Recent studies suggest a benefit of seafood and n-3 fatty acid intake on fetal growth and infant development. The objective was to study the association between fatty acid intake and fetal growth in pregnant French women. Pregnant women included in the EDEN mother–child cohort study completed FFQ on their usual diet: (1) in the year before pregnancy and (2) during the last 3 months of pregnancy (n 1439). Conversion into nutrient intakes was performed using data on portion size and a French food composition table. Associations between maternal fatty acid intakes and several neonatal anthropometric measurements were studied using linear regressions adjusted for centre, mother's age, smoking habits, height, parity, gestational age and newborn's sex. Due to significant interaction, analyses were stratified according to maternal pre-pregnancy overweight status. Neither total lipid nor SFA, MUFA or PUFA intake was significantly associated with newborn size. In overweight women only (n 366), a high pre-pregnancy n-3 fatty acid intake (% PUFA) was positively associated with the newborn's birth weight (P = 0·01), head, arm and wrist circumferences and sum of skinfolds (P < 0·04). A substitution of 1 % of n-3 fatty acids per d before pregnancy by other PUFA was related to an average decrease in birth weight of 60 g (P = 0·01). Relationships with n-3 fatty acid intake at the end of pregnancy were weaker and not significant. We concluded that a high pre-pregnancy n-3 fatty acid:PUFA ratio may sustain fetal growth in overweight women. Follow-up of the children may help determine whether this has beneficial consequences for the child's health and development.