Omega-3 fatty acids as a treatment for perinatal depression: randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial

Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 2008 Mar;42(3):199-205. doi: 10.1080/00048670701827267.


Objective: Epidemiological, biological marker and treatment studies, as well as neuroscientific theories, indicate a possible link between omega-3 fatty acids and perinatal depression (PND). Hence the aim of the present study was to assess whether omega-3 fatty acid treatment is superior to placebo in the treatment of PND.

Method: A double-blind randomized placebo-controlled trial was undertaken. Women with major depression during the perinatal period received either fish oil or placebo for six weeks. Changes in depression scores were recorded weekly.

Results: A total of 26 subjects were recruited and there was no significant difference in depression scores between those receiving fish oil and those receiving the placebo.

Conclusions: This is formally a negative study, suggesting that there is no benefit for omega-3 fatty acids over placebo in treating PND. The reason could be that the study was underpowered due to recruitment difficulties and therefore we suggest that it may be unwise to interpret this result as conclusive. Omega-3 is a natural product that is a safe and well-tolerated treatment. Further research is therefore needed in this area to establish whether omega-3 fatty acids are an effective treatment for PND.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Demography
  • Depression, Postpartum / drug therapy*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / drug therapy*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Patient Compliance / statistics & numerical data
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Care


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3