Local 12: Benefits of DHA supplements in pregnant women

UC researchers find DHA supplements in pregnant women decrease preterm births

Pregnant women may benefit from taking a nutritional supplement, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which is commonly found in fish and fish oil supplements, according to a study from researchers at the University of Kansas and the University of Cincinnati.

Early preterm births may be dramatically decreased with DHA supplements, with a dose of 1000 mg more effective for pregnant women with low DHA levels than the 200 mg found in some prenatal supplements, according to the study published in EClinicalMedicine, a clinical journal of The Lancet.

“Currently it is recommended for pregnant women to take 200 mg daily of DHA during pregnancy, which is included in most prenatal vitamins,” says Emily DeFranco, DO, professor and director of maternal-fetal medicine in the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

DeFranco spoke about the research on WKRC-TV in Cincinnati for a Sunday morning segment. (Segment starts at 9:13.)

Emily DeFranco, DO

Emily DeFranco, DO

“However, we suspected that a higher dose of DHA would provide additional health benefits to pregnant women and help protect them from delivering early,” says DeFranco. “Preterm delivery is defined as giving birth at less than 37 weeks, with the due date being at 40 weeks. Preterm birth is a major public health burden, with the worst outcomes occurring in infants who deliver early preterm at less than 34 weeks. In this study, we wanted to see if women who took a higher dose of DHA during pregnancy would be less likely to deliver early preterm compared to women who took the standard recommended dose of 200 mg.”

The study included 1,100 women in a randomized trial conducted at the University of Kansas, the University of Cincinnati and Ohio State University. The study participants were healthy pregnant women who were randomly assigned to take a daily DHA supplement of either 200 mg or 1000 mg. 

“Our goal was to determine whether taking a higher dose of DHA during pregnancy resulted in a reduced risk of having an early preterm delivery at less than 34 weeks of pregnancy,” says DeFranco, a co-author of the study. “Pregnant women should take DHA. This study tells us that many women benefit from taking a higher dose of DHA supplement in pregnancy, especially those who don't eat a lot of foods high in DHA like fish and eggs.”

A second segment on the study is also available from WKRC online.

Featured image courtesy of Unsplash.

Next Lives Here

The University of Cincinnati is leading public urban universities into a new era of innovation and impact. Our faculty, staff and students are saving lives, changing outcomes and bending the future in our city's direction. Next Lives Here.

Stay up to date on all UC's COVID-19 stories, or take a UC virtual visit and begin picturing yourself at an institution that inspires incredible stories.