Early preterm birth (ePTB) i.e. birth at the 34th week of pregnancy or earlier occurred in approximately 3 percent of pregnancies in the USA in 2014 (1). The resulting cost of the extra medical care required for these babies is considerable. Several randomised controlled trials have demonstrated that supplementation with Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) in the final two trimesters of pregnancy can significantly reduce the level of ePTB (2). A recent meta-analysis of six randomised controlled trials and 4,193 births, showed that intervention of marine omega-3 fatty acid supplements reduced the incidence of ePTB by 58 percent.
Pregnant women in the intervention arm of the KUDOS cohort received 600mg per day of algal DHA from 14.5 weeks after conception until birth (1). The DHA intervention significantly reduced the incidence of ePTB. Infants born to DHA supplemented mothers spent an average of 7.8 days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) in contrast to a figure of 38.4 days for the placebo arm. The net financial benefit of the DHA intervention was calculated as USD 1,484 per pregnancy. If the same effect is applied to all pregnancies in the USA, a net saving of USD 6 billion per year would be possible.
This new study corroborates a similar study previously reported by www.Nutri-facts.org and led by Professor Makrides’ group at Adelaide University (4) in Australia using data from the 2010 DOMInO trial, which demonstrated that in-patient hospital costs could decrease by 92 Australian Dollars (AUD) on average per pregnancy (single) when a daily supplement of 800mg of DHA was consumed during pregnancy. Note that the incidence of ePTB is lower in Australia, and that the KUDOS cohort was composed of much higher levels of economically disadvantaged mothers than is typical in the U.S..
This new study provides further evidence that marine omega-3 supplements given as a prenatal supplement can result in significant reductions in healthcare costs.