHA from food, supplements, or both since the body can only make small amounts of DHA.
Most adults in the United States do not consume the recommended amount of omega-3 fatty acids, which includes DHA and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). The best sources of DHA and EPA are fatty fish like salmon, herring, sardines, and mackerel. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that pregnant people consume 8 to 12 ounces of low-mercury fish per week. Since many people fall short of this recommendation, taking a DHA supplement can ensure adequate intake needed for the growing baby.
When choosing a DHA supplement, it’s important to consider the form, source, and dose. DHA can be sourced from fish oil or algae oil, and supplements typically contain either the natural triglyceride form or ethyl esters. Both types can raise DHA levels. We also recommend choosing a DHA supplement that also has EPA.
“EPA is needed to help DHA pass through the placenta to your baby,” says Ayla Barmmer, MS, RD, LDN, registered dietitian and founder of FullWell prenatal supplements. It’s also important to look for third-party tested supplements and the purest form of fish oil that has been tested for heavy metals and other toxins. To compile the best DHA supplement list, we prioritized third-party tested DHA supplements that contained evidence-based doses of DHA, along with EPA, and that have been tested for purity, quality, and safety. We also prioritized supplements with sustainably sourced fish oil.
Always speak with a healthcare professional before adding a supplement to your routine to ensure that the supplement is appropriate for your individual needs and which dosage to take.
Those who are allergic to fish, or take blood thinners or blood pressure medications should warrant extra caution and get individual guidance before starting a DHA supplement.
Garden of Life Dr. Formulated Prenatal DHA Fish Oil
Friend of the Sea certified
Contains natural triglyceride form of DHA
Delivers 800 IU vitamin D
Not a complete prenatal vitamin
Garden of Life Dr. Formulated Prenatal DHA Fish Oil supplement is our top pick for a DHA supplement for pregnancy because it is NSF certified, contains both DHA and EPA, and is Friend of the Sea certified, meaning it is both good for you and the environment. Formulated by a board-certified neurologist, one daily softgel delivers 550 mg of DHA, 120 mg of EPA, and 800 IU of vitamin D. It also contains 55 mg of docosapentaenoic acid (DPA), another omega-3 fatty acid naturally found in fish oil, as well as breast milk, that has not been studied as extensively as DHA and EPA.
The DHA in Garden of Life Dr. Formulated Prenatal DHA is in the natural triglyceride form and is sourced from wild-caught tuna that is traceable and sustainably sourced. This supplement is also non-GMO and free of gluten, dairy, and soy.
Note that despite its name, Garden of Life Dr. Formulated Prenatal DHA is not a complete prenatal vitamin. It only contains omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D, so it is important to still take a prenatal vitamin alongside this DHA supplement.
Price at time of publication: $30 ($1 per serving)
Form: Softgel | Type: Natural triglyceride from | Dose: 550 mg DHA | Third-Party Tested: Yes | Servings Per Container: 30
Nature Made Prenatal Multi + DHA
Contains key nutrients needed during pregnancy
No gluten or artificial flavors
May have fishy taste
Nature Made Prenatal Multi with DHA is a budget-friendly option that not only provides the recommended 200 mg of DHA but also contains all of the other essential nutrients for pregnancy. For example, one softgel per day has 800 mcg of folic acid, 1,000 IU of vitamin D, and 100% of daily pregnancy iron needs.
The DHA in Nature Made Prenatal Multi with DHA is in the ethyl ester form, which is a slightly altered version of the natural triglyceride form. This form is usually modified for purity or stability. Research shows that the natural triglyceride form of DHA is slightly better absorbed than ethyl esters, but both forms can still raise DHA levels.
Nature Made Prenatal Multi with DHA is USP verified, which means it has been third-party tested for accurate ingredient amounts and harmful contaminants like lead or mercury. It is gluten-free and free of artificial flavors, but it does contain soy. Note the softgel is slightly larger than a penny and is best taken with water and food for optimal absorption.
Price at time of publication: $27 ($0.25 per serving)
Form: Softgel | Type: Ethyl ester | Dose: 200 mg DHA | Third-Party Tested: Yes | Servings Per Container: 110
TheraNatal Complete Prenatal Vitamins
Best Prenatal with DHA
Comprehensive prenatal vitamin with methylfolate, iron, iodine, and zinc
Free of artificial dyes, gluten, and dairy
Three separate pills
Low in calcium, magnesium, and choline
It can be difficult to find one prenatal vitamin that meets all of your needs. Some supplements don’t contain iron, some don’t have choline, and others don’t have DHA or EPA. If you’re looking for a one-stop shop that fits most prenatal nutrient needs, TheraNatal Complete Prenatal Vitamins could be a great option. While not easy on the wallet, you get a lot of bang for your buck with just one purchase.
