Open Access Research article

The association between interpregnancy interval and birth weight: what is the role of maternal polyunsaturated fatty acid status?

Luc JM Smits1*, Hester M Elzenga1, Reinoud JBJ Gemke2, Gerard Hornstra3 and Manon van Eijsden4

Author Affiliations

1 Maastricht University Medical Centre, Maastricht, the Netherlands

2 VU Medical Centre, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

3 NutriSearch, Maastricht, the Netherlands

4 Amsterdam Public Health Service (GGD), Amsterdam, the Netherlands

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BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 2013, 13:23  doi:10.1186/1471-2393-13-23

Published: 25 January 2013



The objective of this study was to evaluate the mediating role of maternal early pregnancy plasma levels of long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFAs) in the association of interpregnancy interval (IPI) with birth weight and smallness for gestational age (SGA) at birth.


We analysed a subsample of the Amsterdam Born Children and their Development (ABCD) cohort, comprising 1,659 parous pregnant women recruited between January 2003 and March 2004. We used linear and logistic regression to evaluate the associations between fatty acid status, interpregnancy interval and pregnancy outcome.


Low plasma phospholipids concentrations of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid (DGLA), and high concentrations of arachidonic acid (AA) during early pregnancy were associated with reduced birth weight and/or an increased risk of SGA. Short IPIs (< 6 months, with 18–23 months as a reference) were associated with a mean decrease of 207.6 g (SE: ± 73.1) in birth weight (p = 0.005) and a twofold increased risk of SGA (OR: 2.05; CI: 0.93–4.51; p = 0.074). Adjustment for maternal fatty acid concentrations did not affect these results to any meaningful extent.


Despite the observed association of maternal early pregnancy LCPUFA status with birth weight and SGA, our study provides no evidence for the existence of an important role of maternal EPA, DHA, DGLA or AA in the association of short interpregnancy intervals with birth weight and SGA.