Moms + DHA = Healthier Babies

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The benefits of DHA keep adding up. A recent study shows benefits to pregnant women and their infant children through supplementing the moms' diets with the omega-3 fatty acid known as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) during pregnancy and postpartum.

After five years of this 10-year, double-blind study, the infants born to women who took 600 milligrams (mg) of DHA daily during pregnancy were less likely to be premature and of low birth weight— indicators of healthier babies.

Higher birth weights are common among children born in Norway and Australia where women consume more DHA and thus pass it on to their fetuses in utero and to their newborns via their breast milk.

The study enhances a 2011 study, in which pregnant women given 400 mg of DHA were able to significantly improve the health of their future children.

Those children had 25 percent fewer colds at one month of age. Those who did catch cold did so for a shorter duration and had less coughing, phlegm, and wheezing.

At three months of age, the same infants were ill 14 percent less time than their counterparts who did not get any DHA. And, at six months of age, the DHA infants had shorter-lasting fevers, less nasal secretion, fewer incidents of difficulty breathing, and fewer rashes.

These babies were also, on average, 100 grams heavier at birth, and ¾ centimeters longer than the babies not exposed to DHA during their mother’s pregnancy.

 “Our findings indicate that pregnant women taking 400 mg of DHA are more likely to deliver healthier infants," said Usha Ramakrishnan, PhD, and author of the 2011 study.

Sources: 

“DHA Supplementation and Pregnancy Outcomes” by S. E. Carlson et al., Am J Clin Nutr, 2013

“Prenatal Docosahexaenoic Acid Supplementation and Infant Morbidity: Randomized Controlled Trial” by B. Imhoff-Kunsch et al., Pediatrics, 9/11