n-3 LC-PUFA supplementation: effects on infant and maternal outcomes

Eur J Nutr. 2014 Aug;53(5):1147-54. doi: 10.1007/s00394-014-0660-9. Epub 2014 Jan 22.


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.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arachidonic Acid / administration & dosage
  • Cognition / drug effects
  • Depression, Postpartum / prevention & control
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / administration & dosage
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / administration & dosage*
  • Female
  • Fetal Development
  • Fetus / drug effects
  • Fetus / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / prevention & control
  • Infant
  • Lactation / drug effects
  • Maternal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic
  • Observational Studies as Topic
  • Pre-Eclampsia / prevention & control
  • Pregnancy
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic


  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids
  • Arachidonic Acid