The first five years of a 10-year double-blind study from the University of Kansas are complete and researchers are reporting a positive benefit of taking DHA during pregnancy. According to the study, supplementing with 600 mg of DHA during pregnancy reduces the risk of low birth weight (LBW) and preterm delivery.

The study included 350 women pregnant between Jan. 2006 and Oct. 2011. Women consumed up to 600 mg of DHA daily from the 20th week of pregnancy to birth. Varying DHA levels were delivered via capsules with an average intake of 469 mg of DHA.

Women in the active group tended to stay pregnant longer and give birth to heavier infants. The length and head circumference were also improved in the active group. Maternal and cord blood DHA levels were higher in the active group.

Researchers are continuing the study for the next five years to determine long-term effects of DHA supplementation on offspring intelligence and cognitive development. Twice yearly screenings will be used to measure cognitive growth. All participants will be followed until offspring reaches six years of age. Of particular concern are developmental milestones associated with health and welfare throughout life.

There were no negative side effects reported in women who took DHA daily for the latter half of pregnancy. Researchers did not assume any difference in outcomes associated with earlier intake of DHA. At this time there is are no known risks to starting DHA supplementation with prenatal vitamin supplementation when pregnancy is confirmed.

DHA is transmitted to the fetus via maternal blood during pregnancy and after birth via breast milk. Researchers did not report if any of the mothers continued to use DHA supplements after giving birth. DHA is safe for use while breastfeeding.

Source: S. E. Carlson, J. Colombo, B. J. Gajewski, K. M. Gustafson, D. Mundy, J. Yeast, M. K. Georgieff, L. A. Markley, E. H. Kerling, D. J. Shaddy. DHA supplementation and pregnancy outcomes. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2013; DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.112.050021.