Prenatal DHA: The Complete Guide

Picture of Pregnancy Vitamins with Algal DHA

Summary

  • Yes, Prenatal Vitamins are extremely important.
  • We recommend taking a separate Omega-3 (DHA) supplement in addition to a multivitamin.
  • Prenatal DHA supplements vary widely in quality. The best are algae-based with low (or zero!) mercury content.
  • Our favorite Prenatal DHA is Diet Standards Prenatal DHA on Amazon

The Full Story on Prenatal DHA

When you just find out you’re pregnant, one of the first things your physician tells you about is the importance of taking prenatal vitamins and other supplements, and how it can help improve the outcome of your pregnancy. Recent studies show prenatal supplements help reduce infant morbidity and mortality as well as a variety of maternal pregnancy complications.

One of the supplements recommended by most doctors is Prenatal DHA, the most abundant fatty acid found in the brain and serves to help develop a child’s brain, nerves, and vision. While the studies on prenatal DHA’s benefits are sound, it is to be noted that not all mothers take prenatal DHA supplements and still have a healthy baby.

Do you need prenatal vitamins? Do you or your child need prenatal DHA? Read on to find out.

What are Prenatal Vitamins?

Prenatal vitamins became a popular trend in the past few years due to solid research showing their potential benefits to both the mother and the baby in her womb. These special vitamins are formulated to reduce the risks and complications of childbearing and are considered essential for both mom and baby. [1] They are well-researched to provide benefits and can be the safest choice for a mother to manage her pregnancy period.

Scientists believe there are certain nutrients needed by the developing baby that can’t be met through diet alone. The science is also greatly supported by stories of mothers who took prenatal supplementation and delivered healthy babies compared to those who only relied on diet. [2]

Recent studies have also shown deprivation of omega-3 fatty acids during gestation is linked with visual and behavioral deficits, both of which cannot be fixed with postnatal supplementation.

How do Prenatal Vitamins Benefit Moms?

Prenatal vitamins are usually made of a carefully blended mix of folic acid, iron, calcium, vitamins A, B, C, D, and other minerals. Some also include DHA.

What separates prenatal vitamins from typical multivitamins are the formulations and what the ingredients are made of. Rigorous standards were created with the developing baby as well as the expecting mother in mind, and as a result, companies are designing their prenatal vitamins in the safest and risk-free way possible.

From avoiding the use of artificial colors and preservatives to investing more in natural ingredients, rest assured reputable prenatal vitamins are safe for you and your baby. Below are some of the nutrients you should consider taking.

1. DHA

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is a type of Omega-3 and the most abundant fatty acid in the brain. DHA is abundant in seafood particularly anchovies, mackerel, salmon, herring, and some species of trout. Studies suggest adequate DHA intake during pregnancy helps prevent preterm labor and postpartum depression. [3, 4]

Higher concentrations of DHA in mothers’ milk and greater seafood consumption both predicted lower prevalence rates of postpartum depression in simple and logarithmic models, respectively.

Consensus guidelines recommend at least 200 mg per day for healthy brain development in the womb. [5]

2. Flaxseed Oil

Many people associate flaxseed oil to have the same Omega-3 as fish. While fish have DHA, what flaxseed offers is a shorter-chain Omega-3 called Alpha-linolenic acid or ALA. ALA cannot be utilized by the body and is therefore converted into EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA first. The amount of ALA that’s actually converted to EPA and DHA is rather low at a range of 5-15%. [6, 7]

3. Iron

Iron is among the many “must-haves” of any prenatal vitamin product. It acts as a building block for the baby’s cells and supports the baby’s oxygen and nutrient transport mechanism.

Pregnant mothers also need fifty percent more blood than normal. Iron produces hemoglobin, a primary component of red-blood cells which justifies the need for iron supplementation during pregnancy. Othe benefits include improved anemia and immune system maintenance.

4. Calcium

Calcium is known for its benefits to bones and teeth, but as a prenatal supplement calcium is more about the health of the mother than it is the baby. Not just for maintaining the mom’s bones and muscles, it helps prevent heartburn and even pre-eclampsia, [8] a condition where the mom is hypertensive due to a protein “leak” from the kidneys that flows into the uterus that is dangerous for fetal development.

5. Folic Acid

Perhaps one of the most important supplements a woman, especially a pregnant woman, could ever use. It can improve fertility, support brain development, and prevent neural tube defects.

Other Vitamins and Minerals

  • Vitamin B6 provides relief from nausea and vomiting during the first few days of pregnancy. [9]
  • Vitamin C helps rebuild tissues and repair brittle bones that could have depreciated during fetal expansion.
  • Vitamin D supports fetal bone and teeth development by merging with calcium. Adequate intake also prevents pre-eclampsia. [10]
    • The intended intervention (i.e., prescription of vitamin D) has a protective effect against recurrent preeclampsia. Vitamin D supplementation therapy in pregnancy could help in reducing the incidence of gestational hypertension/preeclampsia.
  • Zinc promotes cell growth and improves the immune system which are both important for the mother and baby. In fact, the mineral is so critical a maternal zinc deficiency can lead to pregnancy complications such as structural birth defects, low birth weight, immunological abnormalities after birth, and even fetal death. [11]

Why DHA is Critical During Pregnancy

As mentioned, DHA is important when it comes to proper fetal brain development as well as prevention of pre term labor and postpartum depression. DHA is mainly sourced from the fats of oily fish and seafood together with EPA.

