What is the Role of Essential Fatty Acids in Pregnancy

EFAs in pregnancyThere are several observations pointing to the role of Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) in pregnancy. The average total accretion of essential fatty acids during normal pregnancy of a well-nourished woman could amount to 600g. During gestation the placenta favorably selects arachidonic acid (of the omega 6 fatty acids series) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) ( omega 3 fatty acids series). This is reflected in substantially higher proportion of these acids in foetal circulation at mid-term and term. Such beneficial effects that these nutrients may have on birth weight and newborn development may be denied in varying degrees to preterm infants.

Deficits of arachidonic acid and DHA have been reported in the circulation of low birth weight newborns and there is also evidence of vascular pathologies in the placenta of low birth weight babies. EFAs deficiency is believed to contribute to poor vascular growth and consequent rapture and coagulation in blood vessels leading to infarctions in the placenta that are believed to result in impaired placental functions and low birth weights. Arachidonic acid is essential for the structural integrity of the vascular endothelium. Arachidonic acid is the precursor for the synthesis of prostacyclin, which prevents thromboxanes filtration. Through a proper balance between omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids in the endothelium, vasoconstrictors and thrombogenic activities are influenced. Low birth weight and prematurity are associated with a high incidence of neuro developmental disorders and disabilities.

Intervention studies with fish oils have also showed that long-chain omega 3 fatty acids have an important role in ensuring normal birth weight. These observations point to the need for ensuring adequate nutritional status with respect to EFAs in pregnancy. Indeed attention to adequate intake of EFAs in proper could be as important as attention to iron and folic acid.


Mike Maunu – Founder