Increased intake of omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy reduces the risk of premature birth, says new research.
While the length of most pregnancies is between 38 and 42 weeks, the sooner the baby is born, the higher the risk of death or poor health.
Premature babies are at increased risk for a number of long-term conditions, including visual impairment, developmental delays, and learning difficulties.
Findings have shown that increasing the daily omega-3 long-chain intake reduces the risk of premature birth (less than 37 weeks) by 11 percent (from 134 per 1000 to 119 per 1,000 births).
It also reduced the risk of 42% of premature babies (less than 34 weeks) (from 46 to 1,000 to 27 per 1,000 births) and also reduce the risk of a small child by 10%.
"There are not many options to prevent premature birth, so these new findings are very important for pregnant women, infants and healthcare workers who care for them," says Philippa Middleton, associate professor at Southeast Health and Medical Research Institute SAHMRI.
"So far, we have not fully understood the causes of premature birth, so predicting and preventing premature births has always been a challenge, one of the reasons why the omega-3 supplement in pregnancy is so much of a concern for researchers around the world."
For a study published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, the team looked at 70 randomized trials involving 19,927 women with a low, mixed or high risk of poor pregnancy outcomes.
The optimal dose was supplemented daily with 500 to 1000 milligrams of omega-3 long chain fat (containing at least 500 mg of DHA) starting with 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Early obstetrics, the critical global health problem and the main cause of deaths for children under five years of age worldwide are approximately 1 million deaths per year.
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