KC research finds fish oil may reduce very premature birth

KC research finds fish oil may reduce very premature birth

Meryl Lin Mckean

Harrison Norris was born at risk more than two months early. He's spent the first two weeks of life in the neonatal intensive care unit of the University of Kansas Hospital.

"The anxiety is there. He is very premature. Being here every time an alarm goes off, my heart kinda stops for a second," says his mother, Lindsay Norris.

Research of Kansas City area pregnant women finds a possible way to lower the chances of a very premature birth. Dr. Susan Carlson of KU Medical Center led the study of 350 women published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Half the women took DHA -- an omega three fatty acid found in fish oil. The others took a placebo. Fewer than one percent of the women who took DHA gave birth before 34 weeks compared to five percent of the other women which is about the national average.

Pregnancies lasted longer. The babies weighed a little more. And DHA was safe to use. Dr. Carlson thinks DHA helps by reducing inflammation in the body.

"And we know that inflammation is a part of delivery normally, but it's particularly found in early pre-term deliveries," says the researcher.

She says pregnant women should talk to their obstetricians about whether to take a supplement containing DHA.

Women in the study took 600 milligrams of DHA daily. That's a higher dose than can be found in prenatal vitamins that contain DHA, and it's higher than most people get from fish oil supplements.

Lindsay says if DHA is proven to extend pregnancies, "That can make a lot of difference."

Research in some other countries has had similar results. Now Dr. Carlson hopes our government will fund a big study. She says based on these early findings, DHA could prevent 80,000 very premature births in America every year, and save nine billion dollars in health care costs.