Importance: African American women living in urban, low-income environments are at high risk for poor nutrition during pregnancy and birth complications.
Objective: To test the effectiveness of prenatal docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) supplementation on birth outcomes and infant development in a sample of African American women with Medicaid insurance and living in the city of Pittsburgh.
Design: The Nutrition and Pregnancy Study (NAPS) is a double-blind, randomized controlled trial of prenatal DHA supplementation conducted between 2012 and 2014.
Setting: Participants were recruited from obstetric clinics at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
Participants: Sixty-four pregnant, African American women were enrolled at 16-21 weeks of gestation and randomized to either 450mg/day of DHA (22:6n-3)(n=43) or a soybean placebo (n=21). Four women (6.3%) withdrew from the study: two participants from each study arm; complete data were obtained for 49 infants (76.5%) at the 3-month assessment.
Interventions: Supplementation with DHA or placebo continued from the beginning of enrollment through delivery.
Main outcome and measures: Data on birth outcomes were collected from medical records. At approximately 3 months post-partum, mothers brought their infants to the laboratory where the Bayley Scales of Infant Development (BSID-III) were administered and cortisol response to the Face-to-Face Still-Face (FFSF) paradigm was assessed.
Results: Infants of mothers who received DHA supplementation had higher birth weight (3.174g versus 2.890g) than infants of mothers receiving placebo (F [2.40]=6.09, p=0.018, eta=0.36), and were more likely to have a 1-min Apgar score greater than 8 (OR=5.99 [95% CI=1.25-28.75], p=0.025). Infants of mothers who received DHA compared with infants of mothers receiving placebo had lower levels of cortisol in response to the FFSF paradigm (F [1.32]=5.36, p=0.018, eta=0.36). None of the scores on the BSID-III differed as a function of active supplement versus placebo.
Conclusions: Infants of women living in urban, low-income environments who received DHA supplementation had more optimal birth outcomes and more modulated cortisol response to a stressor. DHA supplementation may be effective in attenuating the negative effects of prenatal stress on offspring development.
Keywords: Birth outcomes; Cortisol; Docosahexaenoic acid; Infant; Prenatal stress; Supplementation.
Copyright © 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.