Omega-3 reduces risk of premature birth

Taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements during pregnancy has been found to reduce the risk of premature birth

A South Australian study has found daily omega-3 supplementation reduces the risk of birth before 37 weeks by 11% and reduces the risk of birth before 34 weeks by 42%.

Conducted by the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) in collaboration with the Women’s and Children’s Hospital and the University of Adelaide, the Cochrane Review into omega-3 fatty acid addition during pregnancy assessed the combined results of 70 trials involving almost 20,000 women around the world.

Healthy Mothers, Babies and Children theme leader at SAHMRI Professor Maria Makrides said women expecting a single baby should begin taking a daily dose of omega-3s at the 12-week stage of their pregnancy.

She said premature birth complications were the leading cause of death for children younger than five years of age.

“This is an extremely promising finding because we now have strong evidence that omega-3 supplements are a simple and cost-effective intervention to prevent premature birth, which we know has serious health implications,” Professor Makrides said.

“Premature babies are at greater risk of chronic issues with their respiratory, immune and digestive systems and they’re more susceptible to problems with speech, social skills, learning and behaviour.”

The research team recommends daily supplements contain between 500 and 1000 mg of omega-3 with at least 500 mg of the omega-3 called DHA.

“A large number of women already take omega-3 supplements during pregnancy since they’re found in a number of over-the-counter pregnancy supplements,” Professor Makrides said.

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“By increasing their omega-3 intake, women can give themselves the best chance of carrying their baby to full term of 40 weeks."

“Even a few extra days in the womb can make a substantial difference when it comes to your baby’s health.”

SAHMRI, part of the $3 billion Adelaide BioMed City precinct, is recognised as a global leader in medical research and was recently listed in the top 40 of The Times’ list of the world’s best research centres.

Cochrane is an independent, not-for-profit research organisation made up of 37,000 contributors from 130 countries that produces trusted health information in the form of systematic reviews that are free from commercial sponsorship and other conflicts of interest.

Cochrane evidence underpins and informs the daily decisions of clinicians, patients, researchers, policymakers and funding bodies around the world, and is recognised as representing an international gold standard for high quality, trusted information.

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