During pregnancy, (n-3) PUFA are incorporated into fetal brain and retinal lipids. Docosahexaenoic acid [DHA, 22:6(n-3)], in particular, is required physiologically for optimal development and function of the central nervous system.

Maternal intake of (n-3) PUFA must be sufficient to maintain maternal tissues stores and meet fetal accruement.

Recommendations for pregnant women include an Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range (AMDR) of 0.6-1.2% of energy for (n-3) PUFA intake in the current Dietary Reference Intakes, and > or =300 mg/d of DHA suggested by the International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids working group.

The present study directly quantitated the (n-3) PUFA intake, including DHA, of pregnant, Canadian women (n = 20) in their 2nd and 3rd trimester. Fatty acid intakes were quantitated in triplicate by lipid extraction and GLC of 3-d duplicate food collections calibrated with an internal standard before homogenization.

Total fat intakes were also estimated using dietary analysis software from simultaneous 3-d food records to corroborate biochemical analyses. The mean (n-3) PUFA intake was 0.57 +/- 0.06% of energy, with 65% of the women below the AMDR. The mean DHA intake was 82 +/- 33 mg/d, with 90% of the women consuming <300 mg/d.

Nutritional education of pregnant women to ensure adequate intakes of (n-3) PUFA for optimal health of mother and child and the inclusion of DHA in prenatal vitamins may be pertinent.