Food and Behaviour Research

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Docosahexaenoic acid supplementation (DHA) and the return on investment for pregnancy outcomes

Shireman TI, Kerling EH, Gajewski BJ, Colombo J, Carlson SE (2016) Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 111 8-10 

Web URL: View this and related abstracts via PubMed here.



  • Early preterm birth (ePTB) occurs before 34 weeks gestation.
  • ePTB cost the US approximately USD 10.6 Billion in 2014.
  • Public policy effort to increase DHA intake of pregnant women is important.


The Kansas University DHA Outcomes Study (KUDOS) found a significant reduction in early preterm births with a supplement of 600mg DHA per day compared to placebo.

The objective of this analysis was to determine if hospital costs differed between groups. We applied a post-hoc cost analysis of the delivery hospitalization and all hospitalizations in the following year to 197 mother-infant dyads who delivered at Kansas University Hospital.

Hospital cost saving of DHA supplementation amounted to $1678 per infant. Even after adjusting for the estimated cost of providing 600 mg/d DHA for 26 weeks ($166.48) and a slightly higher maternal care cost ($26) in the DHA group, the net saving per dyad was $1484.

Extrapolating this to the nearly 4 million US deliveries per year suggests universal supplementation with 600 mg/d during the last 2 trimesters of pregnancy could save the US health care system up to USD 6 billion.



Docosahexaenoic acid; Hospital cost; Pregnancy; Preterm birth


Supplementing pregnant mothers with 600mg/day of omega-3 DHA would reduce healthcase costs by significantly reducing early pre-term births, according to the findings from a randomised controlled clinical trial carried out in the US.

These results mirror those from a similar trial in Australia, which also showed reductions in prematurity and associated hospital costs from supplementation of women during pregnancy with the long-chain omega-3 found in fish and seafood. 

For a summary of this research and its implications, see the related news article:

For details of the Australian study that also showed significant potential hospital cost savings if all mothers-to-be were supplemented with omega-3 during pregnancy, see also: