Safety of flaxseed oil during pregnancy

 Researchers from the Université de Montréal report, “that the risks of a premature birth quadruple if flaxseed oil is consumed in the last 2 trimesters of pregnancy.”

The results are scheduled for presentation during the annual meeting of The Teratology Society.

Some of the information presented here comes from the abstract sent to me by the university media department. The rest comes from a news release.

First, the details.

  • Surveys were mailed to 8505 women selected from the Quebec Pregnancy Registry.
  • Women with diabetes and a diagnosis of psychoses, and women who delivered a baby with birth defects were primarily selected.
  • 3354 women returned the questionnaire.

And, the results.

  • Close to 10% of women used natural health products during their pregnancy.
  • About a third of women consuming natural health products stopped during their pregnancy.
  • The most consumed natural health products by pregnant women were chamomile (19%), green tea (17%), peppered mint (12%), and flaxseed oil (12%).
  • Women who used flax alone during the last 2 trimesters of pregnancy were at increased risk of preterm birth.
    • In the general population, the rate of premature births is 2% to 3%.
    • The rate was 12% for women taking flaxseed oil in their last 2 trimesters.

The bottom line?
The authors concluded, “Flax use during the last 2 trimesters of pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of preterm birth.” Its use should therefore be avoided during gestation.”

The limitations of this study include that it is not published except as an abstract. Accordingly, there has been no independent review and analysis of the results by other experts. It’s also not clear if the women who participated are representative of the general public.

However, the findings are presented for consideration especially in light of a recent review from researchers at Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. They concluded, “Although flaxseed and flaxseed oil have several promising future uses, the available literature does not support recommendation for any condition at this time.”

More on flaxseed is here.

10/29/08 20:46 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at www.Vicus.com, a complementary and alternative medicine website.