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Pregnancy and Early Life Nutrition

Key Scientists
Maria Makrides Karen Best

Pregnant woman The Pregnancy and Early Life Nutrition unit aims to improve pregnancy outcomes and optimise growth, development and long-term health of children through nutrition intervention in early life.

Appropriate nutrition during pregnancy and early childhood is critical to ensure a healthy start to life. Our research aims to:

  • define the nutritional needs of pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers and young children that lead to appropriate growth, optimal neurological development and long-term health, with a particular focus on key nutrients including iron, iodine, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D
  • identify barriers to meeting the nutritional needs of mothers and their children
  • formulate practical dietary strategies to help mothers and their children achieve optimal nutrition.

Fatty acid nutrition in pregnancy
There is evidence that the 'magic' ingredients in fish that extend the mean gestational age in fish-eating populations are the omega-3 fats. We have completed a NHMRC-funded, large scale intervention study of over 2000 pregnant women around Australia to test this hypothesis (the DOMInO trial). We found strong support for a reduction in the incidence of pre-term birth when fish oil was taken in pregnancy and a reduction in mild mental delay of the children but no benefit on postnatal depression in mothers.

Building on the success of the DOMInO trial, we have been awarded $4.1 million from NHMRC to conduct a large scale intervention study (Omega-3 fats to reduce the incidence of prematurity - the ORIP trial) over the next five years to investigate whether increasing omega-3 fats intake of pregnant women can prevent preterm birth.

More information on the ORIP trial is available on the SAHMRI website here.

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Please contact FOODplus if you are interested in an honours or postgraduate student project in this area of research.



The ORIP Trial

Omega-3 fats to Reduce the Incidence of Prematurity

Are you less than 20 weeks pregnant?

About 1 in 12 babies are born too soon and often without any warning signs. If you are less than 20 weeks pregnant, you may be able to take part in a study to see if increasing the amount of omega-3 fats in the diet of pregnant women will help to reduce the risk of having a premature baby. More information on the ORIP Trial.

FOODplus Research Centre

Waite Campus
Waite Main Building
The University of Adelaide
SA 5064


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