InfantsOmega-3 Fatty AcidsPregnancy

Influence of maternal DHA supplements on infant morbidity

Researchers in the US and Mexico studied the effects of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids such as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) on immune function and inflammation.

First, the details.

  • Pregnant women were randomly assigned to a treatment group from 18 to 22 weeks gestation through birth.
    • Daily supplementation with 400 mg of DHA
    • Placebo
  • In more than 800 infants aged 1, 3, and 6 months, caregivers reported the occurrence of common illness symptoms in the preceding 15 days.
  • Neither the patients nor researchers knew the treatment given — double blind.

And, the results.

  • The occurrence of specific illness symptoms did not differ between groups.
  • At 1 month:
    • The occurrence of cold symptoms was lower in the DHA group.
    • The DHA group experienced 26%, 15%, and 30% shorter duration of cough, phlegm, and wheezing, respectively, but 22% longer duration of rash. — significantly different for all outcomes.
  • At 3 months:
    • Infants in the DHA group spent a significant 14% less time ill.
  • At 6 months:
    • Infants in the DHA group experienced 20%, 13%, 54%, 23%, and 25% shorter duration of fever, nasal secretion, difficulty breathing, rash, and “other illness,” respectively, but 74% longer duration of vomiting — significantly different for all outcomes.

The bottom line?

The authors concluded, “DHA supplementation during pregnancy decreased the occurrence of colds in children at 1 month and influenced illness symptom duration at 1, 3, and 6 months.”

DHA is not routinely found in regular prenatal vitamins.

Before buying supplements during pregnancy or feeding them to the baby after birth, pregnant women should talk to their doctor about the potential benefits and risks of omega-3 fatty acids.

8/1/11 21:20 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.