Benefits of DHA

More than its pregnancy-related benefits, DHA (as a form of Omega 3) reduces risk of allergens as well as many other diseases through its anti-inflammatory properties. It’s also particularly good for overall cardiovascular and neurological health in older adults. [12, 13]

Omega-3 fatty acid consumption has been associated with improved cardiovascular function in terms of antiinflammatory properties, peripheral arterial disease, reduced major coronary events, and improved antiplatelet effects in the face of aspirin resistance or clopidogrel hyporesponsiveness.

Benefits of EPA

Though similar in source, health benefits, and structure, EPA is a whole other form of omega-3.

EPA’s strength lies in its ability to mitigate cellular inflammation. It works by preventing eicosanoid production through arachidonic acid (AA) inhibition. Eicosanoids are produced from AA which is sourced from animal fats. Eicosanoids play a big role in inflammation and fever promotion, two health issues that force us to visit the doctor’s office. So basically, the more EPA you have in your diet, the less AA you produce. The less AA you produce, the lower the risk of inflammation.

On top of inhibiting inflammation (which is already a huge benefit), EPA is also superior to DHA when it comes to treating brain-related issues such as depression, brain trauma, ADHD, and even Alzheimer’s Disease. [14 – 16]

Sources of DHA and EPA in Diet

While flaxseed, soybean, and canola oils technically supply omega-3, we reiterate that the ALA to EPA & DHA conversion is inefficient. To get the best source, you have to focus on fish and seafood sources. Good dietary sources include salmon, tuna, herring, sardines, and mackerel. Farmed fish can also have higher levels of EPA & DHA compared to their wild counterparts, but it entirely depends on the food they are fed. [17, 18]

Below are the top 20 foods high EPA, and DHA according to the USDA. Click here for the full report.

Click to enlarge

The recommended intake of omega 3s (both DHA & EPA) are:

  • 1.1 g for females aged 19 and above;
  • 1.4 g during pregnancy;
  • and 1.3 g during lactation.

“I get what Omega-3 is, but what about Omega-6?”

That’s a really great question. Omega-3 and Omega-6 are essential fatty acids, meaning the body is unable to produce its own and requires dietary intake.

Omega-3s are a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid, which means it contains more than one double bond in its chemical structure. The number “3” refers to the location the first double bond occurs in the structure. The three omega-3s are DHA, EPA, and ALA.

Omega-3s are awesome for your cells and plays a critical role in reducing inflammation which can lead to lower risks of cancers, heart disease, and osteoporosis. Omega-3s also stimulate hair and skin growth which is why it is recommended as a prenatal supplement.

Omega-6s are also a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid that has similar benefits to Omega-3 when it comes to the brain, bone, and reproductive health. It’s been shown to help reduce diabetic neuropathy, rheumatoid arthritis, and even some allergies. [19] It’s also shown to help reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering LDL cholesterol while increasing HDL cholesterol. [20]

So what’s the difference between Omega-3 and Omega-6 aside from their chemical structure?

Just two: Their sources and the amount your body can tolerate.

As mentioned earlier, Omega-3s are mostly sourced from fish and seafood. There are other plausible sources, but the amount of Omega-3 you get from other sources is much, much smaller per serving. Omega-6s, on the other hand, are much more abundant, with a lot of its sources coming in the form of vegetable oils, dairy and eggs, red meat and poultry, and even fast food items such as popcorn, onion rings, and french fries.

Researchers confirm it’s almost impossible to have too much. In fact, most American adults don’t even meet the right amount of Omega-3 their body needs unless they supplement. When it comes to Omega-6, though, it’s entirely too easy to have too much of it. [21]

Too much Omega-6 increases inflammation as well as being linked to depression. This is why supplementing with Omega-3 is recommended for those who eat a typical Western diet as it helps balance the ratio and therefore reduce the side effects. [22]

Increases in the ratio of n-6 : n-3 PUFA, characteristic of the Western diet, could potentiate inflammatory processes and consequently predispose to or exacerbate many inflammatory diseases. The change in ratio and increase in n-6 PUFA consumption changes the production of important mediators and regulators of inflammation and immune responses towards a proinflammatory profile.

Prenatal Multivitamin + Prenatal DHA

Prenatal Multivitamins and Prenatal DHA are good for you, but taking one over the other will not yield the same benefits for you and your baby. A Prenatal Multivitamin contains a lot of vitamins and minerals that benefit you and your baby. However, it may not provide a good amount of DHA hence the necessity of taking prenatal DHA.

How do I take Prenatal DHA?

A prenatal DHA can be taken the same way you take other multivitamins (one capsule before or after a meal, etc.), but your doctor may specify otherwise.

When should I take Prenatal DHA?

