Omega-3 fatty acids for the prevention of postpartum depression: negative data from a preliminary, open-label pilot study

Depress Anxiety. 2004;19(1):20-3. doi: 10.1002/da.10148.


Based on the putative relationship between depleted omega-3 fatty acids and postpartum depression, we initiated an open-label pilot study of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation with the aim of preventing postpartum depression. Euthymic pregnant females with a past history of depression in the postpartum period were started on 2960 mg of fish oil (1.4:1 eicosapentaenoic acid:docosahexaenoic acid) per day between the 34th to 36th week of pregnancy and assessed through 12 weeks postpartum. Four of seven participants had a depressive episode during the study period. No participants withdrew from the study due to adverse events. This preliminary, small, open-label pilot study failed to show promising results for the use of omega-3 fatty acid monotherapy beginning at 34 to 36 weeks gestation for the prevention of postpartum depression in patients with a prior postpartum depression history. Controlled studies are lacking.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Depression, Postpartum / diagnosis
  • Depression, Postpartum / drug therapy*
  • Depression, Postpartum / psychology
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / administration & dosage
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / administration & dosage*
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated / administration & dosage
  • Female
  • Fish Oils / administration & dosage*
  • Humans
  • Personality Inventory
  • Pilot Projects
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Care
  • Secondary Prevention
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated
  • Fish Oils
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid