To investigate whether there is a relationship between maternal intake of cod-liver oil in early and late pregnancy and hypertensive disorders in pregnancy.

An observational prospective study.

Free-living conditions in a community with traditional fish and cod-liver oil consumption.

Four hundred and eighty-eight low-risk pregnant Icelandic women.

Maternal use of cod-liver oil, foods and other supplements was estimated with a semiquantitative food frequency questionnaire covering food intake together with lifestyle factors for the previous 3 months. Questionnaires were filled out twice, between 11 and 15 weeks of gestation and between 34 and 37 weeks of gestation. Supplements related to hypertensive disorders in pregnancy, i.e. gestational hypertension and pre-eclampsia, were presented, with logistic regression controlling for potential confounding.

Gestational hypertension, pre-eclampsia, cod-liver oil and multivitamins.

The odds ratio for developing hypertensive disorders in pregnancy for women consuming liquid cod-liver oil was 4.7 (95% CI 1.8-12.6, P= 0.002), after adjusting for confounding factors. By dividing the amount of n-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 LCPUFA) into centiles, the odds ratio for hypertensive disorders across groups for n-3 LCPUFA suggested a u-shaped curve (P = 0.008). Similar results were found for gestational hypertension alone. Further, the use of multivitamin supplements without vitamins A and D in late pregnancy doubled the odds of hypertensive disorders (OR 2.4, 95% CI 1.0-5.4, P= 0.044).

Consumption of high doses of n-3 LCPUFA in early pregnancy, or other nutrients found in liquid cod-liver oil, may increase the risk of developing hypertensive disorders in pregnancy.