High quality prenatal supplementation should begin before and during pregnancy as well as during the breastfeeding stage. Women should allow at least six months before conceiving to build up the necessary DHA. Not to mention multiple pregnancies can deplete the mother’s stored DHA.

How do nutrients get inside the baby while still in the womb?

Nutrients get inside the baby with the help of the mother’s blood circulation, the placenta, the umbilical cord, and the baby’s own circulation. All nutrients must pass through the placenta and all of the unnecessary metabolites are removed through the placenta and the mother’s liver and kidneys. You can say the placenta plays the role of kidney, gut, and liver for the baby.

When it comes to breastfeeding, the mother’s diet has little to do with the quality of the milk than it has on the body of the mother. The magical thing about breast milk is its composition varies according to the baby’s needs, especially during the first month. [23]

What happens when you take too much DHA?

While getting too much DHA is almost impossible with dietary sources alone, supplementation can definitely spike the daily intake. One of the known risks includes blood thinning which could result in excessive bleeding in delivery. Other possible side effects include headaches, nausea, dizziness, and even vomiting although it’s to be noted these are mostly anecdotal.

To date, most physicians recommend at least 300 mg DHA per day although some studies indicate 1000 mg per day is harmless to the child. [24] For reference, the FDA recommends not exceeding 3,000 mg EPA & DHA combined for adults.

The real issue with overdosing on DHA is not DHA itself, but where it’s sourced from and how it was processed. When taking DHA supplements, make sure it’s molecularly distilled or sourced from originatinating algae. If not, your supplement could contain trace amounts of environmental pollutants such as mercury which can adversely affect the child.

Types of Prenatal DHA

Prenatal DHA products may be the same in structure, but not in source. We all know the typical marine source of DHA, but even the fish and seafood are unable to produce their own DHA. So, where does DHA really come from? The answer to that is algae. No, not the algae that make the flaxseed-type of Omega-3, but the microscopic one that is responsible for creating DHA itself.

The DHA food chain goes like this:

  1. We start with algae, which is then consumed by other organisms, such as krill.
  2. Krill are then consumed by a larger fish, like tuna.
  3. Finally, much higher up the food chain are larger fish such as squid, and other apex predators.
  4. By the time you get up the chain to fish, these animals have accrued DHA and EPA stores in their fat due to having directly or indirectly eaten algae.

Okay, so we understand how we source DHA, but what about people who prefer to source their nutrients from plants? Well, for that we go to the source which is the algae and extract what we call algae oil.

Algae Oil: The Vegetarian DHA

Algae oil is the oil derived directly from algae. This type of algae can be farm-raised and provide sustainable vegetarian, kosher, and organic DHA. The algae-derived DHA, or commonly referred to as algae oil, is now added to some of our food make sure we acquire enough omega-3s in our diet in a more sustainable and so much more humane way. [25]

Algae oil is also known to be contaminant-free when raised in a clean farm. This eliminates the possibility of ingesting compounds like mercury unlike when eating fish. How does mercury get into our fish anyway? Below is what we call the Mercury Food Chain.

  1. Methylmercury is pumped into waters through coal plants, mines, and even natural sources such as volcanoes.
  2. All fish absorb some of this mercury, but its levels are still safe for the human body to eat. However, the problems come when a larger fish eats a smaller fish and then that larger fish gets both his and its food’s amount of mercury.
  3. Then comes along a larger predator that then eats that fish and absorbs both of the previous fish’s mercury levels, on top of its own.
  4. This continues up all the way to apex predators like swordfish and shark. Both of those creatures have extreme levels of mercury.

As you can see, the Mercury Food Chain is a lot like the DHA Food Chain except with pollutants in between. Consuming algae oil from farms help prevent this polluted chain from interfering with our health.

Protip: You can check the FDA’s official table on fish and mercury content right here.

Fish oil and Algae oil: Advantages and Disadvantages

Fish oil’s main advantage is its current abundance and popularity in the market. This abundance makes it affordable and easier to manufacture. Its main disadvantage is it spoils, may contain contaminants such as mercury and lead, there is the risk of overfishing, and of course its taste and smell.

Algae oil’s highlights include no moral arguments with regards to its sourcing, can be enjoyed by both omnivores and vegans, much more environmentally sustainable, and has no contaminants when grown in a clean environment. Its primary disadvantage is its rarity which translates to a higher price point.

Choosing the Best DHA Supplement

Before we go over what we recommend as the best DHA supplement, it’s important to note how you should ingest DHA in your system.

  1. Take them with food. All Omega 3 supplements are much more bioavailable if you take them as soon as you’re done eating a fatty meal. This is due to how oils are difficult to break down. Eating a meal, which contains at least a bit of fat, will trigger bile discharge from the gallbladder. This will then help the retention of the Omega 3 fats.
  2. As oil or as a capsule. We got nothing against people who like the rather strong fishy taste, but it’s not easy to get omega-3 oil as oil. Even flaxseed oil is quite unpleasant when taken raw. However, you do get the benefit of absorbing the omega-3 quicker than you would have with a capsule and they’re also way cheaper. The only problem is you’ll have to deal with “fishy reflux” or “fish burps” which aren’t exactly pleasant to both user and the people around them. If you’re a fan of fish oil, but hate the smell or aftertaste, you’re better off with a high quality capsule brand.
  3. Don’t double the dose. Most people think skipping a dose means they have to double up on the next one. When this happens, you should just stick with your regular dosage as doubling it may cause unwanted side effects.

