Premature birth is the number one cause of serious health problems in infants. A study released at the University of Kansas Medical Centre has determined that docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), one of the omega-3 fatty acids, can actually reduce the risk of a women giving birth very prematurely.
In this study, 350 women were given 200mg of DHA derived from algae, three times per day during pregnancy up until the time of birth. They found that women taking the DHA tended to have larger, heavier babies and gave birth significantly later than in the placebo group.
This was especially true for women who had the most premature babies in the group (less than 34 weeks gestation). For the women who were on the DHA supplements, only 1% had their babies at 34 weeks or less, compared to 5% of the mothers who were not on DHA.
The study measured blood DHA levels in the two groups and found that the supplemented group had significantly increased levels of DHA, which was the only fatty acid that had changed, thus giving credit to the oil for the benefits seen in the mothers.
Although eating fish is beneficial in pregnancy, to get 600mg of DHA, a women might have to eat so much fish that it could put the fetus at risk for exposure to mercury, depending on the fish chosen. For this reason I recommended to supplement a high quality DHA instead, to assure purity and freedom from PCBs and mercury. Triglyceride-form DHA is well absorbed. A high quality fish oil should be molecularly distilled and third party tested for toxins such as PCBs and mercury.
It has also been found in a previous study that 400mg of DHA daily did not provide these same benefits on extending gestation time. Supplementing can ensure that pregnant women get the full 600mg required to prevent very premature birth.
- Carlson SE, Colombo J, Gajewski BJ, Gustafson KM, Mundy D, Yeast J, Georgieff MK, Markley LA,Kerling EH, Shaddy DJ. DHA supplementation and pregnancy outcomes. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Apr;97(4):808-15