Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation and fecundability – Dr. Jamie Stanhiser
Study question: Is self-reported use of omega-3 fatty acid supplements associated with fecundability, the probability of natural conception, in a given menstrual cycle?
Summary answer: Prospectively recorded omega-3 supplement use was associated with an increased probability of conceiving.
What is known already: In infertile women, omega-3 fatty acid intake has been associated with increased probability of pregnancy following IVF. In natural fertility, studies are conflicting, and no study of natural fertility has evaluated omega-3 fatty acid supplementation and fecundity.
Study design, size, duration: Secondary data analysis of 900 women contributing 2510 cycles in Time to Conceive (TTC), a prospective, time to pregnancy cohort study from 2008 to December 2015.
Participants/materials, setting, methods: Women aged 30-44 years, trying to conceive <3 months, without history of infertility were followed using standardized pregnancy testing. While attempting to conceive, women daily recorded menstrual cycle events and supplement and medication intake using the Cerner Multum Drug Database. Supplements and vitamins containing omega-3 were identified. Omega-3 use, defined as use in at least 20% of days in a given menstrual cycle, in each pregnancy attempt cycle was determined. A discrete-time Cox proportional hazards model was used to calculate the fecundability ratio.
Main results and the role of chance: Women taking omega-3 supplementation were more likely to be younger, thinner, nulligravid, white and to take vitamin D, prenatal and multivitamins compared to women not taking omega-3s. After adjusting for age, obesity, race, previous pregnancy, vitamin D and prenatal and multivitamin use, women taking omega-3 supplements had 1.51 (95% CI 1.12, 2.04) times the probability of conceiving compared to women not taking omega-3s.
Limitations, reasons for caution: Our study was not a randomized controlled trial. The women who used omega-3 supplements may represent a more health-conscious population. We sought to address this by adjusting for multiple factors in our model. Additionally, the omega-3 fatty acid supplements that TTC participants used included multiple types and brands with varying dosages of omega-3 fatty acids. Women reported the type of supplement they were taking but not the concentration of omega-3s in that supplement. It is therefore not possible to compare dosing or a dose-response relationship in our study.
Wider implications of the findings: Omega-3 supplementation may present a feasible and inexpensive modifiable factor to improve fertility. Randomized controlled trials are needed to further investigate the benefits of omega-3 supplementation for women trying to conceive naturally.
Stanhiser J, Jukic AMZ, McConnaughey DR, Steiner AZ. Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation and fecundability. Hum Reprod. 2022 May 3;37(5):1037-1046. PMID: 35147198