Omega-3 fatty acids and pregnancy: current implications for practice

Curr Opin Obstet Gynecol. 2012 Mar;24(2):72-7. doi: 10.1097/GCO.0b013e328350fd34.


Purpose of review: We conducted this review to evaluate the evidence for maternal supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy for the prevention or treatment of common complications of pregnancy including preterm birth, pregnancy-induced hypertension and preeclampsia, as well as perinatal depression. We also evaluated the evidence supporting maternal omega-3 fatty acid supplementation to optimize infant neurocognitive development and for primary prevention of allergic diseases in childhood.

Recent findings: Omega-3 fatty acids through diet or dietary supplementation may reduce the risk for early preterm birth. Preliminary findings from small randomized controlled trials suggest that maternal omega-3 fatty acid supplementation during pregnancy may reduce the risk for allergic disease in childhood, but this observation requires confirmation by large appropriately powered randomized controlled trials. More research is needed before routine maternal supplementation for this indication can be recommended.

Summary: Although it is biologically plausible that maternal omega-3 fatty acid supplementation might prevent a number of pregnancy complications and optimize child health and development, indications for supplementation other than prevention of preterm births are currently investigational.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Depression, Postpartum / drug therapy
  • Depression, Postpartum / prevention & control*
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / drug therapy
  • Hypersensitivity / prevention & control*
  • Hypertension, Pregnancy-Induced / drug therapy
  • Hypertension, Pregnancy-Induced / prevention & control*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Pregnancy
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3