n-3 Fatty acids exert important effects on eicosanoid metabolism, membrane properties, and gene expression and therefore are biologically important nutrients. One n-3 fatty acid, docosahexaenoic acid, is an important component of neural and retinal membranes and accumulates rapidly in the brain and retina during the later part of gestation and early postnatal life. It is reasonable to hypothesize that maternal n-3 fatty acid intakes might have significant effects on several pregnancy outcomes as well as on subsequent infant visual function and neurodevelopmental status.

Studies, both observational and interventional, assessing the influence of n-3 fatty acids during pregnancy or the early postpartum period on duration of gestation and infant size at birth, preeclampsia, depression, and infant visual function and neurodevelopment have been reported. n-3 Fatty acid intakes (both in terms of absolute amounts of docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid and the ratio of these 2 fatty acids) varied widely in these studies, however, and no clear consensus exists regarding the effects of n-3 fatty acids on any of these outcomes.

The available data suggest a modest effect of these fatty acids on increasing gestational duration and possibly enhancing infant neurodevelopment.

Although data from earlier observational studies suggested a potential role of these fatty acids in decreasing the incidence of preeclampsia, this has not been confirmed in randomized, prospective trials. Because of the paucity of data from randomized, prospective, double-blind trials, the effect of n-3 fatty acids on depression during pregnancy or the early postpartum period remains unresolved.

Key words: eye, omega ratio, omega balance