Background: Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFA), particularly docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid, are, respectively, n-3 and n-6 family members and play an important role in fetal and infant growth and development. Pregnancy and lactation impose special nutritional needs for the mother-fetus situation. Since the LC-PUFA required by the fetus is supplied by preferential placental transfer of preformed LC-PUFA rather than their precursor, it has been hypothesized that additional maternal supply of LC-PUFA, especially DHA, during pregnancy may improve maternal and infant outcomes.
Aim: To summarize evidences of the effect of n-3 LC-PUFA intake during pregnancy and lactation on maternal and infant outcomes in order to offer a comprehensive view of this issue that should be useful for clinical practice.
Results: Maternal n-3 LC-PUFA supplementation may reduce risk for early preterm birth >34 weeks and seems very promising for primary allergy prevention during childhood. On the contrary, there are not sufficient data proving that the consumption of oils rich in n-3 LC-PUFA during pregnancy optimizes child's visual and neurodevelopment and reduces the risk for preeclampsia and perinatal depression; the implications of these findings remain to be elucidated.
Conclusion: The implications of n-3 LC-PUFA supplementation on fetal development, maternal outcomes and later infant growth is worth being elucidated and is promising in its potential for a positive impact on fetal and maternal outcomes.