ThereNatal Complete Prenatal Vitamins comes with three separate supplements in one 91-day supply box: a prenatal vitamin, a DHA and EPA softgel, and a third tablet that delivers vitamin B6 for nausea, vitamin D, and choline. We like that this prenatal vitamin has 100% of your daily iron needs, 76% of your daily iodine needs, and 1,334 mcg of folate as methylfolate. However, it is lower in choline, with only 27% Daily Value, and the calcium and magnesium amounts are also on the lower end as well.
The TheraNatal Complete fish oil softgel is third-party tested by NSF and the International Fish Oil Standards (IFOS) Program and is free of contaminants like mercury, lead, and PCBs. The 300 mg of DHA and 150 mg of EPA are in the ethyl ester form and are sourced from Alaskan pollock, a pure omega-3 fish oil. TheraNatal Complete Prenatal meets the sustainability standards set by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).
For best results, it's recommended to take TheraNatal Complete with food. You can take all three pills together or split them up throughout the day. If your tablets start to look dark or speckled, rest assured this is normal because TheraNatal only uses natural colorants and no artificial dyes.
Price at time of publication: $90 ($0.99 per serving)
Form: Two tablets and one softgel | Type: Ethyl ester | Dose: 300 mg DHA | Third-Party Tested: Yes | Servings Per Container: 91
Related:The Best Choline Supplements for Pregnancy, According to a Prenatal Dietitian
Smarty Pants Daily Organic Gummy Prenatal Vitamin
Best Gummies with DHA
Contains essential nutrients for pregnancy
No fishy taste
Only contains 114 mg total of DHA and EPA
Contains 6 grams of added sugar
Does not have calcium or iron
Smarty Pants Prenatal is a delicious gummy vitamin that delivers the most essential nutrients for pregnancy, including DHA and EPA, sourced from small fish from sustainable fisheries. With 114 mg of total DHA and EPA, the omega-3s fall a bit short of the recommended 200 mg per day of DHA for pregnancy. However, if combined with a seafood-rich diet, you can still get adequate amounts of DHA for your growing baby. Three ounces of cooked salmon has 1,240 mg of DHA, and three ounces of canned tuna has 170 mg of DHA. It is safe—and even recommended—to consume 8 to 12 ounces of low mercury fish per week during pregnancy.
Smarty Pants Prenatal gummy vitamin is third-party tested and uses non-GMO ingredients. In addition to omega-3s, it contains other essential nutrients for pregnancy, including folate as methylfolate, 55 mg of choline, 1200 IU of vitamin D, vitamin B12, vitamin K, and more. Similar to most gummy vitamins, this pick does not contain iron or calcium.
These gummies taste like fruit snacks with lemon, orange, and strawberry banana flavors. There is no fishy taste or aftertaste, which can especially be helpful with any morning sickness. Take four gummies per day with or without food, and keep in mind that one serving has 6 grams of added sugar. Smarty Pants Prenatal gummy vitamin is free of artificial flavors, colors, and top allergens.
Price at time of publication: $25 ($1.25 per serving)
Form: Gummy | Type: Natural triglyceride form | Dose: 114 mg of DHA and EPA | Third-Party Tested: Yes | Servings Per Container: 20
Related:The 11 Best Prenatal Vitamins of 2023
FullWell Fish Oil
Third-party tested for heavy metals, dioxins, and PCBs
Friend of the Sea certified
Natural triglyceride form of DHA
Still need to take prenatal vitamin
FullWell Fish Oil was developed by registered dietitian Ayla Barmmer, MS, RD, LDN, also the founder of FullWell. Two easy-to-swallow softgels provide 430 mg of DHA and 120 mg of EPA. Barmmer intentionally created a separate fish oil supplement instead of adding DHA into the FullWell prenatal vitamin to ensure the stability of the DHA. She also prioritized adding EPA since EPA helps DHA cross the placenta to the fetus.
