A prenatal DHA test to help identify women at increased risk for early preterm birth: A proposal

Kristina H. Jackson, William S. Harris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Fish intake and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a nutrient found in fish, have been favorably linked to several pregnancy outcomes. The risk of early preterm birth (ePT, <34 weeks gestation) is associated with low fish intake and DHA blood levels and can be reduced by supplemental DHA. Here, we summarize the evidence linking blood DHA levels with risk for ePT birth, and based on the available studies, propose that women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant aim for a red blood cell (RBC) DHA value of at least 5% (of total RBC fatty acids). In the US, ~70% of women of childbearing age are likely below this cut-point, and dietary intake data suggest that this group, including pregnant women, consumes ~60 mg/day DHA and that >90% of this group do not take an omega-3 supplement. Since the recommendations for women to consume fish and to take a 200 mg DHA supplement during pregnancy are not being heeded generally, there is a need to motivate practitioners and pregnant women to attend to these recommendations. Having an objective prenatal blood DHA test could provide such motivation. More research is needed to test the clinical utility of this proposed target prenatal DHA level.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1933
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • DHA
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Pregnancy
  • Preterm birth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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