Role of omega-3 fatty acids as a treatment for depression in the perinatal period

Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 2005 Apr;39(4):274-80. doi: 10.1080/j.1440-1614.2005.01565.x.


Objectives: To consider the possible rationale and utility of omega-3 fatty acids as a treatment for depression in the perinatal period.

Method: A review of published and unpublished research was undertaken, using electronic databases, conferences proceedings and expert informants.

Results: Relevant bodies of evidence include an epidemiological link between low fish intake and depression. Laboratory studies show correlations between low omega-3 fatty acid levels and depression, as well as reduced levels of omega-3 in non-depressed women during the perinatal period. Treatment studies using omega-3 in patients with mood disorders further support an omega-3 contribution, as do neuroscientific theories. Research into omega-3 and infant development also highlights potential effects of depletion in the perinatal period and supports infant safety and benefits of supplementation.

Conclusions: There is a relative lack of knowledge about the safety of standard antidepressants in the perinatal period. There is a clear need for more research into alternative treatments, such as omega-3 fatty acids, in the management of depression in the perinatal period.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression, Postpartum / blood
  • Depression, Postpartum / drug therapy*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / blood
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / drug therapy
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydroxyindoleacetic Acid / blood
  • Pregnancy


  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Hydroxyindoleacetic Acid