When you’re done with your DHA supplement, make sure to store them in the fridge or at room temperature to make sure they don’t become rancid.

What to look for in a Prenatal DHA

There isn’t one best prenatal DHA. What works best for thousands of people may not work best for you, but you can narrow down the results according to their quality, sourcing, and potency.

  1. Trusted brand name. As with all types of supplements, it’s important to try and search for trusted brands so to have security over the quality of the product. Not only that, but you’re also buying something for a baby so don’t hesitate to spend a bit more for your child.
    • You should also consider brands that guarantee “no fish burps.”
  2. Essential nutrients. A nutritious diet should already provide you with 70-80% of vitamins, minerals, and essential oils you and your baby need. With that said, there are benefits to supplementing as we laid out earlier and it’s important to note not just the nutrients in the supplement, but also their dosage. For DHA, you should opt for a supplement to contain at least 300 mg per serving.
    • It’s worth noting that vegetarians or vegans may have to consult with a physician to determine which nutrients should they be getting more of in a product.
  3. Source of DHA. Fish-derived DHA will always be cheaper than ones from algae, but perhaps even non-vegans should consider algae-sourced DHA due to their purity as well as environmental sustainability.
    • Some DHA supplements may get their source from fish that contain high levels of mercury. If enough mercury gets in your baby’s system it may cause irreversible brain damage, delays in walking and talking, poor memory and attention span, and sensory problems.

Why is Diet Standards Prenatal DHA better than others?

When it comes to Prenatal DHA, nothing beats Diet Standards Prenatal DHA.

Here are what makes Diet Standards Prenatal DHA superior to the competition:

  • Algae sourced.
  • Vegan softgels
  • Offers 825 mg of Omega-3s per serving
  • One serving contains 450 mg DHA and 225 EPA
  • Zero allergens (fish, egg, gluten, soy, milk, nuts) and zero contaminants
  • They submit to 3rd party lab tests and posts the results on their website.

Got to this link so you can order now.

Summary

  • Yes, Prenatal Vitamins are extremely important.
  • We recommend taking a separate Omega-3 (DHA) supplement in addition to a multivitamin.
  • Prenatal DHA supplements vary widely in quality. The best are algae-based with low (or zero!) mercury content.
  • Our favorite Prenatal DHA is Diet Standards Prenatal DHA on Amazon

References:

