Omega-3 fatty acids are essential, as they are needed to make cell membranes and support a host of biochemical functions. During pregnancy, there is a particular need for the two omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA to support the growth and brain development of the child. Fish oil is a good source of these two fatty acids, and supplementing with them in the third trimester can prolong the pregnancy and increase birth weight, according to a Scandinavian study published in Journal of Nutrition. The study supports earlier studies of pregnant women, where it has been shown that fish oil lowers the risk of preterm delivery and complications such as development of disorders and death.
Fish oil contains the two essential omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA. Supplementing with these two fatty acids (four grams daily) in the third trimester can prolong the pregnancy by two days on average. In addition, fish oil supplements are associated with a 97-gram higher average birth weight in neonates, according to a new study conducted by scientists from the University of Copenhagen, the University of Gothenburg, and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.
The scientists say that their study supports earlier research showing that fish oil supplements taken during pregnancy prolong pregnancy and increase birth weight. They explain that the increased birth weight is not only a result of the extended pregnancy but is also related to other factors. For instance, DHA is particularly important for the structure of the brain, nervous system, and eyes of the fetus.
|Fish oil supplements are highly important during the second and third pregnancy trimesters, where the baby and its brain develop rapidly|
Health benefits and health savings
The new study confirms the numerous health benefits associated with taking fish oil supplements during pregnancy. These benefits can lead to massive health expenditure savings.
A study from Kansas University (KUDOS) has shown that supplementing with DHA (600 mg/daily) during the last two pregnancy trimesters significantly reduced the risk of preterm delivery. This has the potential to save approximately USD 1,678 per child. After deducting the cost of fish oil and counseling, the net savings amount to USD 1,484 per child. Considering the current US birth rate of around four million children annually, the total savings amount to nearly USD six million, provided all women take fish oil during their pregnancy.
|According to the scientists, it is irresponsible for health authorities not to recommend fish oil supplements to pregnant women|
For the new study from the University of Copenhagen, the University of Gothenburg, and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, the scientists recruited 36 women, all of whom were in their 22nd-26th week of pregnancy. The study was double-blinded, randomized and controlled. One group of women took four grams of fish oil daily with 2.4 grams of omega-3 (55% EPA and 37% DHA). The other group took a matching olive oil (omega-9) placebo. Both groups of women took their supplements until one week after delivery.
As mentioned, the study results showed that fish oil supplementation during the third trimester prolongs the pregnancy and increases birth weight. Future studies, the scientists say, should focus more on dosage and the composition of different omega-3 fatty acids with regard to the overall potential for supporting child growth and health in general. Pregnant women can easily take fish oil throughout the entire pregnancy, as the omega-3 fatty acids are also important for maternal health and well-being.
R. Kofoed Vinding et al. Fish Oil Supplementation in Pregnancy increases gestational Age, Size for Gestational Age, and Birth Weight in Infants: A Randomized trial. The Journal of Nutrition. 2019
M Makrides, L Duley, SF Olsen. Fisk oil and other prostaglandin precursor supplementation during pregnancy for reducing pre-eclampsia, preterm birth, low birth weight and intrauterine growth restriction. Cochrane review, 2018
Wiley. Omega-3 fatty acids reduce the risk of premature birth. ScienceDaily 2018
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