Omega-3 fatty acids to prevent preterm birth: Australian pregnant women's preterm birth awareness and intentions to increase omega-3 fatty acid intake

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Background: Preterm birth is the leading cause of death in children under five. A recent Cochrane review found a 42% reduction in early preterm birth (< 34 weeks' gestation) and 11% reduction in preterm birth (< 37 weeks' gestation) with omega-3 fatty acid supplementation. To assist in the development of implementation strategies to increase pregnant women's omega-3 fatty acid intake, we assessed the awareness of Australian pregnant women about preterm birth, their nutrition and supplementation behaviours during pregnancy, and intentions to increase omega-3 fatty acid intake. Methods: A ten-minute survey was conducted online to assess the knowledge, attitudes, behaviours, and intentions of Australian pregnant women across three domains: (1) preterm birth; (2) nutrition and supplementation during pregnancy; and (3) omega-3 fatty acid consumption to prevent preterm birth. Participants were recruited from Survey Sampling International's research panels. Results: Of the 763 women who completed the survey, less than two-thirds had heard of preterm birth. Over 55% of respondents had changed their diet during pregnancy and a prenatal dietary supplement was consumed by 82% of the women surveyed. Respondents' main source of information about preterm birth and nutrition during pregnancy was from a health professional. When asked about their intentions to increase their omega-3 fatty acid intake following a health professional's recommendation, the vast majority of participants indicated they would increase their omega-3 fatty acid intake (90%). When a hypothetical scenario was presented of an omega-3 fatty acid supplement being offered from a health service at no cost, the number of respondents who selected they would increase their intake through supplementation increased from 54 to 79%. Conclusions: The main information source for women about preterm birth and dietary supplementation recommendations during pregnancy is their health professional. Therefore, informing women about ways to prevent preterm birth, including the role of omega-3 fatty acids, should occur during antenatal visits. The results from our study are useful for clinicians caring for pregnant women and for the next stage of translation of the Cochrane review findings - the design of implementation strategies to increase the intake of omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy where needed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number74
JournalNutrition journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished or Issued - 14 Nov 2019


  • Nutrition
  • Omega-3
  • Pregnancy
  • Preterm birth
  • Supplements
  • Survey translational research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics

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