  1. Imhoff-Kunsch B, Stein AD, Martorell R, Parra-Cabrera S, Romieu I, Ramakrishnan U. Prenatal Docosahexaenoic Acid Supplementation and Infant Morbidity: Randomized Controlled Trial. Pediatrics. 2011;128(3):e505-e512. doi:10.1542/peds.2010-1386.
  2. Newman V, Lyon RB, Anderson PO. Evaluation of prenatal vitamin-mineral supplements. Clin Pharm. 1987;6(10):770-7.
  3. Hibbeln JR. Seafood consumption, the DHA content of mothers’ milk and prevalence rates of postpartum depression: a cross-national, ecological analysis. J Affect Disord. 2002;69(1-3):15-29.
  4. Sontrop J, Avison WR, Evers SE, Speechley KN, Campbell MK. Depressive symptoms during pregnancy in relation to fish consumption and intake of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. Paediatr Perinat Epidemiol. 2008;22(4):389-99.
  5. Koletzko B, Lien E, Agostoni C, et al. The roles of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in pregnancy, lactation and infancy: review of current knowledge and consensus recommendations. J Perinat Med. 2008;36(1):5-14.
  6. Brenna JT. Efficiency of conversion of alpha-linolenic acid to long chain n-3 fatty acids in man. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2002;5(2):127-32.
  7. Gerster H. Can adults adequately convert alpha-linolenic acid (18:3n-3) to eicosapentaenoic acid (20:5n-3) and docosahexaenoic acid (22:6n-3)?. Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 1998;68(3):159-73.
  8. Hofmeyr GJ, Roodt A, Atallah AN, Duley L. Calcium supplementation to prevent pre-eclampsia–a systematic review. S Afr Med J. 2003;93(3):224-8.
  9. Babaei AH, Foghaha MH. A randomized comparison of vitamin B6 and dimenhydrinate in the treatment of nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy. Iranian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Research. 2014;19(2):199-202.
  10. Behjat Sasan S, Zandvakili F, Soufizadeh N, Baybordi E. The Effects of Vitamin D Supplement on Prevention of Recurrence of Preeclampsia in Pregnant Women with a History of Preeclampsia. Obstetrics and Gynecology International. 2017;2017:8249264. doi:10.1155/2017/8249264.
  11. Uriu-adams JY, Keen CL. Zinc and reproduction: effects of zinc deficiency on prenatal and early postnatal development. Birth Defects Res B Dev Reprod Toxicol. 2010;89(4):313-25.
  12. Swanson D, Block R, Mousa SA. Omega-3 Fatty Acids EPA and DHA: Health Benefits Throughout Life. Advances in Nutrition. 2012;3(1):1-7. doi:10.3945/an.111.000893.
  13. Dyall SC, Michael-titus AT. Neurological benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. Neuromolecular Med. 2008;10(4):219-35.
  14. Bloch MH, Qawasmi A. Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation for the Treatment of Children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Symptomatology: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. 2011;50(10):991-1000. doi:10.1016/j.jaac.2011.06.008.
  15. Song C, Shieh CH, Wu YS, Kalueff A, Gaikwad S, Su KP. The role of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids in the treatment of major depression and Alzheimer’s disease: Acting separately or synergistically?. Prog Lipid Res. 2016;62:41-54.
  16. Martins JG. EPA but not DHA appears to be responsible for the efficacy of omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation in depression: evidence from a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. J Am Coll Nutr. 2009;28(5):525-42.
  17. Miller MR, Nichols PD, Carter CG. n-3 Oil sources for use in aquaculture–alternatives to the unsustainable harvest of wild fish. Nutr Res Rev. 2008;21(2):85-96.
  18. Cladis DP, Kleiner AC, Freiser HH, Santerre CR. Fatty acid profiles of commercially available finfish fillets in the United States. Lipids. 2014;49(10):1005-18.
  19. Perez-Matos MC, Morales-Alvarez MC, Mendivil CO. Lipids: A Suitable Therapeutic Target in Diabetic Neuropathy? Journal of Diabetes Research. 2017;2017:6943851. doi:10.1155/2017/6943851.
  20. Sobczak S, Honig A, Christophe A, et al. Lower high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and increased omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids in first-degree relatives of bipolar patients. Psychol Med. 2004;34(1):103-12.
  21. Papanikolaou Y, Brooks J, Reider C, Fulgoni VL. U.S. adults are not meeting recommended levels for fish and omega-3 fatty acid intake: results of an analysis using observational data from NHANES 2003–2008. Nutrition Journal. 2014;13:31. doi:10.1186/1475-2891-13-31.
  22. Patterson E, Wall R, Fitzgerald GF, Ross RP, Stanton C. Health Implications of High Dietary Omega-6 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids. Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism. 2012;2012:539426. doi:10.1155/2012/539426.
  23. Ballard O, Morrow AL. Human Milk Composition: Nutrients and Bioactive Factors. Pediatric clinics of North America. 2013;60(1):49-74. doi:10.1016/j.pcl.2012.10.002.
  24. Kobayashi M, Ogawa K, Morisaki N, Tani Y, Horikawa R, Fujiwara T. Dietary n-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids in Late Pregnancy and Postpartum Depressive Symptom among Japanese Women. Frontiers in Psychiatry. 2017;8:241. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2017.00241.
  25. Adarme-Vega TC, Lim DKY, Timmins M, Vernen F, Li Y, Schenk PM. Microalgal biofactories: a promising approach towards sustainable omega-3 fatty acid production. Microbial Cell Factories. 2012;11:96. doi:10.1186/1475-2859-11-96.

Women and Their Managers Struggle with the “Big News”

Suz O’Donnell

Women are having children later in their careers and therefore have more responsibility on their plates when they start a family.  For those that want to maintain a fruitful career, they need to do a little extra work to make sure everyone at work (including their boss, employees, customers, and peers) know they are coming back as strong as ever.  

While every good manager puts on a happy face and genuinely congratulates the woman on her big news, they also secretly struggle with concerns about whether she will return after having the baby, if she’ll want to go part time, how this will impact team performance, and whether they need to begin recruiting now to backfill part or all of her work.  These are real concerns that affect team engagement, effectiveness, and morale.   

To help both the women planning families and the managers of these women cope better with these situations, check out these resources:  

  • Women planning families:  If you are planning a family and want to make sure your career trajectory stays on track, you should apply the advice in The Career-Family Formula™:  Three Steps Female Leaders Must Take When Planning a Family.  In this eBook, Suz O’Donnell, President and Lead Coach of Thrivatize LLC, shares tangible advice for ensuring everyone around you knows you are coming back to work after you have your baby and that you want to maintain an amazing career while your family grows.  She also offers additional resources on her website PowerfulWomenPlanningFamilies.com.  
  • Managers, Human Resources, and Diversity Officers:  Even in the most supportive environments, unconscious bias can make a pregnant woman feel like her career trajectory is at risk.  The more you can do to prevent these feelings, the more likely she is to come back feeling that you support her ongoing career development and success.  Check out Suz Graf O’Donnell, President and Lead Coach of Thrivatize LLC’s whitepaper The Overlooked Opportunity To Retain More Women In Leadership.  This whitepaper includes an engaging story of what can go wrong when well-meaning managers aren’t certain about the career desires of their employees who are planning a family.  It also highlights team performance risks and costs savings that you can address by properly preparing your female leaders for this big change in their lives.  You can find additional resources or contact information regarding this hot topic at PowerfulWomenPlanningFamilies.com.  

