Reports suggest that the placenta in preterm birth may provide clues to predicting the risk of individuals developing chronic diseases in later life. Placental delivery of long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA) (constituents of the cell membrane and precursors of prostaglandins) is essential for the optimal development of the central nervous system of the fetus.

The present study examines the levels of LCPUFA and their association with placental weight and birth outcome in 58 women delivering preterm and 44 women delivering at term.

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (ARA) levels were lower (p<0.01) in women delivering preterm. There was a positive association of placental DHA with placental weight (p=0.036) and nervonic acid with head circumference (p=0.040) in the preterm group. Altered placental LCPUFA status exists in Indian mothers delivering preterm, which may influence the birth outcome.