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

Authors

  • Anne-Marie Rees,

    Corresponding author
      Anne-Marie Rees, Psychiatrist and Senior Research Fellow (Correspondence); Gordon Parker, Scientia Professor, Executive Director
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  • Marie-Paule Austin,

  • Gordon Parker


  • School of Psychiatry, University of New South Wales, Black Dog Institute, Hospital Road, Prince of Wales Hospital. Randwick, New South Wales, 2031, Australia. Email: a.rees@unsw.edu.au

    Marie-Paule Austin, Associate Professor and Consultant Psychiatrist

    School of Psychiatry, University of New South Wales, Black Dog Institute and Royal Hospital for Women, Sydney, Australia

Anne-Marie Rees, Psychiatrist and Senior Research Fellow (Correspondence); Gordon Parker, Scientia Professor, Executive Director

Abstract

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Method:  A review of published and unpublished research was undertaken, using electronic databases, conferences proceedings and expert informants.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

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