   

Maternity Leave Well Wishes

Here’s you dilemma.  Your co-worker is expecting and now you’re expected to write a nice note along with your baby shower gift.  You know it’s not appropriate to write on the card, “You look like you’ve gained 70 lbs so we hope you’re really having a baby!”  so what do you write instead?  Here’s a handy-dandy list of appropriate well wishes for someone about to go on maternity leave.  These could also work for a father celebrating a new arrival or congratulations to new adoptive parents.  Use these for inspiration and “make it your own” to be sure it sounds like something you would say.

  • Blessings to you and your family during this precious time. Can’t wait to meet the sweet new addition.
  • We will miss you while you’re home with your beautiful bundle of joy.  We’ll be sure to not leave a bundle of work for you when you return!
  • God bless all of you….enjoy this sacred time! Can’t wait to see pictures of the newest family member!
  • Our very best wishes for a healthy and happy baby!
  • Good luck on your maternity leave.  Can’t wait to meet your “new boss”!
  • Wishing you well on your maternity leave. We’ll miss you!
  • Our thoughts will be with you for a happy and healthy baby.  Take your time to rest and enjoy your little one.
  • We will surely miss you while you’re home with baby.  When you come back to work, we’ll be sure not to ask you to change any diapers!

In general it’s absolutely appropriate to wish the mom-to-be a healthy delivery and baby.  If you’re wishing them well there aren’t too many things you can say that are wrong.

However there are two areas you’ll want to steer clear of…You will want to avoid joking that you think her/his time off is going to be easy.  I’ve heard some co-workers say, “I’d sure like six weeks of time away from work!”  New parents are signing up for sleepless nights, endless diaper changes and a whole lot of stress – many times at reduced or no pay!  Even if you’re not cut out to be a parent hopefully you can appreciate and respect their decision to bring a life into the world.

You will also want to avoid advice or sensitive questions about how they will give birth or parent the child.  Childbirth and parenting are very personal subjects that are usually best avoided in the workplace.  The new parent will initiate with you if they are seeking advice.  Otherwise they usually just want you to tell them their baby is going to be the cutest in the world.

Hopefully these tips will help you send off the new mom to a wonderfully rewarding maternity leave.  New parents will appreciate your well wishes and encouragement during this exciting time in their lives.

P.S.  Another great gift…. tell them about this blog (but not that you found your heartfelt sentiment here!)

Negotiate for a Better Maternity Leave

IMaternity-Leave-Proposalt’s no secret that maternity leave benefits in the US are lacking.  You know it’s bad when our own President fronts us out.  To quote him directly, “the United States is the only developed country in the world without paid maternity leave.”  But, we can’t let that get us down because bringing a child into this world is one of, it not THE most rewarding and important thing we can do to in our lifetimes.

The good news is that even when you think the deck is stacked against you and you’re concerned that you won’t get a fair shake when you ask for maternity leave, there are experts out there who have successfully helped women to not only get a fair maternity leave but also a great maternity leave.  Today I would like to introduce you to an expert in this area, Pat Katepoo.

Pat has been a work options advisor since 1993 and her website Work Options has been online since 1997. Thousands of busy professionals have found answers and relief through her services.  Pat says, “Women aren’t socialized to negotiate and so they are less inclined than men to ask for what they need or want. And research shows that often women fail to see their options or even think to ask for them.   So maybe you don’t know what you don’t know.”  Pat can help you see your options and ask for them.

Whether you choose her do-it-yourself guides or her personal services by phone you get practical help negotiating various work options to make your life calmer and easier. Options such as job flexibility, a fabulous pay raise, and more maternity leave and other time off.

Please take a few moments right now to visit Pat at WorkOptions by clicking any of the links in this post.  I really think she’s the best in this subject area and definitely the most experienced.  I always keep a link to her site on the side of my blog posts because I think her services are so valuable to working women.  I’m an affiliate for Pat’s tools and resources so each purchase you make drops a few coins in the bucket to fund The Maternity Leave Coach, so “thank you” in advance.

 

Maternity Leave Laws in the US

Maternity Leave Laws
www.babymed.com

It is important for expectant mothers to review federal and state laws related to maternity leave as well as work/life benefits offered by their employer.  Read on to learn more about the laws that protect pregnant women in the workplace.

Federal and State Laws

The first step in planning your maternity leave is to understand your rights and benefits. You’ll need to pull out your employee handbook to see whether your employer gives you any paid leave for childbirth. But at a minimum, expectant mothers are protected by several federal laws in the U.S.

It’s illegal to discriminate against pregnant women, whether in hiring or an existing employment situation. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.   In the U.S., federal and state laws attempt to provide basic protections to pregnant women and their babies.

