Can Omega-3 Fatty Acids Prevent Pregnancy Loss?

Can Omega-3 Fatty Acids Prevent Pregnancy Loss?

by Dr. Lakshmi Venkataraman on Feb 8 2019 4:00 PM
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  • Omega-3 fatty acid containing supplements (cod liver oil) may be able to prevent adverse pregnancy outcomes such as miscarriages, preterm birth and neonatal death
  • About 10 percent of babies born in the US are preterm and 10 to 30 percent of the preterm births are thought to be due to infection of the uterus with Fusobacterium nucleatum, a bacterium found commonly in the mouth
  • The bacterium triggers an inflammatory reaction in the uterus, which results in preterm birth or miscarriages.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids prevent this inflammation and could protect the pregnancy
Omega-3 fatty acid containing foods or supplements can protect against miscarriages and preterm births during pregnancy, according to a recent study at the Columbia University's College of Dental Medicine and Vagelos College of Physicians & Surgeons.
The study was led by Yiping Han, PhD, senior author of this project. The findings of the study appear in the journal JCI Insight.


Find Out How F. nucleatum Infection Causes Pregnancy Loss

The study team found from earlier research that uterine inflammation Fusobacterium infection caused miscarriages and preterm births but they hoped to find what exactly triggered the inflammation and whether this could be prevented.
  • Using a mouse model, scientists introduced the bacteria into mice during the last trimester of pregnancy. As expected, the bacteria caused uterine infection in the pregnant mice
  • It was observed that the bacteria triggered an inflammatory response in the blood vessel lining (endothelium) of the mouse placenta, resulting in preterm births or pregnancy loss
  • It was noted that the inflammatory response occurred only when a specific immune protein was present in the placental endothelial cells of the pregnant mice
  • In pregnant mice not having this protein, fewer fetuses died, indicating that inflammation induced by this protein was key to the adverse outcome of pregnancy
  • The team then cultured endothelial cells to find ways to inhibit the inflammation in the placenta and considered omega-3 fatty acid rich fish oil, which is widely used to reduce inflammation in chronic inflammatory conditions such as arthritis
  • Also, omega-3 supplements are commonly prescribed to pregnant women to improve fetal growth and development
  • The experiment demonstrated that the addition of omega-3 containing supplements prevented inflammation and bacterial growth and reduced miscarriages, preterm births and stillbirths
The findings of the study suggest that omega-3 fatty acid containing supplements such as fish oil could potentially protect pregnancy in women.

The authors add that the dose of omega-3 fatty acids used in this study was significantly higher than what is recommended for persons taking fish oil supplements. The current study opens up new avenues of research in preventing pregnancy loss but does not suggest any change in current clinical practice.


About Fusobacterium

Fusobacterium nucleatum is a bacterium commonly present in the oral cavity and is normally harmless. During pregnancy, however, hormonal changes may cause gum infection and bleeding in some women (30-100%) and the bacteria gain entry into the bloodstream and reach the uterus, and can infect the placenta resulting in miscarriages or fetal death.


Future Plans

Han’s team now hopes to start a new clinical trial to study whether omega-3 fatty acid supplementation in pregnant women prevents uterine infections and unfavorable outcomes such as miscarriages and preterm births.


Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation may reduce uterine infection and inflammation and help to prevent fetal deaths and preterm births.

  1. Omega-3 fatty acids suppress Fusobacterium nucleatum-induced placental inflammation originating from maternal endothelial cells - (