Anxiety (Panic)/DepressionInfantsPregnancy

Lack of effect of omega-3 on maternal depression and baby’s intelligence

International experts recommend that pregnant women increase their DHA intakes.

But researchers at the Women’s and Children’s Health Research Institute, Adelaide, Australia, failed to identify benefits in the DOMInO (DHA to Optimize Mother Infant Outcome) study.

First, the details.

  • 2399 women less than 21 weeks’ gestation (age of the fetus) were assigned to a treatment group.
    • Docosahexaenoic acid–rich fish oil capsules (providing 800 mg/day of DHA)
    • Matched vegetable oil capsules without DHA from study entry to birth
  • 726 children were followed-up.
  • High levels of depressive symptoms in mothers (a score of more than 12 on the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale) at 6 weeks or 6 months postpartum were recorded.
  • Cognitive and language development in children was assessed using the Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development, Third Edition, at 18 months.
  • Neither the patients nor researchers knew the treatment given — double blind.

And, the results.

  • The percentage of women with high levels of depressive symptoms during the first 6 months postpartum didn’t differ between the DHA and control groups.
  • Cognition and language scores in the babies didn’t differ between groups.

The bottom line?

The authors concluded, “The use of DHA-rich fish oil capsules compared with vegetable oil capsules during pregnancy did not result in lower levels of postpartum depression in mothers or improved cognitive and language development in their offspring during early childhood.”

They are concerned that, “Recommendations to increase DHA intake during pregnancy are being implemented in the absence of well-designed, large-scale randomized controlled trials.”

OK, but the accompanying editorial asserts, “Fish oil supplements are safe, well tolerated, and reduce risks for early preterm birth, which is associated with poor neurocognitive outcomes and maternal depression… For now, pregnant women should take care to get the recommended intake of 200 mg/day of DHA [not the 800 mg/day in this study], either by including low-mercury, high-DHA fish in their diets or by taking a daily omega-3 PUFA supplement. The benefit of higher intakes remains unclear.

10/20/10 22:54 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.