BACKGROUND: Inadequate consumption of fish could be a risk factor for low birth weight (LBW). This study assessed fish intake and omega-3 LCPUFA intake and status for their association with LBW in a cohort of urban, south Indian pregnant women.

SUBJECTS/METHODS: In a prospective cohort study, data on maternal fish intake and omega-3 LCPUFA intake and status of 676 women were obtained at baseline (first trimester), the second and third trimesters of pregnancy. Infant birth weight was measured immediately following hospital delivery. The dropout rate was 7.6%.

RESULTS: Fifty-six percent of the study women consumed fish with low daily median intakes (3.4, 4.1 and 3.8 g day(-1) at the three trimesters, respectively). Consequently, the median intakes of EPA and DHA during pregnancy were also low at 2.1 and 10.1 mg day(-1), respectively. EPA and DHA intakes were associated with their status in erythrocyte membrane phospholipids during pregnancy (r=0.40 and 0.36, r=0.34 and 0.32 and r=0.37 and 0.41, at the three trimesters, respectively, all P<0.001). Women who did not eat fish during the third trimester had a significantly higher risk of LBW (OR: 2.49, P=0.019). Similarly, low EPA intake during the third trimester had an association with a higher risk of LBW (OR: 2.75, P=0.011).

CONCLUSIONS: Among low fish-eating pregnant women, fish intake in the third trimester was closely associated with birth weight. Supplementation with omega-3 LCPUFA during pregnancy may have important implications for fetal development in India.