Perinatal depression includes major and minor depressive episodes during pregnancy or within the first 12 months following delivery.

Researchers from Taiwan report that taking omega-3 fatty acids might be beneficial.

First, the details.

  • 36 pregnant women participated in an 8-week study comparing omega-3 fatty acids (3.4 grams/day) vs placebo in pregnant women with major depressive disorder.
  • No psychotropic drug was given 1 month prior to or during the study.
  • The researchers and women were not aware of their treatment.

And, the results.

  • 24 women completed the study.
  • Taking omega-3 was associated with significantly lower HAM-D scores (less severe depression) at weeks 6 and 8.
  • They also had a significantly higher response rate (62% vs 27%), but not a higher remission rate.
  • At the end of the study, the omega-3 group also had significantly lower depressive symptom ratings after birth based on the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale and less severe depression based on the Beck Depression Inventory.
  • Treatment was well tolerated with no side effects in the women or newborns.

The bottom line?
It’s a small study, and a third of the women were unable or unwilling to complete treatment. Another study earlier this year in 51 women reported no benefit of omega 3 in perinatal depression.

Perhaps, as the authors concluded, “it is worthy to conduct replication studies in a larger sample.”

Dr. Kathleen Kendal-Tackett has reviewed depression in mums and what to do about it.

3/29/08 19:45 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, a complementary and alternative medicine website.