Although you won’t find a third-party certification seal on the label of FullWell Fish Oil, we spoke with Barmmer, who confirmed that the fish oil is third-party tested for heavy metals, dioxins, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). You can even ask for the testing results on each batch of supplements. The DHA and EPA are sustainably sourced from anchovies and sardines and are in the natural triglyceride form for optimal absorption. FuelWell Fish Oil is Friend of the Sea certified and has some of the lowest oxidation scores in the industry, meaning it is the freshest possible and doesn’t come with a fishy aftertaste.
Price at time of publication: $30 ($1 per serving)
Form: Softgel | Type: Natural triglyceride form | Dose: 430 mg DHA | Third-Party Tested: Yes | Servings Per Container: 30
Related:Stock Up on These 5 RD-Approved Supplements to Help Support a Healthy Pregnancy
Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega-3
Natural triglyceride form of DHA from anchovies and sardines
Free of GMOs, gluten, and artificial colors/flavors
Higher dose of 1,010 mg DHA may not be best for all
Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega-3 supplement is a high-concentration liquid supplement delivering 2,840 mg of total omega-3s, of which 1,010 mg are DHA and 1,460 are EPA. These doses are higher than the current recommendation of 200 mg of DHA for pregnancy, but to date, there is no upper limit set for how much DHA is too much. A 2021 study found that taking 1,000 mg of DHA per day during pregnancy was associated with a lower risk of preterm birth, specifically in women who had low DHA levels at the beginning of pregnancy. However, note the higher dose may not be best for everyone, especially those on certain medications. A healthcare professional can give further guidance for the best dose for your needs.
Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega-3 is sourced from wild-caught sardines and anchovies and delivers DHA in its natural triglyceride form. Nordic Naturals prioritizes purity, safety, transparency, and sustainability. All of their supplements are third-party tested, and a Certificate of Analysis can be requested for any product. Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega-3 is Friend of the Sea certified, which means they practice sustainable fishing practices. But you won’t find a fishy taste in this liquid lemon-flavored DHA. Take one teaspoon daily with food or as directed by a healthcare provider.
Price at time of publication: $36 ($1.50 per serving)
Form: Liquid | Type: Natural triglyceride form | Dose: 1010 mg DHA | Third-Party Tested: Yes | Servings Per Container: 24
DEVA Vegan Omega-3 DHA-EPA
Contains DHA and EPA
Natural triglyceride form
Free of wheat, gluten, salt, carrageenan, hexane, and animal products
Not third-party certified
For those who follow a vegan diet or just don’t want to risk a fishy aftertaste in their DHA supplement, Deva Omega-3 DHA & EPA is a non-fish DHA supplement derived from microalgae. The microalgae is grown in a controlled land facility outside of the ocean that is FDA-inspected and follows current Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP) regulations to ensure a high-quality product. The algae oil is extracted from the algae without the use of hexane, a chemical that is commonly used to extract oils.
Deva Omega-3 DHA & EPA delivers 500 mg of total omega-3s, including 300-420 mg of DHA and 150-210 mg of EPA, in the natural triglyceride form. This supplement is free of carrageenan, gelatin, wheat, gluten, salt, dairy, eggs, fish, and any animal products or derivatives. Deva Omega-3 DHA & EPA is 100% vegan and is registered by the Vegan Society.
While this specific supplement has not been third-party tested, a prior version of this supplement, Deva Vegan Omega-3 DHA, was approved by ConsumerLab.com. Something unique about Deva Omega-3 DHA & EPA is it has both DHA and EPA, as research shows EPA is needed to help DHA enter the cells of the fetus.
Price at time of publication: $32 ($0.53 per serving)
Form: Vegan softgel | Type: Natural Triglyceride Form | Dose: 300-420 mg DHA | Third-Party Tested: No | Servings Per Container: 60
Is a DHA Supplement for Pregnancy Beneficial?
DHA is an essential nutrient for the developing brain, eyes, and nervous system of the fetus. The mother’s body cannot make enough DHA on its own, and research shows that up to 95% of people of child-bearing age do not consume adequate amounts of DHA and EPA. For these reasons, taking a DHA supplement during pregnancy is beneficial for most people. In addition to supporting growth and development, DHA has been associated with reduced risk of preterm birth.
The following groups of people would benefit from taking a DHA supplement for pregnancy:
Those who may become pregnant. If you are planning to become pregnant, you would benefit from taking a DHA supplement that also contains EPA. Make sure you are also taking a prenatal vitamin with folate or folic acid. Some prenatal vitamins have DHA and EPA, but some do not, so be sure to check the label. Taking DHA before pregnancy ensures that your body has adequate amounts of DHA and EPA before conception.
