Fish oil can prevent very premature births: Study

Updated: Apr 17, 2013, 17:37 PM IST

Melbourne: Very premature births can be prevented by taking oily fish supplements, a new study by an Australian scientist has claimed.

The new findings have been made by Maria Makrides, a professor at the University of Adelaide, while studying the effect of omega 3 supplements on post-natal depression and neuro-development in young children, according to an AAP report today.

Fish oil supplements in pregnancy do not prevent post-natal depression. Neither do they aid development in children. They do, however, prevent "very early pre-term" birth,` the report said.

Very early pre-term has been defined as a birth before 34 weeks of gestation while normal full-term pregnancy lasts from 37 to 40 weeks.

The study involved 2,400 women at five Australian maternity hospitals and has been used to support international research on premature birth.

The research indicated omega-3 fatty acid supplements made pregnancy last longer, allowing more growth and development time for the baby.

Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids are found naturally in oily fish such as tuna and salmon.
Susan Carlson, a professor at the University of Kansas, who reviewed the outcomes of
Makrides` study said women who took the supplements tended to have slightly larger and heavier babies and gave birth some days later than the placebo group.

"So we have intriguing new evidence that long-chain omega-3 fatty acid supplementation does reduce the prevalence of very premature birth", Carlson said.

Makrides said the finding is important because most pre-term births occur spontaneously without an obvious cause.

She is undertaking a second specific trial, which she hopes will enable health professionals to recommend omega-3 fatty acids as a way to prevent preterm birth.