Largest ever clinical study on omega-3 supplementation in pregnancy reveals dramatic reduction in early births & improvements in infant health

15 December 2011

A randomised, multi-centred, double-blind placebo controlled trial of almost 2,400 pregnant women supplemented with Efalex®  Mother & Baby has shown a:

• 50% reduction in early pre-term delivery

• 60% reduction in slow developing cognitive and language skills in infants

• 35% reduction in the incidence of low birth weight babies

• 35% reduction in post natal depression 


The DOMInO trial, funded by the Australian government and conducted in 5 Australian maternity hospitals during 2010, supplemented pregnant women with Efalex® Mother & Baby or a placebo blended oil capsule from the 19th week of pregnancy until birth (averaging 21 weeks of supplementation). 


Findings included a very significant reduction in the number of ‘slow developers’ among the infants born to omega-3 supplemented mothers – from 6.9% to 2.7%.  Pre-term delivery cases were halved, which when applied to the population of England and Wales could mean a reduction of over 27,895 pre-term births annually[i], as early births account for nearly 8% of all live births. Babies born pre-term are at increased risk of a permanent disability such as lung disease, cerebral palsy, blindness or deafness, with one in 10 affected[ii].


Results also found a 35% reduction in depression in the Efalex® Mother & Baby-treated group during the first 6 months postpartum. 9.74% of women in this group suffered post natal depression compared to 15-16% in the general population. Taking part in the trial and receiving the associated attention given to mother and infant also reduced the post natal depression rate by 23% in the placebo group (11.19%). 


With one in 10 believed to suffer from post natal depression[iii], trial findings suggest that by supplementing with fish oils during pregnancy, almost 28,000 UK mums[iv] could potentially avoid post natal depression annually.
Other significant outcomes from the trial included: reductions of 61% in infant serious adverse events[v], 43% in infant admissions to intensive care and 66% in the number of foetal / infant deaths.


Dr Alex Richardson, Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Evidence Based Intervention, University of Oxford, and co-founder of the UK charity Food and Behaviour Research, comments: 

“This trial conclusively shows the importance of omega-3 essential fatty acids for the normal development and future health of the unborn baby, as well as the health of the mother. All expectant mums need to ensure they consume a good dietary intake of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, and supplementation is a safe and effective way to ensure an adequate supply." 

Specifically designed to replenish essential fatty acids for expectant mothers, Efalex® Mother & Baby contains Long Chain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (LC-PUFAs), also known as essential fatty acids (EFAs), such as omega-3 and omega-6.  Essential fatty acids are vital for good health, however they are not produced by the body and must be consumed through diet, with oily fish recognised as the best source. With 65% of the population[vi] falling short of the Government’s recommended daily intake[vii], it is important to supplement diets to address this deficiency, especially during pregnancy.

Maintaining supplementation after birth and during breastfeeding will also assist in the mother’s recovery by topping up depleted nutrients as well as ensuring an adequate fatty acid intake to the baby through the breast milk. Research has shown that the mother can become nutritionally deficient during this time, in particular those women who have gone through successive pregnancies that are less than 2 to 3 years apart[viii]. 

 

 

 

[i] Based on the Office for National Statistics figure of 706,248 England & Wales live births (covering 2009)

[ii] http://www.tommys.org/Page.aspx?pid=387

[iii] http://www.babycentre.co.uk/midwives/research-briefs/pnd/

[iv] Based on the Office for National Statistics figure of 797,000 UK live births (UK birth rate for the year ending mid-2010) 

[v] Serious adverse events refers to hospital visits[vi] Efamol Survey, 2011

[vii] The current nutritional advice from the UK Department of Health is that everyone should be eating two portions of fish per week, one of which should be oil-rich such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, trout and some forms of tuna. A portion of oily fish contains 2-3g of long-chain omega-3

[viii] Al et al. Relationship between birth order and the maternal and neonatal DHA status, Eur J Clin Nutr 1997; 51(8):548-53


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