Here’s a rundown of two important laws that apply to leave taken after having a baby or adopting a child:

Read moreMaternity Leave Laws in the US

Oh La La – French Parenting and Sleep Sense

bonne-nuitEven before that beautiful baby arrives you may find yourself not sleeping as well as you had before.  Maybe it’s a cruel trick to prepare you for the months, and for some, years to come!   I recommend that you get informed now and prepare yourself for how you will handle those cries in the night.  As a matter of fact, I put down the pregnancy books and started to read parenting books.  One situation lasts 9 months and the other goes on for 18+ years.  I figured I should devote my time and energy to the much more difficult and longer term commitment of parenting.

One book I recommend you read is Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting.  It is not only informative and helpful, it is also entertaining and enjoyable to read.  Taking the French perspective and comparing it to the parenting world you see around you in the US will definitely open your mind.  This book covers not only sleep but also how French moms approach feeding schedules as well as the mysterious “pause” – a method to teach patience in children.  Fascinating book that just may cause you to reconsider your approach to parenting.

How about the question you’ll inevitably get…”Does your baby sleep through the night?”  The second recommendation I’ll make is for The Sleep Sense Program.  I think the reason that The Sleep Sense™ Program is so popular is because it’s clear, simple, and easy to follow. Plus, it allows parents to choose one of two different approaches based on their child’s temperament and personality.  You may have read every book out there already but if you’re concerned that you won’t learn anything new with The Sleep Sense™ Program, my best advice to you is simply this: “Why not give it a try?”  It’s got a no-questions-asked money-back guarantee that’s good for a full year.  Also, Dana at The Sleep Sense Program offers a free sleep assessment to get you started.

So there you have it.  Two great resources for learning more about parenting and reclaiming your sleep.  As the French would say, “Bonne nuit!”

Job Searching While Pregnant

I had a question come in a few weeks ago and it prompts a good discussion about whether or not you should apply for new roles when you are pregnant. “Will they offer me the job if they know I am pregnant?” was the question posed. I offered up the very gray answer of “It depends.”

So “it depends” is based on several different factors which I’ll outline below.

#1 Are they Neanderthals who aren’t very interested in following the law?

If so, anticipate that if you have a visible baby bump you will probably get turned down. If you are not yet showing this puts you in the seat of whether or not you will disclose that you are expecting. We’ll cover how to handle that scenario a little later.

Regardless, if you already know that they are Neanderthals and you have other options to pursue – DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME. Why would you want to work for a bad company/boss anyway if you have a choice to go elsewhere??

Read moreJob Searching While Pregnant

Adopting or Fostering? “Maternity Leave” for You Too

Any time I write about FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) I get a little nervous because for as much benefit and protection that it gives to parents, there are also so many twists and turns that it is easy to misinterpret. So, I’ll start this post off by recommending that you seek counsel and guidance from your company’s HR department and if that gets weird you may have to involve a labor and employment attorney.

Here’s the short answer on “Can I take FMLA leave to adopt or foster a child?” The answer is “yes” however there are some differences if you are not giving birth to the child yourself.

Many supervisors and employees think that FMLA is only there to provide leave for medical conditions (pregnancy being one) however it also applies when an employee (either male or female) has started the process to adopt or foster a child. Be sure to let your manager and HR know well in advance that you are in the process of adopting or fostering a child. If your company is obligated to follow FMLA guidelines you are entitled to leave before the actual placement of a child in your home when the absence is required in order for the adoption to proceed.

Read moreAdopting or Fostering? “Maternity Leave” for You Too

What You Wanted To Know – Doctor Appointments

pregnant-doctorToday when I looked at what search keywords are being used to find The Maternity Leave Coach it was very clear what’s on expectant mother’s minds… taking time off of work for doctor’s appointments. So, you ask and I deliver.  Here are some Q&A that will hopefully answer some burning questions.  AND… while you’re here be sure to check out the new Maternity Leave Prep Kit that will bring everything you need to know about preparing for maternity leave into one handy guide.  $9.99 is a small price to pay for the stress-relief of getting a plan in place.  Look to the right of the page to order your copy today.

Q. Can I use FMLA leave during my pregnancy or only after the birth of my child?

A. Yes. Employees can use FMLA leave during their pregnancy or after the birth of their child. Under the regulations, a mother can use 12 weeks of FMLA leave for the birth of a child, for prenatal care and incapacity related to pregnancy, and for her own serious health condition following the birth of a child. A father can use FMLA leave for the birth of a child and to care for his spouse who is incapacitated (due to pregnancy or child birth).

Read moreWhat You Wanted To Know – Doctor Appointments

Interview: Tom Spiggle – Author of “You’re Pregnant? You’re Fired!”

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Tom Spiggle of Spiggle Law.  I am so excited about his soon to be released book, You’re Pregnant? You’re Fired! and I wanted to be sure all my readers could get a sneak peek.  He’s a great guy who has helped many people who have been challenged with balancing work and family.  Although he represents employees in many different matters, Tom is especially interested in helping clients suffering discrimination because they are pregnant or have family-care issues, such as caring for a sick child or an elderly parent.

Read on to hear Tom’s advice for caregivers in the workplace…

Given that you’ve got four kids of your own, I can imagine it is easy for you to relate to the challenges of working parents.  What really sparked your interest in elevating the issues of caregivers in the workplace today?