Pregnant people. If you were not taking a DHA supplement before you got pregnant, you can start taking one as soon as you find out you are pregnant. The central nervous system starts to develop in the first few weeks of pregnancy. “Research shows that consuming omega-3’s during pregnancy can increase the length of pregnancy and birth weight by altering the balance of eicosanoids involved in labor and promoting fetal growth by improving placental blood flow,” says Barmmer. Taking a DHA supplement, along with eating fatty fish, will help you achieve the recommended amount of DHA for healthy growth and development of the fetus.
Those who just gave birth. DHA is also important for babies after they are born because their brains continue to rapidly grow and develop during the first few years of life. Continue taking your DHA supplement, especially if you are breastfeeding. “Studies show that higher levels of DHA in breast milk are easily absorbed by babies and raise their DHA levels. So optimal amounts of DHA and EPA mean that you have sufficient amounts for your health and recovery during the postpartum period and the growing needs of your baby,” says Barmmer. If you do not breastfeed, you can still consider taking a DHA supplement for your own health. “Postpartum recovery and repletion is very individual and can take up to 18 months or more depending on a number of variables. It is most critical to continue taking your prenatal and fish oil for at least the first three to six months postpartum, regardless of whether or not you are breastfeeding (but especially if so!),” says Barmmer.
Who May Not Benefit From DHA Supplements for Pregnancy
Those whose doctors have advised against taking DHA. In general, DHA supplements are safe and beneficial for pregnant people to take unless a doctor has advised them against taking DHA while pregnant. Fish oil supplements may interact with blood pressure medications and medications that reduce blood clotting, so check with your provider if you are taking these or any other medications before starting a DHA supplement.
Those who are allergic to fish or algae. DHA is typically sourced from fish oil, krill oil, cod liver oil, or algae. People who are allergic to any of these should avoid DHA supplements that contain these ingredients and speak with their provider about alternative options.
DHA Supplements for Pregnancy We Excluded From Our List
We excluded DHA supplements that did not contain EPA because EPA is important for aiding the transfer of DHA across the placenta to the baby.
How We Select Supplements
Our team works hard to be transparent about why we recommend certain supplements; you can read more about our dietary supplement methodology here.
We support supplements that are evidence-based and rooted in science. We value certain product attributes that we find to be associated with the highest quality products. We prioritize products that are third-party tested and certified by one of three independent third-party certifiers: USP, NSF, or ConsumerLab.com.
It's important to note that the FDA does not review dietary supplements for safety and effectiveness before they go to market. Our team of experts has created a detailed, science-backed methodology to choose the supplements we recommend.
What to Look For in DHA Supplements for Pregnancy
Supplements that are third-party tested are sent to a lab where they are tested to ensure they contain what they say they contain and are not contaminated with specific high-risk, common contaminants. However, it’s important to note:
Third-party testing does not test to see if a product is effective or safe for everyone, and it does not ensure the supplement will not interact with other supplements or medications.
Not all third-party testing is created equal. It is not uncommon for supplement companies to pay labs for certificates after conducting minimal to no testing.
The third-party certifications we can trust are ConsumerLab.com, NSF, and USP. However, these certifications are difficult to obtain and/or expensive for manufacturers, so many companies choose not to get their products tested by one of these three organizations.
Sometimes products tested by these three companies are more expensive to try to offset the cost they pay for certification.
Just because a supplement is not tested by one of these three companies, it does not mean it’s a bad product. We recommend doing some research on the reputability of the manufacturer and calling up the manufacturer and their testing lab to determine their protocols and decide if you feel comfortable consuming the supplement.
“DHA can be taken from a fish oil form or from a supplement that is algae-based, which is appropriate for those who follow a vegan lifestyle or who follow a diet that excludes seafood from their diet,” says registered dietitian Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, LDN, CLEC, CPT. Fish oil contains DHA in the natural triglyceride form.
Other forms of DHA include ethyl esters and re-esterified triglycerides, which are chemically altered versions of the natural form. The natural triglyceride form of DHA can be converted to ethyl esters or re-esterified triglycerides to purify or stabilize the fatty acid. The natural triglyceride form and re-esterified triglyceride form of DHA are better absorbed than ethyl esters, but all forms are shown to raise DHA levels in the blood.
