Background: Women are vulnerable to depression during their childbearing years, and giving birth to a child precipitates postpartum depression (PPD) in some women. This review focuses on comparing the effectiveness of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation on depression during pregnancy or PPD after childbirth.
Methods: MEDLINE, PubMed, PsycINFO, and the Cochrane Collaboration Registry of Controlled Trials etc. through July 2017 were searched. Studies of dietary intake and plasma and/or milk levels of omega-3 fatty acids and trials of benefits and effects of omega-3 fatty acids supplements on pregnant or postpartum women with depression were specifically selected.
Results: Omega-3 fatty acid deficiency, due to inadequate intake, fast depletion during pregnancy and lactation, is one of the risk factors of PPD. Associations between neuroinflammation (elevated pro-inflammatory cytokines) and aberrant neurotransmission (low serotonergic transmission activity) and risk of PPD have also been reported by numerous studies. Supplementation with eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)-rich oil can effectively reduce depression during pregnancy and PPD after childbirth. Long term treatment with docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)-rich oil can be effective in reducing the risk of PPD in healthy women, but not in lactating women. Supplementation of DHA-rich oil to women begun at pregnancy and continued after childbirth exerts no beneficial effect on depression.
Conclusions: Dietary supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids rich in EPA during pregnancy or postpartum reduces some symptoms associated with depression. DHA supplementation to healthy pregnant women can also reduce the risk of PPD.
Keywords: Caring; Gonadal hormones; Neurotransmission; Nutrition; Omega-3 fatty acids; Postpartum depression.
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