Before I was a parent I didn’t realize how hard it would be to juggle it all.  Thankfully, my wife and I both had jobs that were sympathetic to family and I still wonder how it is all even possible without a supportive workplace.  In the US our laws that protect caregivers do a poor job of supporting families so what we really have to do work to enforce the few laws that we do have.  It’s all very complicated because there’s not one law that protects caregivers, but a number of laws that apply.  In many cases, because it is so confusing, there are HR departments who really aren’t sure how to apply the laws appropriately.  That’s why I wrote You’re Pregnant You’re Fired to put it all down into one book that covers all the ins and outs of your parental rights in the workplace.

Read moreInterview: Tom Spiggle – Author of “You’re Pregnant? You’re Fired!”

You’re Pregnant…You’re Fired!

This week the Huffington Post featured “Pregnant? 5 Ways to Protect Yourself From Discrimination at Work”.  Although it pains me that in our day and age we are still in a place where we need to publish a list like this, I am glad that there are folks out there informing women of their rights so they can be prepared.

The post’s author, Tom Spiggle, is also the author of “You’re Pregnant? You’re Fired! Protecting Mothers, Fathers, and Other Caregivers in the Workplace” which will hit shelves later this spring. He is founder of the Spiggle Law Firm based in Arlington, Va., where he focuses on workplace law specializing in helping clients facing discrimination due to pregnancy or other family-care issues, such as caring for a sick child or elderly parent. This is Spiggle’s first book. To learn more, visit:www.yourepregnantyourefired.com.

Although I  don’t encourage people to be defensive, there are bosses out there who are either uninformed or unwilling to follow the laws when it comes to pregnancy and the workplace.  It is good to know you’ve got protections that you can use if push comes to shove (kind of a pregnancy pun too…sorry!).

Check out Tom’s tips and let us know if you’ve had any experiences with pregnancy discrimination.

 

 

Bump Day is the new Hump Day

All I have to say it “Hump Day” and you see it and hear it.  If not, here’s the link on YouTube to re-sear it in your brain.  Hump Day Commercial

I’m sure you hate me a little bit now for refreshing your memory.

In the traditional Hump Day the camel walks around the office shouting “Hump Day!” but I’m taking over Wednesdays and making them Bump Days!    This Wednesday walk around your office and show off that big ol’ belly with pride!

In the Comments below share how your day went.

Also, if you want to see how the celebs are showing off their bellies, check out this link and watch Celebrity Bump Day.

Who’s Your Daddy and Why is He on Paternity Leave?

I just read a great article at Forbes.com about paternity leave and it’s benefits for babies, dads, AND moms.   I’m just curious… do you work with anyone who’s taken a full paternity leave?  In my experience new dads usually take about a week of vacation and they make sure to tell everyone they’re using vacation days just to be sure everyone knows they’re not milking the system for paternity leave.

Wouldn’t it be cool for a dad to say with pride, “I am taking the full benefit of my paternity leave (or FMLA) because becoming a new dad is awesome and I don’t want to miss a moment of it.”  I would venture to say that most new dads definitely feel that way but there are pressures (real or unspoken) to be at work or available for work 24/7.  Especially if the new dad is anxious about being the provider, anything that might rock the boat at work doesn’t seem like a good idea right around the time you’re adding to your family and have another mouth to feed.

So, the pressure keeps some dads from taking time off for the new baby. Are there stereotypes about what dad will do while he’s at home?  Like this promo photo from the classic 80’s movie “Mr. Mom”  Who wants to be this guy?

Mr. Mom

I’m just guessing that dads out there would rather think they’ll look like this (I guess moms wouldn’t mind either!)

David Beckham with Baby

Personally, nothing is more handsome, manly, responsible, mature and EMPLOYABLE than a man who takes care of his family.

What do you think?

What Happens If You Work for “Neanderthal Inc.”?

I am so excited to share a special guest post from my husband and biggest supporter.  Take a few minutes to hear his perspective on maternity leave.

For starters, I’m really proud of my wife for doing the Maternity Leave Coach blog and helping get useful topics/hints/suggestions out there that working women can use when they are on the verge of experiencing the most amazing event they will ever experience in their life. My wife asked me to chime in on a guest post, so we chatted about what I’ve experienced in my working life.

For starters, I’ve had a knack in my working life for working around and with companies that could also be labeled as “Neanderthal Inc.”  By that I mean that they are typically male dominated and may have a culture that is gruff and quite frankly doesn’t understand women and how to work with them or develop them so they are vital parts of the organization. Fortunately, my wife has mostly worked for large companies that have had fairly progressive policies when it comes to women and typically would go above any federal minimums when it came to maternity leave and benefits like that. So, it’s safe to say we’ve had different experiences over our almost 20+ years working. We were talking about her blog recently (did I mention I’m proud of her?) and why some women might not want to tell their managers they are pregnant or that they might be nervous about their future when there are laws to protect them. Here are some observations I’ve made over the years.

Read moreWhat Happens If You Work for “Neanderthal Inc.”?