Daily Bulletin


The Conversation

  • Written by Philippa Middleton, Associate Professor, South Australian Health & Medical Research Institute

Pregnant women who increase their intake of omega-3 long-chain fatty acids are less likely to have a premature birth, according to a Cochrane Review published today.

Most pregnancies last between 38 and 42 weeks, but if a baby arrives before 37 weeks, the chances of poorer health for that baby increase. One in 12 babies in Australia are born prematurely – before 37 weeks.

The earlier a baby is born, the higher the risk of poor health, and a small number of babies don’t survive.

Read more: Mums and dads of very preterm babies more likely to be depressed

Some premature babies have to spend the first weeks or months of life in special intensive care units in hospital. Premature babies can develop conditions that last a lifetime, including problems with their lungs, gut, and immune system, and vision and hearing loss.

Problems with behaviour and learning are also more common in children born too early. These consequences result in substantial costs to health care systems and to families of premature babies.

What did we find?

The Cochrane Review, led by our research team at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute, included 70 randomised trials with nearly 20,000 women.

It found increasing the daily intake of omega-3 long-chain fatty acids during pregnancy:

  • lowers the risk of having a premature baby (birth before 37 weeks) by 11%, from 134 per 1,000 to 119 per 1,000 births

  • lowers the risk of having an early premature baby (birth before 34 weeks) by 42%, from 46 per 1,000 to 27 per 1,000 births.

Most of the trials were conducted in high-income countries (Australia, the United States, England, The Netherlands and Denmark) and included women who were both at normal and high risk for poor pregnancy outcomes. Most women studied were pregnant with one baby.

The trials generally used supplements containing the omega-3 long-chain fatty acids docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).

Omega-3 supplements in pregnancy reduce the risk of premature birth Omega-3 supplements reduce the risk of an early premature birth from 46 per 1,000 to 21. Aditya Romansa

Risk of premature birth

The causes of premature birth are still not well understood. But we know that when a pregnant woman’s labour starts, powerful hormones called prostaglandins take hold.

Sometimes women produce high amounts of prostaglandins, and those produced from omega-6 fats can make birth come too early.

Read more: Despite new findings, the jury is still out on whether omega-3 supplements reduce heart attacks

So where does omega-3 come in?

In the 1980s, researchers noticed women in Denmark had shorter pregnancies and more premature babies than their neighbours in the Faroe Islands who eat much more fish. The omega-3 long-chain fatty acids in fish seemed to be responsible – they are thought to help prevent premature birth by reducing the potency of prostaglandins that can trigger early birth.

Our review shows supplementation with omega-3 long-chain fatty acids during pregnancy is one of the few safe and effective strategies capable of preventing early labour and premature birth.

Fish or supplements?

Most of the trials included in this Cochrane review that reported on premature birth used omega-3 supplements, rather than dietary changes.

It is difficult to get the amount of the omega-3 long-chain fatty acids used in the many trials from food alone, unless you regularly eat fatty fish such as salmon, sardines or mackerel. To get the recommended amount of DHA that was used in many trials, you would need to eat at least two to three 150g serves of salmon every week.

The advice for pregnant women expecting a single baby is to consume daily fish oil supplements containing at least 500mg of DHA, starting at 12 weeks of pregnancy. The supplement does not need to contain more than 1000mg DHA+EPA. There appears to be no extra benefit of higher doses.

This advice is currently being integrated into national clinical practice pregnancy guidelines.

Read more: You can't rely on fish oil supplements in pregnancy to make your children smarter

Authors: Philippa Middleton, Associate Professor, South Australian Health & Medical Research Institute

Read more http://theconversation.com/omega-3-supplements-in-pregnancy-reduce-the-risk-of-premature-birth-106777

Writers Wanted

Politics with Michelle Grattan: two views on increasing the super contribution

arrow_forward

The Conversation
INTERWEBS DIGITAL AGENCY

Politics

Prime Minister Interview with Ben Fordham, 2GB

BEN FORDHAM: Scott Morrison, good morning to you.    PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, Ben. How are you?    FORDHAM: Good. How many days have you got to go?   PRIME MINISTER: I've got another we...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Interview with Kieran Gilbert, Sky News

KIERAN GILBERT: Kieran Gilbert here with you and the Prime Minister joins me. Prime Minister, thanks so much for your time.  PRIME MINISTER: G'day Kieran.  GILBERT: An assumption a vaccine is ...

Daily Bulletin - avatar Daily Bulletin

Did BLM Really Change the US Police Work?

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has proven that the power of the state rests in the hands of the people it governs. Following the death of 46-year-old black American George Floyd in a case of ...

a Guest Writer - avatar a Guest Writer

Business News

Buy Instagram Followers And Likes Now

Do you like to buy followers on Instagram? Just give a simple Google search on the internet, and there will be an abounding of seeking outcomes full of businesses offering such services. But, th...

News Co - avatar News Co

Cybersecurity data means nothing to business leaders without context

Top business leaders are starting to realise the widespread impact a cyberattack can have on a business. Unfortunately, according to a study by Forrester Consulting commissioned by Tenable, some...

Scott McKinnel, ANZ Country Manager, Tenable - avatar Scott McKinnel, ANZ Country Manager, Tenable

InteliCare triple winner at prestigious national technology awards

InteliCare triple winner at prestigious national technology awards Intelicare wins each nominated category and takes out overall category at national technology 2020 iAwards. Company wins overal...

Media Release - avatar Media Release



News Co Media Group

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion