Healthy pregnant women (n 23) were supplemented with fish-oil capsules (2·7 g n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids/d) from the 30th week of gestation until delivery. Subjects in a control group were either supplemented with olive-oil capsules (4 g/d, n 6) or received no supplementation (n 10). Fatty acid compositions of the phospholipids isolated from umbilical plasma and umbilical arterial and venous vessel walls were determined. Fatty acid compositions of maternal venous plasma phospholipids were determined as well. Maternal plasma phospholipids of the fish-oil-supplemented group contained more n-3 fatty acids and less n-6 fatty acids. Moreover, the amounts of the essential fatty acid deficiency markers Mead acid (20:3n-9) and Osbond acid (22:5n-6) were significantly lower. The extra amount of n-3 fatty acids consumed by the mothers resulted in higher contents of n-3 fatty acids, and of docosahexaenoic acid (22:6n-3) in particular, in the phospholipids of umbilical plasma and vessel walls. It is, indeed, possible to interfere with the docosahexaenoic acid status at birth: children born to mothers supplemented with fish oil in the last trimester of pregnancy start with a better docosahexaenoic acid status at birth, which may be beneficial to neonatal neurodevelopment.