DHA supplementation and nutrition education can increase gestational length

Nutrition education or taking DHA supplements could positively affect gestational length. Improving DHA status through education or supplements is vital since maternal DHA levels are correlated with fetal DHA status and also represent enhanced DHA stores to support lactation and early infant growth and cognitive development.

Essential fatty acids of the n-6 and n-3 series play important roles in maintaining gestation. In a randomized supplementation trial, pregnant women supplemented with 2.7 g EPA + DHA/day throughout the second half of gestation experienced a significant 4.5-day increase in gestational length. A recent report indicated that supplementation with 600 mg/day DHA from the 20th week of pregnancy resulted in a 2.9-day increase in gestational length but results from randomized controlled trials remain inconclusive. It has been reported that fish intake is more consistent in the reduction of preterm birth than fish oil or DHA supplements. Therefore, this study was conducted to compare supplementation of DHA oil at two doses to nutrition education, targeted to increase DHA consumption from fish and DHA fortified foods on gestational length.

The study was a two-part intervention. 871 pregnant women aged 18-40 were selected between 16 and 20 weeks of gestation to receive either 300 or 600 mg DHA or olive oil placebo or nutrition education. 564 women completed the study and complete delivery data was available in 505 women and infants. From the study, it was seen that gestational length was increased by 4.0-4.5 days in women supplemented with 600 mg DHA/d or provided with nutrition education. Maternal red blood cell DHA significantly increased in supplemented groups and declined in controls. Maternal red blood cell % total DHA at delivery positively correlated with gestational length (P < 0.01; r = 0.15) and birth weight (P = 0.05; r = 0.11). Each 1% increase in erythrocyte DHA at delivery was linked with a 1.6-day increase in gestational length. The rate of early preterm birth (1.7%) in those supplemented with DHA was lower than in controls. Mean DHA levels were significantly increased at delivery with either the 300 mg (3.88 ± 1.61) or 600 mg (4.19 ± 1.50) supplement compared to control (3.09 ± 1.19).

In conclusion, nutrition education or taking DHA supplements could positively affect gestational length. Improving DHA status through education or supplements is vital since maternal DHA levels are correlated with fetal DHA status and also represent enhanced DHA stores to support lactation and early infant growth and cognitive development.

References

  1. Harris, M.A., et al., The Effect of Omega-3 Docosahexaenoic Acid Supplementation on Gestational Length: Randomized Trial of Supplementation Compared to Nutrition Education for Increasing n-3 Intake from Foods. Biomed Res Int, 2015.