“omega 3” by Khaldaa Photographer is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Cochrane Reviews Fish Oil Supplements To Reduce Premature Births

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
“omega 3” by Khaldaa Photographer is licensed under CC BY 2.0Philippa Middelton MPH

Associate Professor
Healthy Mothers, Babies and Children
South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute
Adelaide, Australia 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: For several decades, it has been known that fish or fish oils can lengthen gestation.
In our Cochrane review of 70 studies and nearly 20,000 women we show that fish oil (mainly as omega-3 fatty acid supplements), prevents premature birth, specifically

  • An 11% reduction in premature birth < 37 weeks gestation;
  • And a 42% reduction in premature birth < 34 weeks gestation.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: This level of premature birth prevention is highly important as being born early can mean a lifetime of illness and problems with behaviour and learning. There are few other interventions that can prevent premature birth and none that are as safe and cost-effective as fish oil.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: We suggest that women carrying a single baby take a fish oil supplement from the 12th week of pregnancy. The most effective dose is 500 milligrams of the fatty acid, DHA, a day – with a total of 1000 milligrams of fish oil. Higher doses are not harmful, but do not add any extra benefit.

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: In most countries, it is difficult for pregnant women to consume this amount as food – a woman would need to eat three serves of fatty fish a week.

Disclosures: None of the review authors have received salary funding from companies selling fish oil. Two of the six authors have had money paid to their institution for giving nutritional advice to companies selling fish oil.


Middleton  P, Gomersall  JC, Gould  JF, Shepherd  E, Olsen  SF, Makrides  M. Omega‐3 fatty acid addition during pregnancy. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2018, Issue 11. Art. No.: CD003402. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD003402.pub3. 

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Last Updated on November 18, 2018 by Marie Benz MD FAAD