EPA/DHA Supplementation During Pregnancy May Lower Depression

July 29, 2008


Omega-3 Fatty Acids for Major Depressive Disorder During Pregnancy: Results from a Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial.
Su KP. et al., J. Clin. Psychiatry. 69:4:644-51, 2008.
Department of Psychiatry and Mind-Body Interface Centre, and the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, China Medical University Hospital, Taiching, Taiwan.


It is well known that during pregnancy and after child birth, women are more susceptible to depression. Furthermore, very low intakes of DHA/EPA from fish/seafood are commonplace in pregnancy in much of the world; the maternal intake of DHA is also of considerable importance in view of the need for providing DHA for the growth and neurological development of the baby within the mother’s womb during pregnancy. The present study was an 8-week, double-blinded placebo-controlled trial in pregnant women with major depressive disorder (receiving no psychotropic agent) one month prior to or during the study. The 36 subjects were randomly assigned to receive daily supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids providing 2200 mg of EPA + 1200 mg of DHA (or a placebo (control)) supplement. The primary measurement of potential efficacy involved scoring every other week via the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HAM-D) while other scales for depression were used as secondary measures. When compared to the placebo (control) group, subjects in the omega-3 group had significantly lower HAM-D scores at weeks 6 and 8, a significantly higher response rate, and a higher remission rate (38% vs. 18% although not reaching statistical significance). At week 8, the mean HAM-D score was 9.9 for the omega-3 group as compared to 14.6 in the placebo group despite both groups having identical mean entry values at baseline. The authors conclude that supplementation with long-chain omega-3 fatty acids may have therapeutic benefits in depression during pregnancy.

Dr. Holub's Comments:

These encouraging results from a relatively small clinical trial warrant future studies which are directed towards determining the potential optimal intakes of EPA/DHA (as well as ratios thereof) which could potentially be utilized for reducing and/or complementing the clinical management of major depressive disorder during pregnancy. Overall the omega-3’s supplements were generally well tolerated, although some women experienced insomnia, nausea, and diarrhea.No complications with pregnancy were reported and no apparent adverse effects on the newborns were observed.

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