DHA and neural tube closure: more to the story than just folic acid

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Supplementing with folic acid in the first trimester has become ingrained in the consciousness of pregnant women, who need adequate folate stores to reduce the chance of neural tube defects in the developing fetus.

A recent study has found another important component of neural tube closure: docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid, and is most abundant in the brain and eyes. Omega-3 supplementation (EPA and DHA) is most recommended in the final trimester of pregnancy to prevent pre- term labour and preeclampsia, to promote fetal neurological and visual development (including better IQ, language, reasoning and hand-eye coordination), to help lower allergies and eczema in newborns, to shorten duration of coughs and colds in newborns, and to prevent post–partum depression.

This study, however, makes the argument that DHA is just as important as folate for neural tube closure. Maternal DHA is mobilized rapidly during the first month of gestation prior to neural tube closure, demonstrating that supplementing with DHA pre-pregnancy and/or in early pregnancy may be an important addition to a maternity care plan.

I hope you have found this helpful, and do let me know if you have any questions!

If you are hungry for more evidence-based information in your pregnancy, sign up for my free webinar: 7 Pregnancy Myths Debunked – and get the information you need to have a healthy pregnancy and a thriving baby.

And if you are a care-provider looking for evidence-based resources for your pregnant patients, please get in touch with us at

In health,

Dr Jocelyn Land-Murphy, ND

Terra Life

Disclaimer: The information and content provided is for general educational and informational purposes only and is not professional medical advice, nor is it intended to be a substitute therefore. Please consult the Disclaimer and Terms of Use for full details.


Furuhjelm, C. et al. (2009). Fish oil supplementation in pregnancy and lactation may decrease the risk of infant allergy. Acta Paediatrica, 98(9): 461 – 1467.

Imhoff – Kunsch, B. et al. (2011). Prenatal Docosahexaenoic Acid supplementation and infant morbidity: randomized controlled trial. Pediatrics, July 2011.

Lin, P.-Y. et al. (2010). A Meta-Analytic Review of Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid Compositions in Patients with Depression. Biological Psychiatry, 68(2): 140-147.

Meyer, B. et al. (2017). Maternal docosahexaenoic acid is vital for closure of the neural tube: A prospective, observational study of human pregnancy. Journal of Nutrition & Intermediary Metabolism, 8(77).


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8 Proven Shortcuts To A Healthy Pregnancy

it's free!
Protecting your personal information is of utmost importance to me