Pregnant women who increase omega-3 fatty acids with long chains are reportedly less likely to have premature birth after the Cochrane Review reported today.
The majority of pregnancy lasts from 38 to 42 weeks, but if a baby occurs 37 weeks ago, the possibility of poor health for this child increases.
Just before a child is born, there is a greater risk of poor health and a small number of infants do not survive.
Some premature babies have to survive the first weeks or months of life in special departments for intensive care in the hospital. Pregnant babies can develop conditions that last a lifetime, including lung, bowel and immune system problems, and loss of vision and hearing.
Behavioral and learning problems are also more common in children born prematurely. These consequences result in significant costs for healthcare systems and the premature infant family.
What did we find?
The Cochrane Review, led by our research team at the Southern Australian Institute of Health and Medical Research, included 70 randomized trials with nearly 20,000 women.
It was found to increase the daily intake of fatty acids with a long chain of omega-3 during pregnancy:
reduces the risk of a premature infant (birth 37 weeks) by 11%, from 134 to 1000 to 119 per 1000 births
reduces the risk of an early premature baby (birth 34 weeks ago) by 42%, from 46 to 1,000 to 27 per 1000 births.
Most trials were conducted in high-income countries (Australia, the United States, England, the Netherlands and Denmark) and included women who were normal and very risky due to poor pregnancy results. Most of the students were pregnant with one child.
In the trials, there were generally additives containing fatty acids of the long chain omega-3 docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).
Risk of premature birth
The causes of premature birth are still not well understood. But we know that when a pregnant woman starts working, they become powerful hormones called prostaglandins.
Sometimes women produce large amounts of prostaglandins, and those produced by omega-6 fat can cause premature birth.
Where does omega-3 come from?
In the 1980s, researchers noticed that women in Denmark had a shortage of pregnancy and premature infants as their neighbors on the Faroe Islands, which have many more fish. Omega-3 fatty acids with long chains in fish seemed to be responsible – they think they help prevent premature birth by reducing the potential of prostaglandins that can trigger early birth.
Our review shows that omega-3 fatty acids with a long chain during pregnancy are one of the few safe and effective strategies that can prevent early work and premature birth.
Fish or accessories?
Most of the trials included in this Cochrane review, which reported premature birth, used omega-3 supplements instead of dietary changes.
It is difficult to obtain a long-chain omega-3 fatty acid, which is used in many food-alone trials, unless they regularly eat fat fish such as salmon, sardines or mackerel. To get the recommended amount of DHA used in many trials, you must eat at least two to three 150g servings of salmon every week.
A tip for pregnant women who expect a single baby is to add fish oil daily containing at least 500 mg of DHA, starting with 12 weeks of pregnancy. The additive contains no more than 1000 mg of DHA + EPA. There seems to be no longer a benefit of higher doses.
This advice is currently included in the National Guidelines for Pregnancy in Clinical Practice.
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