15th March 2013: Omega-3 DHA may prevent the birth of premature babies

For pregnant women, supplements of the omega-3 fatty acid, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), may help to reduce the likelihood of giving birth very prematurely, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The results add to evidence that omega-3 fatty acid supplements make pregnancy last a little longer, which means more development time for babies before birth, less hospital time after birth and a better long-term health outlook.  This is important for women in the US, where the study was conducted, as they have shorter pregnancies and lower birth weights, on average, than in many other developed countries, according to lead author Susan Carlson.  "It didn't reduce all preterm births, but reduced the riskiest preterm births," said Carlson, a nutritionist at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City.

Carlson and her colleagues recruited 350 women between eight and 20 weeks pregnant and gave half of them a supply of capsules, each containing 200 milligrams of algae-derived DHA, to take three times a day until giving birth. The other half of the women received identical-looking placebo capsules with mainly corn and soy oils.

When Carlson's team looked at the outcomes of the women's pregnancies, they found that overall, participants taking the DHA supplements tended to have slightly larger, heavier babies and to give birth about three days later than the placebo group.

For the full article on Reuters Health, please click here.

View the abstract of the original paper here.

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