It is hypothesized that the intake of long-chain PUFA (LC-PUFA) throughout pregnancy could protect against pre-eclampsia, pregnancy-induced hypertension or intra-uterine growth retardation, and is essential for optimal neural development. The objective of the present study was to systematically evaluate the effect of LC-PUFA supplementation of high-risk pregnant women's diets on pregnancy outcomes and growth measures at birth. We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL and the Cochrane Library through March 2006 and references in reviewed articles for randomized controlled trials (RCT) comparing LC-PUFA supplementation with placebo or no supplementation in women with high-risk pregnancies. We found no evidence that supplementation influenced the duration of pregnancy or the percentage of preterm deliveries < 37 weeks of gestation. However, compared with controls, supplementation was associated with a significantly lower rate of early preterm delivery ( < 34 weeks of gestation) (two RCT; n 291; relative risk 0·39 (95 % CI 0·18, 0·84)). There was no significant difference in the infant birth weight, the rate of low birth weight ( < 2500 g or < 10th percentile) and the recurrence of intra-uterine growth retardation. Other pregnancy outcomes (for example, the rate of pregnancy-induced hypertension, the rate of pre-eclampsia and the rate of Caesarean section) were also similar in both groups. In conclusion, the present data suggest that supplementation with n-3 LC-PUFA in women with high-risk pregnancies reduced the risk of early preterm delivery in the fatty acid-supplemented group compared with the placebo group, while no other effects on pregnancy outcomes were detected.
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