Omega-3 fatty acids and perinatal depression: a review of the literature and recommendations for future research

Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. Oct-Nov 2006;75(4-5):291-7. doi: 10.1016/j.plefa.2006.07.007. Epub 2006 Aug 22.


Introduction: Perinatal depression refers to major depression in the context of pregnancy and postpartum. In consideration of its prevalence and consequences, the treatment and prevention of perinatal depression should be important public health priorities. Omega-3 fatty acids are attractive for consideration in perinatal women, due to known health benefits for the mother and baby. Antidepressant medications may pose risks in utero and in breastfeeding.

Methods: MEDLINE and manual searches were conducted.

Results: Epidemiological and preclinical data support a role of omega-3 fatty acids in perinatal depression. Two studies failed to support a role of omega-3 fatty acids for postpartum depression prophylaxis, although one included a small sample, and the other utilized a low dosage. Two pilot studies suggest good tolerability and potential efficacy in the acute treatment of perinatal depression.

Conclusions: Further research studies are warranted to determine the role of omega-3 fatty acids in the treatment of perinatal depression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Depression, Postpartum / drug therapy
  • Depression, Postpartum / prevention & control
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / therapeutic use
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid / therapeutic use
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / physiology
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy / psychology*


  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid