Prenatal Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Review and Recommendations

Authors

  • Robin G. Jordan CNM, PhD

    Corresponding author
      8480 Bear Cove Ln., Petoskey, MI 49770. Robin.Jordan@frontierschool.edu
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    • Robin G. Jordan, CNM, PhD, is Coordinator of the Antepartum Care courses for the Frontier School of Midwifery and Family Nursing, Hyden, KY, and has practiced full scope midwifery in home, birth center, and hospital settings.


8480 Bear Cove Ln., Petoskey, MI 49770. Robin.Jordan@frontierschool.edu

Abstract

The influence of dietary omega-3 fatty acids on health outcomes is widely recognized. The adequate intake of omega-3 fatty acids docasahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) in particular can increase gestation length and improve infant cognitive and visual performance. Adequate levels of omega-3 fatty acids have also been shown to reduce the incidence of preterm birth in some populations. Research on prenatal omega-3 intake and other outcomes, such as preeclampsia and fetal growth restriction, is inconclusive. Women in the United States consume low levels of omega-3 fatty acids compared to omega-6 fatty acids; this dietary pattern is associated with poor health outcomes. Omega-3 fatty acids are found primarily in fish, yet many pregnant women avoid fish because of concerns about potential mercury and polychlorinated biphenyl contamination. It is important for prenatal care providers to assess women's diets for omega-3 fatty acid intake and ensure that pregnant women are consuming between 200 and 300 mg daily from safe food sources. Purified fish, algal oil supplements, and DHA-enriched eggs are alternative sources for pregnant women who do not eat fish.

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