Omega-3 Fatty acids and pregnancy

Rev Obstet Gynecol. Fall 2010;3(4):163-71.

Abstract

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids that must be consumed in the diet. Adequate consumption of omega-3 fatty acids is vitally important during pregnancy as they are critical building blocks of fetal brain and retina. Omega-3 fatty acids may also play a role in determining the length of gestation and in preventing perinatal depression. The most biologically active forms of omega-3 fatty acids are docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid, which are primarily derived from marine sources such as seafood and algae. Recent surveys, however, indicate that pregnant women in the United States and in other countries eat little fish and therefore do not consume enough omega-3 fatty acids, primarily due to concern about the adverse effects of mercury and other contaminants on the developing fetus. This review discusses the benefits of omega-3 fatty acid consumption during pregnancy and provides guidelines for obstetricians advising patients.

Keywords: Docosahexaenoic acid; Eicosapentaenoic acid; Omega-3 fatty acids; Pregnancy; Premature births.