Among the children, at 18 months after birth, the researchers found no difference in developmental scores between children whose mothers had received DHA and those whose mothers had not.
There was also no difference in other developmental scores for motor development and social-emotional behavior, the researchers noted.
The study did find that significantly fewer infants from the DHA group spent time in the neonatal intensive care unit, compared to infants in the control group -- something that researchers attributed to fewer preterm births in the DHA group. DHA supplementation was associated with a "small to modest increase in the duration of gestation," they reported.
One expert pointed to the DHA group's lower rate of preterm birth as a substantial benefit, compared to that of the control group.
Dr. Emily Oken, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and author of an accompanying journal editorial, said that "fish is the primary dietary source of DHA and other omega-3 fatty acids, which are critical nutrients in pregnancy" for brain and eye development.
Many women in the United States eat very little fish, and therefore do not consume enough DHA, she added.
In her editorial, Oken charged that the Bayley scale used to measure cognitive development of toddlers in the study was a poor predictor of possible deficits that might not show up until children are in preschool or elementary school.
She also noted that fish oil supplements "are safe, well tolerated, and reduce risks for early preterm birth," which she said is associated with maternal depression. She recommended that pregnant women get the consensus dosage of 200 mg/day of DHA, either by including low-mercury, high-DHA fish in their diets or by taking a daily fish oil supplement.
"An important finding [in the trial] was that fish oil appears to be safe in pregnancy," Oken added.
Commenting on the study, Dr. Gene Burke
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