A positive correlation has been shown between dietary intake of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids in late pregnancy and gestation length in pregnant women and experimental animals. To determine whether omega-3 fatty acids have an effect on preterm labor in sheep, a fish oil concentrate emulsion was continuously infused to six pregnant ewes from 124 days gestational age. At 125 days, betamethasone was administered to the fetus to produce preterm labor. Both the onset of labor and the time of delivery were delayed by the fish oil emulsion. Two of the omega-3-infused ewes reverted from contractions to nonlabor, an effect never previously observed for experimental glucocorticoid-induced preterm labor in sheep. Maternal plasma estradiol and maternal and fetal prostaglandin E2 rose in control ewes but not in those infused with omega-3 fatty acid. The ability of omega-3 fatty acids to delay premature delivery in sheep indicates their possible use as tocolytics in humans. Premature labor is the major cause of neonatal death and long-term disability, and these studies present information that may lead to a novel therapeutic regimen for the prevention of preterm delivery in human pregnancy.