Some evidence suggests that supplementation with omega−3 fatty acids during pregnancy may have beneficial effects on both maternal health and birth outcomes. What does the totality of the available clinical evidence say?
This meta-analysis of 59 randomized and quasi-randomized controlled trials examined the effects of supplementation during pregnancy with omega−3s (i.e., docosahexaenoic acid and/or eicosapentaenoic acid and/or alpha-linolenic acid; aka DHA, EPA, and ALA), compared to placebo or no intervention, on a number of maternal health and birth outcomes.
The primary outcomes were the following:
Incidence of pregnancy-induced hypertension (11 trials)
Incidence of preeclampsia (24 trials)
Gestational duration (46 trials)
Incidence of preterm delivery (<37 weeks; 27 trials)
Incidence of early preterm delivery (<34 weeks; 12 trials)
Newborn birth weight (37 trials)
Low newborn birth weight (14 trials)
Newborn length (31 trials)
Newborn head circumference (26 comparisons)
The secondary outcomes were the following:
Risk of admission to the neonatal intensive care unit (13 trials)
Incidence of cesarean delivery (29 trials)
Prenatal death (12 trials)
Infant death (10 trials)
Supplementation with omega−3s reduced the risk of preeclampsia by 16%, increased gestational duration by 1.4 days, increased newborn birth weight by 49 grams, and reduced the risk of preterm and early preterm delivery by 14% and 23%, respectively.
The risk of bias was low in 29 trials, moderate in 19 trials, and high in 11 trials.
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