Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is an important fatty acid required for neurological development but its importance during early fetal neurological organogenesis is unknown.
To assess plasma fatty acid changes in early pregnancy in women undergoing natural cycle-frozen embryo transfer as a means of achieving accurately-timed periconceptual sampling.
Women undergoing frozen embryo transfer were recruited and serial fasting blood samples were taken pre-luteinising hormone (LH) surge, and at days 18, 29 and 45 post-LH surge and fatty acids were analysed using gas chromatography.
Assisted Conception Unit, Glasgow Royal Infirmary, Scotland
Main outcome measures:
Plasma fatty acid concentrations, influence of twin pregnancies on DHA plasma concentration.
In pregnant women, there was a rapid, early increase in the maternal rate of change of plasma DHA concentration observed by 29 days post-LH surge (mean±SD, from 0.1±1.3 to 1.6±2.9 nmol DHA per mL plasma per day). This early pressure to increase plasma DHA concentration was further emphasised in twin pregnancies where the increase in DHA concentration over 45 days was two-fold higher than in singleton pregnancies (mean±SD increase, 74±39 nmol/mL versus 36±40 nmol/mL). An index of delta-6 desaturase activity increased 30% and positively correlated with the rate of change of DHA concentration between day 18 and 29-post LH surge (R-squared adjusted = 41%, P=0.0002). DHA was the only fatty acid with a continual accelerated increase in plasma concentration and a positive incremental area under the curve (mean±SD, 632±911 nmol/mL x day) over the first 45 days of gestation.
An increase in maternal plasma DHA concentration is initiated in human pregnancy prior to neural tube closure which occurs at 28 days' gestation.