Ingredients & Potential Interactions
It is essential to carefully read the ingredient list and nutrition facts panel of a supplement to know which ingredients and how much of each ingredient is included relative to the recommended daily value of that ingredient. Please bring the supplement label to a healthcare provider to review the different ingredients contained in the supplement and any potential interactions between these ingredients and other supplements and medications you are taking.
Fish oil supplements can interfere with blood pressure medications and blood thinner medications. Check with your healthcare provider if you are taking medications during pregnancy before starting a new supplement.
Some experts believe that DHA is best taken separately from a prenatal multivitamin, but other studies have shown that taking a softgel with DHA, plus other vitamins and minerals, still raises the DHA levels of pregnant people.
DHA Supplements for Pregnancy Dosage
Currently, there is no Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for DHA. However, global organizations, such as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and others, recommend that pregnant and lactating people consume 200 milligrams (mg) of DHA per day. For this reason, most DHA supplements for pregnancy have a minimum of 200 mg of DHA.
Some supplements have higher doses of DHA, closer to 400 mg, 600 mg, or even 1,000 mg. A 2013 study found that supplementation with 600 mg of DHA during the second half of pregnancy resulted in fewer preterm births, higher birth weight, and longer gestation duration. Other studies show that 1,000 mg of DHA in pregnancy can have positive effects, such as the reduced risk of preterm birth, specifically for those who have low DHA levels at the start of pregnancy.
How Much is Too Much?
There is currently no upper limit set for DHA. Most DHA supplements contain at least 200 mg of DHA. However, studies have shown that up to 1,000 mg of DHA per day in pregnancy can reduce adverse outcomes like preterm birth, especially in mothers with low DHA levels.
Frequently Asked Questions
When should you start taking DHA in pregnancy?
“It’s really never too soon. In fact, the preconception period is the perfect time to start taking fish oil that has both EPA and DHA. Research shows that 80% of U.S. women of childbearing age have low levels of omega-3 fatty acids for a variety of reasons—diet, genetics, and chronic illness, to name a few. Because pregnancy is the primary source of EPA and DHA for a growing baby, getting enough before, during, and after pregnancy is important. EPA and DHA promote a happy and healthy pregnancy, support fetal and newborn development, and offer much-needed mood support for moms in the postpartum period,” says Barmmer.
When is it too late to take DHA during pregnancy?
The sooner you can start taking DHA, the better. However, it is never too late to start taking DHA during pregnancy. Any amount you can consume, either through fish or a supplement, will help in the healthy development of your baby’s brain, eyes, and central nervous system. Even after a baby is born, DHA continues to be an important nutrient.
“At birth, the average baby's brain is about a quarter of the size of the average adult brain, so getting enough omega-3s can help support baby’s brain development during those early months and years,” says Barmmer.
What does DHA do during each trimester?
Throughout each trimester, DHA, along with EPA, supports the growth and development of the central nervous system, brain, and eyes. In the first trimester, DHA supports the central nervous system as it begins to develop. In the third trimester, the brain and eyes are rapidly growing, and the baby obtains DHA daily from the placenta to support this growth.
Babies continue to accrue DHA in the central nervous system up until 18 months of age. They can get DHA from breast milk, formula, and eventually seafood once they start eating food.
What fish oil supplement is best for pregnancy?
A fish oil supplement that delivers at least 200 mg of DHA and also contains EPA is best for pregnancy. While many prenatal supplements, including some in this roundup, contain DHA and EPA, some of them are lower in other important nutrients for pregnancy, such as choline, iron, or calcium, for example.
Other supplements are marketed as “Prenatal DHA” supplements, but they only contain DHA plus a few other nutrients and lack the rest of the essential vitamins and minerals for pregnancy. To ensure you get all of the recommended nutrients for pregnancy, as well as the optimal amount of DHA and EPA, it may be best to take two separate supplements—a prenatal vitamin and a supplement with DHA and EPA in the recommended doses.
Related:The 6 Best Pregnancy-Safe Protein Powders
Why Trust Verywell Family
As a Registered Dietitian who works with moms and is also a mom herself, you can trust Lainey Younkin, MS, RD, to recommend the safest and purest DHA supplements for pregnancy. She analyzed the latest nutrition research and spoke to experts in the field to ensure the highest-quality supplements were included in this roundup.